The Eight Mahayana Precepts enable us to live in the essence of pure moral conduct. Since we take them with the strong motivation of cherishing and wishing to benefit all others, their value is immeasurable. Taking precepts is a powerful and effective way to build, maintain and deepen our spiritual practice and attainment, and a profound method for giving meaning to this precious human life.

Precepts are taken for a period of 24 hours, from sunrise to sunrise the following day.

Suggested prerequisites are a good understanding of karma, bodhichitta, and the importance of taking and keeping vows according to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Notably, the first time one takes precepts it should be from a qualified teacher who has received the oral transmission of the practice. After that you can perform the ceremony yourself, reciting the prayers before an image of your teacher or the Buddha.

Precepts can be taken any day, but it’s particularly beneficial on full and new moon days, and “merit multiplying days” when karmic results are multiplied exponentially (according to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, citing the Vinaya text Treasure of Quotations and Logic).

The essence of the practice is to recall the Mahayana motivation — to take the precepts to become enlightened and then lead all sentient beings to enlightenment. 

The eight precepts are:

  1. Not to kill, even insects.
  2. Not to steal (Not to take what is not offered).
  3. Not to engage in sexual contact.
  4. Not to lie.
  5. Not use intoxicants: alcohol, tobacco, and drugs (except for medicinal purposes).
  6. Not to eat at wrong times — it’s fine to eat a light breakfast before or after the precepts. Avoid eating black foods (meat, eggs, onions, garlic, and radishes). Finish the main meal of the day by midday, then do not eat until after sunrise the following day. Light drinks throughout the day are fine, but not undiluted whole milk or fruit juice with pulp.
  7. Not to sit on high, expensive beds or seats with pride. Avoid sitting on animal skins.
  8. Not to wear jewelry, perfume, or makeup; and not to sing, dance, or play music with attachment.

Learn more about the precepts here: The Eight Mahayana Precepts



Taking the eight Mahayana precepts

Students can receive the lineage by watching a specially produced video of Lama Zopa Rinpoche granting the precepts, from Rinpoche’s teachings at Kopan Monastery, May 2020. Please be aware that by taking the lineage of the eight Mahayana precepts from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Rinpoche will become one of your gurus.