An Organic Cultivation
Working with and cultivating the 5 Precepts is not a rule-based, linear process. It is much more organic and alive. The following illustrates one way that this organic process proceeds:
We begin practicing the Buddha’s path to liberation from right where we are. We don’t have to become anyone or announce our allegiance to anyone or any group of people to start. We begin with this body, heart and mind just as it is. Phew, that’s a relief! Perhaps we hear the teachings on the 5 Precepts and they make some sense to us. Maybe initially, we can get behind the notion of not harming living beings, including ourselves. We start there and practice right where we are. Which could include not harming certain living beings, but also include swatting mosquitoes that are harassing us. It could include not taking things that we know belong to someone else, but also include keeping something we find that we don’t know who it belongs to. There’s nothing right or wrong about where we are at. We always practice right where we are.
As we continue to walk the Noble Eightfold Path, our mindfulness grows and we become more aware of all things. Another way of saying this is that we become more connected to or intimate with life, including our own hearts and minds. As this unfolds, our hearts naturally become more sensitive. We don’t need to try and make that happen, it just does. As our hearts become more sensitive, or better said, as we become more aware of what blocks the sensitivity of our hearts, our understanding of, and relationship to the 5 Precepts changes. Certain speech and actions that once felt OK, might no longer feel right to us. Telling a white lie about this or that, in the past we wouldn’t think twice about, now just doesn’t feel right. Something in us feels that it’s not the right thing to do for us. Not because we’re trying to improve and be a better person, but, for example, because, through increased mindfulness, we’ve noticed that we told the white lies to make ourselves look better because we didn’t feel OK with how we were. Now we don’t want to feed that sense of not being OK. We want to be OK just as we are and so we avoid telling the white lies because we know that won’t be congruent with being OK with ourselves just as we are.
In addition, as we notice the habit patterns of our own heart and mind that cause ourselves and others suffering, we naturally understand that others have very similar patterns in their hearts and minds. The result of this is greater compassion and kindness towards other beings. Again, not because we are supposed to, but because, based on what we know through our own experience, it becomes the only sane response. And so the cultivation of the 5 Precepts is ongoing during our entire lives. It evolves naturally and organically as our understanding of the world, which includes ourselves, deepens.