5 factors of exertion in Buddhism

The Art of Lay Life 5: Rejecting Elements

Uposatha Day Essay for the First Quarter Moon

We began the Art of Lay Life by Selecting Elements, prioritizing our values and obligations with particular attention to their costs alongside their appeal. I have appealed primarily to the reader’s own values in selecting what is most important. I have hopefully, however given you two nudges. The first is to be more deliberate, to examine more carefully the appeals and implications. The second is to begin to simplify, to be even more selective in Selecting Elements. Just a final word for simplicity: When we clutter our lives, we tend to clutters our mind. Also a cluttered life leaves little space for Buddhist practice, just as a cluttered workshop will hamper your ability to tinker together a bird house. Finally, if we think of Buddhist practice as a process of removing problems, that is, eliminating the conditions that bring suffering, and we consider that there are problems associated with ever element we bring into our lives, then getting rid of the clutter takes us a long was along the path of Buddhist practice all by itself. We will return to the theme of simplicity at the final step in the Art of Lay Life.

The second step in the Art of Lay Life is Rejecting Elements, shedding elements whose cost is too great, whose retention is inimical to Buddhist practice, which have no place in a Buddhist life. Here I will rely more on the wisdom of the Buddha, who gave some very clear advice on this. However, like Selecting, Rejecting is your choice and it also may require deliberation and examination before you have confidence in his advice. Also life’s circumstances might mean making compromises as you consider this advice..

Some of the clearest advice comes from Precepts. If there is an element in your life that entails violation of one or more of the standard precepts, it is problematic, especially if it entails habitual violation. The most standard set of precepts are the Pancasila, the Five Precepts:

Not to kill.
Not to take what is not freely given.
Not to misuse sexuality.
Not to tell falsehoods.
Not to consume intoxicants that cause heedlessness.

I give to my students the Eight Lifetime Precepts which includes three additional precepts regarding speech that I find are particularly problematic for Americans:

Not to speak maliciously.
Not to speak harshly.
Not to speak idly.

The Eight Lifetime Precepts also make reference to Right Livelihood, which we will consider in moment.

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