Am I still a Buddhist if I break a precept?

Of course. If we aren’t enlightened, chances are we are going to break the precepts sometimes. If we are just beginning to follow the precepts, then for sure we are going to break them sometimes. That’s why it’s called training.

What we don’t want to break is our refuge in the Triple Gem. If that happens then we loose all the protection of the whole practice.

If we do realize we have broken a precept, then we immediately make the determination to keep it in the future. We can wisely reflect on how it happened and the mental state we were in. We don’t obsess over it. We just determine to try and do things differently in the future. This determination is a hugely powerful factor in developing our mind.

In fact, this is why many Buddhists take the precepts on their own once or twice a day.

Sutta study

 

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Merit: The Buddhist Way of Life

Monks, don’t be afraid of acts of merit. This is another way of saying what is blissful, desirable, pleasing, endearing, charming — that is, acts of merit.

The Buddha, Itivuttaka 22

One of the ways the Buddha explained Buddhist life was in terms of merit:

  1. Dana: giving material things and giving the Dhamma
  2. Sila: virtue, including keeping the precepts
  3. Bhavana: developing the mind, especially through meditation

Collecting merit simply means building up good kamma by doing good things. As Buddhists we know that there are so many different ways to be happy through doing good actions. By correctly understanding this we can be sure to have a rich spiritual life.

If we forget this three-fold nature of merit then it is possible that our spiritual life will go out of balance.


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