The precepts originated as guidelines to help us develop a clear life.


The Kwan Um School of Zen offers precepts to those who feel a genuine commitment to Buddhist practice. The Buddha taught that the precepts provide a foundation for happiness.

Zen Master Soeng Hyang, the School Zen Master, reflects on the precepts:

The Buddha taught us that we already have a balanced nature. We are, each one of us, already perfect and complete. As we endeavor to wake up to the compassionate and wise state, we must see what hinders us.

The instructions are so simple: Avoid evil and do good. Why can’t we just write that in large letters over our beds and make sure we read it before we put our feet on the floor each morning? Then, as Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “just do it”? Avoid evil and do good, moment to moment to moment.

The precepts spell out the major hindrances. It’s so obvious what these hindrances are and so helpful to be reminded of them. Read them and be honest with yourself; ask yourself to deepen your understanding of what it means to not take what is not given. What does it mean when it says to always tell the truth? Did we “kill” anything today? Were we destructive? How intimately familiar can we become with the precepts so that we can put our feet on the floor in the morning and not have to think of dichotomies such as good and evil? The precepts become, “How may I help you?”

As our practice matures, as we shed our accumulated fears and mistrust, we do realize that being compassionately awake is our natural state. We can take the sign off our bedroom wall and give it to a brother or sister who might still need the reminder.

As members of our Zen Center and of our larger sangha, we recognize and support each other’s efforts. When we make our direction and vow clear together, we not only help each other, we also inspire our extended community around the world.

The precepts application booklet contains information about the precepts and a printable application form. 

You can apply to take precepts with the online application below.

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Dharma Teaching in Training Essay
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