Every morning during the Kagyu Monlam, we will have the opportunity to receive mahayana sojong (restoration and purification) vows from His Holiness Karmapa and other eminent teachers.
The eight precepts of mahayana sojong are:
- Not killing,
- Not stealing,
- Not engaging in sexual activity,
- Not lying,
- Not consuming intoxicants,
- Not sitting or lying on high seats or beds,
- Not eating at inappropriate times, and
- Not wearing perfume, jewelry, or ornaments, and not singing or dancing.
The following is a short excerpt from the recently published book The First Karmapa – The Life and Teachings of Dusum Khyenpa about the eights precepts which are to be observed from the moment you take them until the next morning at dawn. (pp. 80–81)
On that day, do not harm any living creature. If you kill a human being on that day, your vows are completely broken. However, it is not appropriate to kill anything even as small as an ant. With taking what is not given, if you steal something worth more than one dre [3kg] of grain from another, the vow is broken. However, it is not appropriate to steal anything even as small as the husk of a sesame seed. If you perform any action that is not chaste, your vows are completely broken. However, even looking lustfully at a woman is not appropriate. If you tell a lie such as that you saw gods whom you had not seen, achieved arhatship when you had not, or so forth, you have broken the vows completely. However, do not tell lies even as a joke or to tease someone. The vows are the antidote to these actions. These are the four root precepts, and they are similar to a tree: if you cut a tree at its roots, the branches will also wither.
You do not completely break your vows if you drink beer brewed from grain and so forth, but that causes the vows to lapse and therefore become ineffective, so you must keep this precept well. If you do not, it is said that in your next life you will have to drink boiling molten metal.
In Tibet, song, dance, playing music, necklaces, perfume, wearing ornaments, high beds, and great seats do not exist as generally known in the world, but it is said that the intent to give them up brings merit.
Giving up food after noon means that after the sun has reached its zenith until the next dawn, it is not appropriate for those who are not sick to eat even suitable food.