True Enlightenment Practitioners Association Upavasatha Ceremony
True Enlightenment Practitioners Association organizes the Upavasatha ceremony every two months so that the practitioners who have taken the bodhisattva precepts can participate therein. By chanting the characteristics of the major and minor precepts together, the practitioners will be able to reinforce their memory of the various major and minor precepts and remind themselves not to violate these. If one has violated any precept before the Upavasatha ceremony, however, one should disclose it and repent for it to purify his or her mind so as not to be remorseful in the eternal future. We can prevent unwholesome thoughts from arising in our minds or stop ourselves from consummating unwholesome verbal or physical acts through the protection of the essence (precept body, 戒體) of the bodhisattva precepts.
All the teachers at True Enlightenment Practitioners Association teach and help Buddhist learners master the contents and meanings of the bodhisattva precepts. Completely understanding the precepts through their receptive minds, Buddhist disciples will be delighted to receive and accept them. Their minds will also become even purer after taking the precepts. This will allow practitioners to inhibit the causes and conditions that may obstruct and hinder them from pursuing the path of cultivation, hence accelerating their achievement of Buddhahood.
What is a Upavasatha?
The Buddha told his disciples that it would take three great incalculable eons to achieve Buddhahood. He then established the bodhisattva precepts to enable his disciples to know what bodhisattvas should or should not do so that they would not make the wrong turn on the lengthy bodhisattva path and eventually accomplish the fruition of Buddhahood. The Sūtra of the Garland of a Bodhisattva’s Primary Karmas states that the virtue obtained from taking the bodhisattva precepts can reduce the suffering of birth and death over three eons and can accelerate the transcendence of the suffering of birth and death. In addition, one will be accompanied, protected, and empowered by Dharma-protecting benevolent deities after taking the precepts. The virtues that can be obtained from upholding the precepts are quite extraordinary and wondrous.
Quotes from the Sutra of Brahma’s Net
The section in the Sutra of Brahma’s Net that elaborates on the holy teachings of the periodic Upavasatha ceremony (renewal of vows) of bodhisattvas who have taken the bodhisattva precepts states: “Novice bodhisattvas perform Upavasatha every half month and recite the ten major and forty-eight minor precepts. The precepts should be recited in front of images of the Buddha and bodhisattvas. When only a single person performs an Upavasatha ceremony, the person should recite the precepts by own self. During the Upavasatha for two, three, or even hundreds of thousands of people, there should still be only one person reciting the precepts. The person who presides over the ceremony should sit in a higher position and recite the precepts for the other participants therefrom, and all the other participants should take the lower seats. All the participants should wear nine, seven, or five strips of the monk’s robe."
Why do we need to perform the Upavasatha ceremony?
By relying on the moral codes of the bodhisattva precepts, practitioners will be able to carefully guard their physical, verbal, and mental acts against precept violations. However, as we are still cultivating moral codes, we will inevitably fail to restrain ourselves from generating unwholesome thoughts. Therefore, we need to participate in the Upavasatha ceremony periodically organized by the sangha community to practice the wholesome Dharma of repentance. Our sin of violating the precepts can be removed by sincerely disclosing and repenting for our sin and the unwholesome karma that comes with it in front of an image of the Buddha and by making a vow to not commit such sin again.