Buddhist precepts revised for modern life

International Herald Tribune, Apr. 1, 2003
Jung Myung-jin, JoongAng Daily

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk living in exile in France, made public a revision of Pratimoksha, a list of precepts that Bhikshus, or male Buddhist monks, need to study and practice, at a lecture held yesterday at the Joong-Ang Sangha University.

“I cannot return to my homeland, Vietnam, and China is not a country where I can make this announcement,” said Thich Nhat Hanh. “Japan no longer needs precepts, and in France, where I live now, less than 1 percent of the population is Buddhist. I believe that Korea, where many monks are practicing, is the best place to release these revised precepts.”

Thich Nhat Hanh is well known for his interest in modernized Buddhism. The revision serves to update the traditional Pratimoksha to meet the needs of an advanced scientific era, with such developments as computer technology, cell phones and the Internet.

According to the new precepts, denying debts to your parents, teachers and friends is unacceptable behavior for a Buddhist monk. Owning a car, secular books, movie and music tapes and video games is forbidden. Riding in a car with a woman alone is also forbidden, Thich Nhat Hanh said. Stock investment is forbidden under the revised precepts. Not sharing books is also forbidden.

Thich Nhat Hanh said a revision of precepts for female Buddhist nuns will be announced by Plum Village, the small community in France where he lives, in three weeks.

Korean Buddhists welcomed Thich Nhat Hanh’s move of updating traditional precepts. “Some of the precepts are outdated, so their roles were merely symbolic,” Venerable Misan of Jogye Order, Korea’s largest Buddhist sect, said. “Thich Nhat Hanh’s work of revising and updating the precepts is refreshing. Although the Jogye Order does not accept it officially, individual monks can practice the revised precepts.”

More than 600 Korean Buddhist monks attended the lecture. Thich Nhat Hanh will speak at a lecture at Ewha Womans University on Thursday and return to France on Friday after his two-week visit.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 2, 2003.
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