Gail Sher • Dharma Talks

Bodhidharma’s Precepts

Overview of Bodhidharma’s Precepts Series

Bodhidharma, the First Patriarch of Soto Zen Buddhism, brought the Buddhist teachings from India to China. Among them are the Sixteen Great Bodhisattva Precepts—the Three Refuges, the Three Pure Precepts and the Ten Grave Precepts. Bodhidharma’s rendition of the Ten Grave Precepts, the moral and ethical standards by which Soto Zen Buddhists aim to live their lives, are unique in their bold alignment with ultimate truths. Deeply sitting with Bodhidharma’s words, one can easily attune to a spacious chasm of reality that underlies the more contemporary version we normally practice. This series, entitled Bodhidharma’s Precepts, first will introduce Bodhidharma, the wild, iconoclastic practitioner who sat in a cave facing a wall for nine years. Once we know him, we will compare his expression of these Ten Precepts with our own and find our vision considerably deepened by the emptiness from which he refuses to back down.

First Talk: The Legend of Bodhidharma

Upon Bodhidharma’s death Emperor Wu honored him with the posthumous name, “Zen Master Holy Descendant.” Later, a Tang dynasty emperor honored Zen’s first ancestor with the additional title, “Great Teacher Perfect Enlightenment.”

Date/Time: January 15, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Second Talk: Bodhidharma’s Ten Grave Bodhisattva Precepts

“Shakyamuni Buddha and his successors agree that these precepts are not just ethical imperatives given by someone else that we’re supposed to follow. They are a map of buddha’s world and through them we can realize ourselves as buddha.”


Date/Time: January 22, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Third Talk: Bodhidharma’s First Precept: No Killing Life

Bodhidharma taught, “When you do not give rise to the idea of birth and extinction, this is called “No Killing Life.” In the expression “truth of eternity,” jo ju ho, jo ju is “eternal dwelling” and ho is “truth.” This Precept is about giving birth to “no birth/no extinction.”

Date/Time: January 29, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Fourth Talk: Bodhidharma’s Second Precept: No Stealing

“To understand the broader meaning of this Precept, think about your existence before you existed, and after you will finish existing. In between, we have this issue of “no stealing.” The subject opens up, in a very big way, the question of whether our practice and behavior is encouraging life as one identity. In other words, do we “possess”?

Date/Time: February 5, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Fifth Talk: Bodhidharma’s Third Precept: No Attaching to Fulfillment

“I really understand, now, why Bodhidharma said, ‘Not to give birth to attachment, in the truth of nonattachment.’ Nonattachment is truth. To be fond of things, particularly your favorite things, is what attachment means.”

—Kobun Chino Otogawa

Date/Time: February 12, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Sixth Talk: Bodhidharma’s Fourth Precept: No Illusory Words

“To me a word, in and of itself, as an object is sacred. To me, the mind of the word, though expressed, still lives in the heart of the Buddha”

—Gail Sher

Date/Time: February 19, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Seventh Talk: Bodhidharma’s Fifth Precept: No Selling the Wine of Delusion

The unity of energy with other existences is very delicate, and if we are intoxicated, we lose the opportunity to unite with them.

Date/Time: March 5, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Eighth Talk: Bodhidharma’s Sixth Precept: No Dwelling on Past Mistakes

The spirit of this is thinking before speaking or acting, and, instead, offering good actions, thoughts, and speech.

Date/Time: March 12, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Ninth Talk: Bodhidharma’s Seventh & Eighth Precepts: No Praise or Blame & No Hoarding Materials or Teachings

Dogen Zenji said there is no being proud of yourself and devaluing others, because there are no such others to devalue. When you devalue others, you are scratching at your body. When you are proud of yourself, you are scratching at the air.

Dogen Zenji said, “When you open your hand, everything is in your hand. When you close your hand, the air is very limited.” Explaining this idea of possession in this very pure way, naturally you understand this Precept.

Date/Time: March 19, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Tenth Talk: Bodhidharma’s Ninth Precept: No Being Angry

Making a judgment about yourself can be dangerous because you cover up reality.

Date/Time: March 26, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes

Eleventh Talk: Bodhidharma’s Tenth Precept: No Abusing the Triple Treasure—Buddha, Dharma, Sangha

Not to give birth to the dualistic observation that you and Buddha are different existences, not to give birth to dualistic thinking about sentient beings and Buddha, that is called “No abusing Triple Treasure.”

Date/Time: April 2, 2023 | 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)

Duration: 60 minutes