There are five precepts that all Buddhists are committed to keeping. These are to not kill, not steal, not lie and not commit sexual misconduct or take intoxicants.
In the training for the Mahayanagana, students examine these precepts and consider the nuances – what do they actually mean in practice? What happens if we find ourselves acting contrary to these precepts either in spirit or in practice? There is much to consider. These days there is a lot of anxiety in the Buddhist world, as in other areas of modern life about abusive behaviour and how to safeguard the vulnerable by adhering to firm moral principles. We have been working on such a policy within our Sangha along lines laid out by the government and charity law. How best to safeguard the vulnerable, which could be any one of us in fact.
As we in the Shrimalagana (the inner body of the Awakened Heart Sangha) consider this we realize that however careful we are with our rules of engagement in actual fact the only safeguard is our sangha ethos and for all of us to embody it. If we all take care about how we are communicating and connecting to each other, then we will not make mistakes that leave people feeling abandoned and abused. Mistakes will happen.
We all tend to project onto each other and misunderstand each others behaviour and intentions. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) helps us to learn how to meet our own needs and be able to speak from a genuine and honest position which enables others to more readily understand and connect to us on a level that is meaningful and mutually supportive. We all have a responsibility to learn how to communicate in this manner and this way we will all be able to play our part in safeguarding the vulnerable.
So how literally are we to take the way sexual misconduct is presented in the traditional texts?