On Thursday, I broke a precept. I did it unknowingly, stupidly. I didn’t realize until hours later that I had done it.
In the Fourth Precept, I vowed to abstain from lying. When I broke this precept, I was telling a story at the table as I was eating Thanksgiving dinner with a group of friends. The story was not important — and the lie, even less so. Without thinking, I embellished the story with an added detail that made it more colorful, more sentimental. The rest of the story was true, as far as I remember it.
What’s interesting is, I didn’t realize I had lied until the following morning, when I sat and meditated. In the midst of sitting, my lie appeared in front of me. I felt a bit surprised. Why did I do that? I don’t know. Moreover, how did I do it without even realizing I was doing it, at the time?
In practicing the precepts, we will break them many times. It is important not to give up. Breaking the precepts is like falling down when you’re walking. The thing to do is to get up and start walking again, and if you fall again, get up again, keep on trying.
From a dharma talk by Zen Master Wu Bong, Providence Zen Center, 1973.