The Direct and Unmistaken Method

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

This book is a practical guide to the eight Mahayana precepts. It explains the benefits of the vows and the meaning of the ceremony for receiving them, and for easy reference contains the ceremony itself, written out clearly for regular use.

The Way in Which the Mahayana Ordination Is Taken
by His Holiness Trijang Dorje Chang2

Waking early, wash and refresh yourself properly and then set up an altar for the Triple Gem in a clean and beautiful place. The offerings should be as plentiful and delightful as you can make them. The precepts are taken in the early hours just before dawn, when the lines on the palm of your [outstretched] hand are just visible.

Contemplate the shortcomings of ordinary sufferings and their true cause in relation to yourself. Remember the pitiful state of all mother sentient beings throughout infinite space, and from the depths of your heart think that you, the fortunate one, are able to seek and attain enlightenment. Now, in the presence of the holy objects and with great respect and devotion, take the Mahayana ordination.

Recite the following prayers (See The Eight Mahayana Precepts: The Complete Practice, pp 12–21):

Refuge and generating bodhicitta (3x)
Purifying the place
Offering prayer
Offering cloud mantra (3x)
The power of truth

After the invocation, visualize that your infinitely kind root guru Avalokiteshvara, surrounded by the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, actually appears in space before you.

Recite the seven limb prayer. Offer a mandala in order to receive the ordination. Make three prostrations reciting the OM NAMO MANJUSHRIYE mantra with each one.

Then, kneeling on your right knee, with head and shoulders bowed and your hands together in prostration, generate the following motivation:

“Even though I and all sentient beings, who equal the extent of infinite space, have experienced countless forms of suffering from beginningless time until now (such as the general sufferings of cyclic existence and, particularly, the sufferings of the three lower realms), still I am unable to generate a single thought of aversion or frustration at this existence. Instead, because of the power of misguided habits such as grasping at suffering as happiness and grasping at that which is selfless as having a self, I am under the control of the afflictions and their actions (karma), and once again I will have to experience and endure without choice the sufferings of cyclic existence and the three lower realms, even more extensively and abundantly than before.

“If I were to really consider this situation it would definitely bring pain to my heart, anger and upset. However, even Shakyamuni Buddha and all the other buddhas of the past were not always buddhas. Like me, they once lived in cyclic existence and then, through the kindness of just one virtuous friend they had met, they generated the thought to definitely emerge from cyclic existence and the awakening mind of loving concern for each and every sentient being. Then, by taking this Mahayana ordination and protecting the precepts purely and by training in the path, they attained enlightenment.

“Similarly, having met the Mahayana teachings through the kindness of my virtuous teacher, I too will generate the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment and train in the path. In this way I shall definitely attain the state of enlightenment—this (thought) is the close friend from which I must never be separated, on the basis, on the path and at the result.

“Like a wish-fulfilling jewel, mother sentient beings, who equal the extent of infinite space, are the source of all the collections of excellence in this and future lives. Since beginningless time, all mother sentient beings have held me dear and are still doing so, and they will continue to do so until the end of cyclic existence. If I renounce them, and in earnest devotion seek the means for my happiness alone, this would not only be unwise and foolish but would also make me not the slightest bit different from an animal. Therefore, for the benefit of all sentient beings, who equal the extent of infinite space, I must attain the precious state of perfect and fully completed enlightenment. For this purpose, before all buddhas and bodhisattvas as my witness, I shall take the Mahayana precepts and protect them well until sunrise tomorrow.”


The precepts should be taken with such great commitment that tears come to your eyes and your hair stands on end.

Visualize Guru Avalokiteshvara before you and repeat the prayer for taking the precepts three times.

On completing the third recitation, think that you have received the vows in your continuum and rejoice.

Then regenerate the thought of bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, by thinking, “Just as the previous arhats abandoned all faulty behavior of body and speech, such as killing and so forth, and mentally turned away from them, similarly, I too shall properly practice the trainings by avoiding those faulty behaviors for one day for the welfare of all sentient beings.”

Recite the commitment prayer to keep the precepts.

Recite the mantra of pure morality twenty-one times.

Finally, recite the prayer to keep one’s morality pure, make three prostrations and dedicate the merits.

In this way, the practice is adorned by prayer and dedication and has been described for those taking the Mahayana precepts by themselves. If you are taking the precepts before a master, offer him a mandala. The master himself will have first taken the precepts (that morning) alone and is required to explain well the thoughts and visualizations of the practice, from beginning to end. In the prayer for taking the precepts, the line that says, “Master, please pay attention to me,” must be included. The prayer for taking the precepts and the prayer of the precepts are both repeated after the master. The procedure for taking the precepts and the recitations should all be done in accordance with the practices of the lineage.


2 From The Method for Taking the Mahayana Precepts Written in a Clear Explanation as an Ascending Stair to the Mansion of Great Purification. Translated by Venerable Thubten Dekyong.[Return to text]