The first two steps in the process of becoming a lay disciple of the Buddha are the going for refuge (sarana gamana) and the undertaking of the five precepts (pañca-sila samadana). By the former step a person makes the commitment to accept the Triple Gem — the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha — as the guiding ideals of his life, by the latter he expresses his determination to bring his actions into harmony with these ideals through right conduct. The following two tracts were written for the purpose of giving a clear and concise explanation of these two steps. Though they are intended principally for those who have newly embraced the Buddha's teaching they will probably be found useful as well by long-term traditional Buddhists wanting to understand the meaning of practices with which they are already familiar and also by those who want to know what becoming a Buddhist involves.
In order to keep our treatment compact, and to avoid the intimidating format of a scholastic treatise, references to source material in the tracts themselves have been kept to a minimum. Thus we here indicate the sources upon which our account has drawn. Going for Refuge is based primarily upon the standard commentarial passage on the topic, found with only minor variations in the Khuddakapatha Atthakatha (Paramatthajotika), the Dighanikaya Atthakatha (Sumangalavilasini), and the Majjhimanikaya Atthakatha (Papañcasudani). The first has been translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Ñanamoli in Minor Readings and the Illustrator (London: Pali Text Society, 1960), the third by Ven. Nyanaponika Thera in his The Threefold Refuge (B.P.S., The Wheel No. 76.).
The tract Taking the Precepts relies principally upon the commentarial explanations of the training rules in the Khuddakapatha Atthakatha, referred to above, and to the discussion of the courses of kamma in the Majjhimanikaya (commentary to No. 9, Sammaditthisutta). The former is available in English in Ven. Ñanamoli's Minor Readings and Illustrator, the latter in Right Understanding, Discourse and Commentary on the Sammaditthisutta, translated by Bhikkhu Soma (Sri Lanka: Bauddha Sahitya Sabha, 1946). Another useful work on the precepts was The Five Precepts and the Five Ennoblers by HRH Vajirañanavarorasa, a late Supreme Patriarch of Thailand (Bangkok: Mahamakut Rajavidyalaya Press, 1975). Also consulted was the section on the courses of karma in Vasubandhu's Adhidharmakosa and its commentary, a Sanskrit work of the Sarvastivada tradition.
— Bhikkhu Bodhi
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