Taking and Keeping the eight Mahayana precepts
Using the sadhana “A Pure Life,” the essence of the practice of Taking Precepts is to take eight precepts and to keep them purely for a period of twenty-four hours. When we take the eight Mahayana precepts, we explicitly promise to abstain for twenty-four hours from eight actions: Killing, stealing, sexual activity, lying, taking intoxicants, eating after lunch, sitting on high or luxurious thrones or seats, wearing ornaments, perfume, etc, and singing and dancing, etc.
These eight, however, are merely symbolic, for in reality we promise to abstain from all non-virtuous actions for twenty-four hours. By doing this practice again and again, we acquaint ourself with the practice of moral discipline and thereby make our human life meaningful. We receive many great benefits from practicing moral discipline in this way. It helps us to solve the problems of this life by avoiding the causes of suffering; and it creates the cause for us to take fortunate rebirths in future lives.
If we manage to keep our actions of body, speech, and mind pure for one day we can then extend it to two days, then to three days, and so on, until eventually we can keep pure moral discipline all the time. With a pure body and a pure mind there is no basis for experiencing suffering; instead we shall experience only unceasing happiness from within. Precepts should be taken at dawn. After taking them once in front of a preceptor, this practice can be done on one’s own.