Nichiren Buddhism a view with a secular eye

Before I start, Nichiren Buddhism is a flavor of Tien Tai Buddhism (Tendai in Japan), a flavor of Buddhism founded in China that takes the Lotus Sutra as it’s primary text. Practices include revering the text above all. This is a progressive innovation because the Dharma now outranks the Buddha in terms of importance. The text itself is a bunch of stories explaining how Mahayana is better than other forms of Buddhism. To me, it is ironic that Tien Tai de-emphasizes the rest of the sutras, but you can’t really understand what the Lotus is talking about if you aren’t familiar with the other sutras- the text assumes you know what Buddhism is before you read the text.

My first take on Nichiren Buddhism was, “This is a cult.” In particular, the proselytizing, aggressively seeking new members, the idolization of Daisaku Ikeda, just wasn’t a good story. Years later, I have different opinions.

– Aggressive proselytizing. In the market for religions, you grow or become irrelevant.
– Daisaku Ikeda. He’s more like a celebrity. All organized religions have the problem of superstars.
– SGI vs Nichiren Shu. Nichirenism takes orthodoxy seriously. A side effect is you get schisms- a lot of schisms. This endless series of schisms has gone on since the death of Nichiren.
– Cult? No, they are “totalitarian” which means the org, if you’d like will fill up all your spare time, and if you in Japan, you can go to SGI school, vote SGI, work for an SGI company, live surrounded by SGI people. (A guy wrote a whole book about this theme, I can’t find the reference. His thesis was the Sokka Gakkai acted like a mini-state within a state)
– Chanting for a new car. The instinct is to say, “this is materialism, materialism is bad, end of story” Nichiren was a government employee and assigned a district. He was responsible for all the people in his district. These were ordinary people, so you couldn’t expect them to all become monks, do philosophy, or even read. So chant in front of a mandala for this worldly benefit. The symbolic practices are symbolic- they keep you doing Buddhism when you can’t do anything else. The community is what gets you the new car. After you got food on the table, you can start to think about philosophy & other prestige practices. [I actually don’t know if early Nichirenists chanted for a new ox, but Nichiren definitely was trying to make Buddhism accessible]

Modern SGI/Nichirenism, in my opinion, is theoretically friendly to a secular outlook. The main practices are the symbolic practices of chanting, mandalas, & the 14 ways you can interact with the Lotus Sutra. I read one academic call this “Kamakura mono-practice” because there is so much emphasis on just one practice. So if you don’t believe the cosmology, you can still be a member of the club, since you chant. On the other hand, heterodoxy is “slandering the Dharma,” so maybe not.

Now if you decide you can’t believe in the cosmology, then how does this chanting provide any benefit?

– It is a social activity, and networks create weath and employment.
– It is like loud meditation (those who chant the Lotus don’t necessarily do so in a language they understand), so any benefits to meditation you could potentially get from chanting.
– Nichiren Buddhism is still recognizable Buddhism. It is a self-improvement project where you do symbolic practices when you can’t do anything else and you do real practices when you can. In Nichiren Buddhism, they justify symbolic practices by saying we are in the age of the decline of the Dharma, so we chant. Once your life is in order and you can do more, you’d chant & do more.

** What is a symbolic practice? It is what you do as a Buddhist when you can’t do your core practice, be it meditation or reading/writing philosophy or working at a non-profit for the greater good or what have you. Someone times you’re a Buddhist & you are busy, or you are only 3 years old, or you’re 87 and have dementia- then you avail yourself to the practices you can still do, which will be mostly symbolic. This is probably heterodox for some official organizations which say that chanting alone is enough for full Enlightenment because you can rely on supernatural assistance from the text or the still alive historical Buddha.

Is this the way most SGI/Nichiren adherents see their religion? Probably not, chanting for a car is indistinguishable from practical magic, the two chapters chanted for daily gongyo say that the Buddha faked his death and actually is so long-lived he’s practically immortal, the implications for a non-secular believer being that the Buddha is available today for divine intercession and we too have the prospect for being almost immortal.

One of the benefits of an organization that is so eager to gain adherents is that the organization doesn’t care if you:

– are the right race, gender or sexual orientation
– doesn’t worry much about what you do outside of the core practices
– doesn’t worry too much about what you believe or don’t believe.

Anyhow to sum things up, all flavors of Buddhism are religions with an element of magic, some more than others. They all have cosmologies, superbeings and practical magic which a modern person might be unwilling to take with a straight face. Most projects of secular Buddhism start with one flavor or another (Theravada, Mahayana, etc) and use that as the raw material for their personal project. There is no flavor of Buddhism that historically was magic-free.** Tien Tai Buddhism (and it’s many descendants including SGI) are perfectly good starting points for a secular Buddhist project.

** Both Theravada & “early Buddhism” have magical elements that you have to explicitly remove. You can’t pretend that they aren’t there. If you do, Donald Lopez will write a book about you. (Donald Lopez is always quick to squash folk eager to believe that Buddhists have always been secular, scientific, or what have you.)

TkPk Secular Buddhist Group- Meetup Reorg

LINK TO NEW GROUP.

This group started out as a bookclub. I ran it for three years and in general it was successful– I read lots of books with people and had lots of good discussions. My daughter arrived and the book club went into hiatus, also meetup changed their prices so I made some experimental changes to the group format, which didn’t work out.

In rethinking, I decided I like book clubs, potlucks, semi-open-ended discussion and I aspired to do some of the “basic practices” of Buddhism, which I tend not to do if I’m not doing them with other people, such as meditation, chanting or the like. But I’m not keen on joining an existing Buddhist organization. The Chinese Mahayanists are most similar to my ideas and practice, but I don’t speak Chinese so I’m severely disadvantaged. Similarly, I don’t want to get into unproductive English arguments about vegetarianism, or if the Bodhisattvas have corresponding existents in reality, or the merits of even trying to earn merit. In short, a harmonious group already agrees on enough issues that they can focus on practice. As it happens, I think Buddhism is authentically pro-veganism, ie takes the preservation of sentient life seriously, is about self-improvement-type practices and not so much about faith in a higher power. Groups that take opposing view points already exist, I wish them well on their noble paths.

What does Buddhism, specifically this Buddhism, promise?
Buddhism has two kinds of benefits, the immediate, this-worldly benefits and the transcendent, ultimate benefits.

This worldly
We chant, sit & meditate, read for calm and peace of mind
for aid in finding a job, a romantic interest,
for health

Transcendent and ultimate benefits
The fundamental problem Buddhism solves is personal pain & misery
While not physically escaping this world, we can escape to a different way of experiencing this world
We move from experiencing personal, meaningless pain to having an existential project- that of dealing without our own pain, then dealing with the pain of others- our day to day ordinary jobs either directly or indirectly are solving the prob

What is the goal of the group?
For ¾ of the people who came to my book club for three years, they just wanted to know what was Buddhism as they rotated through religions and “new age” movements of the moment. The full answer is a confusing mess of “well, there are many sects, more diverse than you can imagine”. I want to be able to coherently explain one Buddhism that is broadly compatible and appealing to people in DC. It is someone else’s job to explain and make the case for Amidaism, Post-imperial reform Japanese Zen, and so on. The first benefit, in modern jargon is mood stabilization, something that might otherwise be treated with anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication or worse alcoholism and mindless TV. Buddhism isn’t a cure for serious psychological problems- schizophrenics should still avail themselves of modern medicine, but is a perfectly suitable cure for that feeling of unease we find ourself in that is somewhere between vacation and being literally sick.

Why is there a monthly vegetarian potluck? You may have read Buddhists aren’t vegetarian. This is a matter of sect. Mahayana Buddhist doctrine include animal liberation, a position even more “hard core” than typical US vegetarianism that prohibits owning pets, let alone eating them or using their products. Japanese Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada is not vegetarian. The goal is for this group to be a place that is safe to be vegetarian. In Buddhism, there are many degrees of vegetarianism, such as being vegetarian only a certain number of days a week or only on the numerous holidays.

What will we be reading? I pick books that target the most common forms of Buddhism in the US, which is Zen, Nichiren Buddhism and Shambhala/Tibetan Buddhism.

What do you mean by practice? Buddhism is a religion of practice. Cultivating a state of mind and behavior is the core. As Buddhism was popularized (a thousand years ago!), monks realized that they couldn’t teach people do copy the monks. Easy practices, often with only symbolic content, became the foundation of practice– e.g. yoga, chanting and silent sitting meditation. I’m less certain on the exact details, but even alter maintenance is on the list.

I’d urge you to not project your previous religious expectations onto practice– this isn’t necessarily Christian prayer with cross swapped out for a Bodhisattva statue. In short, symbolic practices are what keep us from forgetting our practice (either in the form of the eight fold path or the paramitas) when in day to day life, we find our selves working a job to pay the rent and not working directly on charity, tolerance, or equanimity.

The ideal goal (the one we work towards but don’t necessarily expect to reach) is where we have internalized all the various meritable qualities into our daily life and we act every day without hate and greed and with equanimity. In the meanwhile, we lay a foundation with symbolic practices.

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Parabuddhism

Several themes in Buddhism are echoed by modern psychological therapy practices, for example, the value of being mindful of one’s emotions, developing the skill of concentration, for example on the breath, as a means of relaxation and dealing with anxiety.

But since the heyday of Buddhist Sutra writing, a lot has happened. There is now a literature of para-Buddhist literature and techniques that are remarkably similar to the Buddhist project.

Anyhow, I’m thinking I should focus some of my reading on that and see about creating a Buddhism that is

1/4 early Buddhism, but not it’s right wing socially conservative agenda
1/4 Mahayana Precepts, Vows, ethics & view of the self and other, ideals and goals. But the karma & hells, I could care less about.
1/4 European Enlightenment and Progressive politics
1/4 Science, para-Buddhist psychology and para-Buddhist modern philosophy.

Anyhow, if I manage to follow through, I’ll post a suitable reading list for the last 1/4. It will be a tricky reading list to compile because these books rarely call out their Buddhist inspiration or include the B-word in their title or description.

A Recitable Creed

I’m continuing to work on what would be a valuable daily or 2x a month practice, roughly based on monastic uposotha days.

I believe…

… Shakyamuni and the people who followed him were ordinary people that collectively said something remarkable and useful. The work of the Buddhist is to find out that realization through thought and meditation and apply it to the problems of this world.
… we are not who we naively think we are.
… we are the intersection of the effects of everything.
… we are a collective consciousness
… we should not let our desire for immortality and fame color who we think we are.
… the soul does not exist, nor heaven, nor hell, nor reincarnation. These are stories. Freedom is freedom from the fear of hell and reincarnation. Peace is being at peace with our mortality.
… experience is governed by dependent-arising, things happen, we experience them, they pass away.
… the celestial Buddhas and Bodhisattva are archetypes, we seek to become like them.
… there is a fundamental problem for us to solve, we should be cautious in deciding what the problem is.
… we have a fundamental problem, suffering, due to aversion, greed, ignorance and an unwillingness to get along with others.

I will follow these precepts
… I will preserve life
… I will obey civil law and work for its change when it conflicts with the other precepts
… I will work to live harmoniously with everyone
… TODO: minor precepts.

I vow…
… to work towards the enlightenment of all living things.
… bring health and wealth to all living things

I promise…
… to meditate and develop concentration
… to meditate and study the nature of my mind
… to meditate by reading
… I will work to maintain enthusiasm for the task
… to repent when I realize I’ve made a mistake

Not worth reciting, but for completeness, what I don’t believe:
Tathagatagarbha is nonsense. Once you are enlightened, you’ll realize that tathagatagarbha was nonsense all along, you just needed to realize it.
Nondualism, especially applied as a theory of everything is nonsense. We should guard against see the same things as different. We should also guard against imagining different things are are actually the same.
Depending-arising and sunyata as a theory of everything is nonsense.
The cosmology with karma, heaven and hell is nonsense and in general, not salvageable. The universe is ignorant of our sense of fairness.
The celestial Buddhas don’t exist, can not help us, and as fictional devices, they care not for our flattery or devotion.

Precepts and Commitment Devices

A commitment device is economist jargon for things we do to restrict our future actions so that we don’t do something that we will later regret. This is a really large set of strategies, such as throwing out excess Halloween candy so you can’t binge on it, putting your money into a retirement plan with early withdrawal penalties so you don’t waste it all before you need it, and so on.

Joining a monastic society is also a commitment device. In ancient China, it was rather difficult to get out of being a monk on account of government rules and lack of other career change opportunities. Also, having giving up your possessions, it would be hard to turn back and resume a lay life, at least not without a period of having to get along with no assets at all.

Personally, I have no interest or ability to join a monastic society. It is something of an anachronism. Modern life allows for a certain amount of leisure, so full time specialization isn’t as great a benefit as it used to be.

The precepts were also a sort of house rules, law and dispute resolution mechanism. In Christianity, that is all the rules are– some people trying to control the behavior of others for their own benefit while attributing their enforcement to supernatural powers. Buddhism, when ever it invokes karma, reincarnation and hell is also doing this. Meditating on the sutras is an active process of dividing the wisdom from the bull. If we jettison the rules created for social control, what do we have left?

I think we have left natural morality, the sort that modern biologists suspect has evolved to allow cooperative behavior. Without morality, individuals in a cooperative group could paracitize the rest via theft, murder of personal enemies, selling alcohol to the alcoholics, and so on. So morality is something that we innately would like to do and do a good job of it.

But we lapse. So precept taking can be seen a sort of commitment device. This particular one has these traditional components:

1) Regular recitation, two times a month to ensure we don’t forget the rules we want to follow.

2) Public taking of precepts. This can have two effects, one is you gain respect in your peers eyes because you have the goal– sort of like say, “I’m going to write a novel”. People think you are the smart sort who would write a novel regardless to if you follow through. On the other hand, if you say, I’m going to give up eating meat, and then you are seen eating hamburgers, you lose respect in your peers eyes because you are acting out a lack of self control.

2.5) Taking partial precepts. This signals that you actually put some consideration into which precepts you signed up for. It removes the objection, “I violated a precept because I had no choice in taking them all, including ones that I had no intention or ability to follow through with”

3) Public repentance. The fear of breaking a rule and losing face should be a serious motivator to not break the rules. However, I imagine this would have two problems. People can decide not to enumerate their infractions, since it is plausible in a given two week period, no infractions were made. The same person who worries about people thinking he holds back on confessions would instead confess to numerous trivial infractions.

4) “Criticism Pact.” Several of the precepts make it obligatory to encourage other people to confess and repent should someone know that a precept has been broken. This is somewhat muddied by other precepts that discourage criticism, which I suppose includes criticism about how poorly someone is following their precepts. If we imagine that everyone has mutually agreed to police each other’s behavior, then it becomes a commitment device. In an institution though, this could easily turn into a way for the authorities (the guru) to get the students to rat out each on infractions, especially if the guru is officially beyond reproach.

There are also modern commitment devices, many involving money. For example, one might make a “bet” with their friends, whoever eats meat first forfeits the pooled money to the others.

Anyhow, this is the most exciting line of reasoning for the naturalizing of the precepts

Categorizing the BNS Precepts

I was rereading the precepts and struck by their lack of thematic order. A theme can be addressed several times in the Major or Minor section and they aren’t adjacent to each other. Some precepts span two or more themes.

Preserving Life- 1, M3, M9, M10, M11, M14, M20, M32
Respect for Property and ethical economic behavior – 2, 3, M12, M17, M29, M31, M32
Sex- 3 and M4 (If the onions were seen as some sort of herbal viagra)
Honesty- 4 (Maybe should be part of “getting along with others”)
Substance Abuse- 5 and M2
Getting along with others- 6, 7, M5, M13, M19, M25
Anger- 9, M21 (Maybe should be part of “getting along with others”, except anger towards the inanimate is mentioned)
Teaching and Learning the Dharma- 10, M1, M6, M8, M15, M18, M23, M24, M30, M41, M42, M45
Who can be a Bodhisattva- M23, M40
Monastic Decorum- M26, M27, M28, M40, M38, M46
Entertainment, Media Consumption- M33
Thinking- M43
Enthusiasm- M34, M35, M36, M44
Camping like a Monk- M37
Participating in building infrastructure, reading sutras for national/communal benefit- M39
Government Relations- M47, M48 (This is 200AD Buddhists trying to come up with a working Sangha-Imperial Court relationship)

So anyhow, I can use this to create a 15 page picture book to read to my toddler. No way can he patiently sit through 58, semi-legal sounding rules!

Another comment worth making is that the long list is Teaching and Learning. And the BNS has some specific advice on what to teach and learn– it’s mostly talking about the Avatamsaka Sutra, which contains a 50+ stage path of liberation which is described nowhere in the BNS– only referenced.

So to follow the BNS, you need next get a copy of the Avatamsaka Sutra.

Also, next I hope to come up with a similar categorization for the UPS.

Dana- Animal Rights in China

I support a bunch of charities in the US. I recently read a bit about the situation with dogs in mainland China, so I did some more research. In Taiwan, humane slaughter laws are only just recently being passed.

I tried to find some charities to send my money to. Please take my money! But alas, I didn’t find much.

CAPM. Mainland organization, no obvious way to donate money.

Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan They have a page to donate money, but it is in Chinese and I have no idea if I can give money from the US.

Duo Duo Project This appears to be a small US charity that does projects and events related to animal rights in mainland China. It takes US donations via PayPal.

Human Society International This is related to HSUS. I don’t know if my donations to HSUS indirectly benefit HSI or if I need to donate to them separately. Anyhow, they take donations is USD and operate in many countries including China.

Animals Asia Works on bear bile issues, and other Asian animal rights projects.

The safe winner is HSI, since they funnel money to smaller groups that I can’t reach anyhow. I plan to give to HSI and the Duo Duo Project.

NB. If you are donating to an international charity, you probably won’t be able to deduct it on your income taxes unless they are registered with the IRS.

Bimonthly Practice Review

I’m thinking this should be a regular category of blog post.

The 8 fold path calls for a variety of mental conditions, working in the world and two kinds of meditation– mindfulness (sati) and concentration (samadhi). Of those, the work and meditation are specifically actionable.

DONE
I meditated. As usual, I used Samantabhadra as my focal point. Beats staring at the intersection of two wooden spars on the floor.

I read. Working my way through Basic Teachings of the Buddha by Wallis. I discussed it at my book club.

I participated on the Buddhist.SE website. The bodhisattva vows have probably half a dozen precepts related to teaching, as if being a Buddhist obliges you to teach. And then, in the BNS and UPS, there is much handwringing about who is qualified to teach and if people in the position of teaching are arrogant.

TODO
Flashcards. The pali jargon is overwhelming me– not so much in the sense of causing distress, but I’m forgetting the words as fast as I read them.

Review again a curriculum for kids. I still haven’t settled on a plan of attack.

What speaks to me today, what doesn’t

What speaks to me
Mahayana Ethics- Woman’s rights, animal rights, peaceful conduct, universal salvation, the de-emphasizing of renunciation as the sole path of liberation. This really is the litmus test for any -ism or -ology I subscribe to. The best way to convince an -ism or -ology that unregulated gun ownership is bad on all sorts of levels is to not participate in the ones that are pro-guns, pro-slaughter.
The psychology of mindfulness- pay attention to what is going on in your head, belly and breath. These are the skills that made the most difference in my ordinary life. It gets a bad rap for being ethics-free and maybe quietism– I think it’s a foundational skill, without it you can be effective in ethics or accomplish anything, either activist or quietist.
Universal interconnectedness of Huayen. Its a formulation of no-self that supports activism. Act because we’re all in this together and what one does matters to everyone.
Recognizable Buddhism. Everytime I go into depth into a particular sort of Buddhism, I run into these walls, things I can’t buy into or believe or use. But overall, things that are recognizable Buddhism are better than the alternatives.
The value system of Zen- simplicity, aesthetics, calm
Theravada and Mahayana paths of liberation– The 8 fold path, the 6 paramitas, the 10 Bhumis.
Mahayana formal ethics. By this I mean precepts. The BNS and UPS precepts are the best raw materials for precepts so far.
Bits and pieces of Nichiren, Shingon, Tantra, Pure Land– but each system as a whole doesn’t add up. Mantras, mandalas, mudras, prostrations– all seem like they are worth trying out. (and in each system, there is so much I’d rather just skip over or transform– mantras should be in English, mudras should be ASL, mandalas should be any soteriologically valuable picture worth meditating on)
Bodhisattvas– but only as instructive fictions.

What doesn’t speak to me
Renunciation. And by that, I mean, the don’t have a family, drop out of society, drop out of society for a very long time, … that stuff. I should write a whole blog post on it.
Indian Theravada Ethics. I don’t want to disparage modern Theravans. I’m sure they are nice people. I want to disparage the sexist, specist, classist ancient Indians, who figured only elite guys could reach enlightenment and they could reach enlightenment with a hamburger in one hand and a cigarette in the other, since hey, technically, those aren’t violations of any precepts because, well, logic.
Nagarjuna and Heart Sutra. These appear to be some sort of Indian style syllogisms, but provided without a background in how that logic system works. If you deny everything, including the opposites and the conjunctions and disjunctions, what’s left is obscurantism.
Yogacara’s “only mind”. I’m not sure what they’re going on about. Either everything is filter through the mind, which seems plausible but of uncertain consequences, or my mind is thinking up you. Which sounds like solipsism and fails to explain how we end up with consensus reality, i.e. on broad, simple things, people agree about reality. It’s just politics, religion and the like where no one agrees.
Yogacara and radical idealism. If we are thoughts without a thinkers, what’s the consequence? This multiperson hallucination seems to follow a lot of strict rules and no one seems to be able to take advantages of of the world being a dream, like lucid flying.
Tathagatagarbha. Reframing the goal so that it’s already accomplished isn’t very satisfying. And if the point is that enlightenment is a realization about who we really are– which had to have been true all along, then the doctrine is vacuous. Of course if we are trying to figure out who we really are, what we realize will have been true all along. The goal isn’t to verify the vacuous point that we are who we are and we have been all along. The point is we want the benefits of such a realization. We seek enlightenment for the consequences of such a realization. What will we do different after such a realization? That difference is something that wasn’t the case before enlightenment.
Radical nondualism. The universe isn’t undifferentiated goo.
Faith. It didn’t do anything for me when it was God and Jesus. It doesn’t do anything for me when it’s Buddha and Amitabha. The reasoning about faith seems like so much “truncated logic.” Why is faith good? Because practice is hard, so faith in Amitabha is better. Sounds plausible, but what if Amitabha just doesn’t exist?
Tantra. If I’m going to do mixed practice, why mix Hindu witchcraft and not, say Asatru magic?
Jataka Tales. These are non-Buddhist (as in not Buddhist) fairy tales. They are as Buddhist as the 3 little pigs, the 3 bears and Pinocchio. A pleasant, moralistic tale doesn’t automatically make it even recognizable Buddhism. It annoys me to no end that if you try to find books for teaching kids about Buddhism, this is 90% of what you find.
Institutions. I like the institutions of book publishers, authors and readers. I don’t care for abbots and group think (i.e. doctrines everyone adheres to because it’s part of membership requirements). I don’t care for the self serving rules that crept into Buddhism, especially in the vinaya, BNS and UPS. And guru veneration. I think I like Bodhisattvas better. For one, they are fictional, so they aren’t going to be writing up rules to get people to toe the line and preserve the institution.

Upasaka Precepts

The upaseka precepts are another set of precepts intended to be followed by both monastic and lay followers. Unlike peasant Buddhism, these precepts don’t appear to assume one is illiterate or otherwise unable to practice, except through refraining from a few things that most people don’t do anyone, such as murder, rape, robbery, alcoholism, and socially unacceptable lies, such as perjury. When you continue to do what you weren’t doing anyhow, what remains is devotional Buddhism, i.e. taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha.

The Upaseka precepts, for me, is a much more interesting starting point. Here are some observations so far:

Combined with the BNS precepts, this is a good skeleton for ordinary Buddhist morality, which is 1/6 of the paramitas and 1/10 of the Bhumis.

It’s a fund raising document. The document gives undue attention to dana and the merits of funding the Sangha.
It’s very East Asian, as shown by the minor precept against raising silk worms.
It specifically encourages meditation. (I’m not sure even the BNS does this)
It suggest merit results in this-worldly benefits, such as wealth and long life. I can’t tell if this is Mahayana skillful means, or if this is suggesting that that is how the world works. Elsewhere it’s common to suggest that a Bodhisattva works with people where they are– if they need food and money, help them with that. Once the ordinary needs are taken care of, work on philosophy, and other more lofty goals.

The Six Major Upasaka Precepts

(1) Even for the sake of one’s body and life, one should not kill any sentient being, even an ant.
(2) …, one should not steal anything, even a coin.
(3) …, one should not tell lies, such as claiming to have visualized the impurity of a decomposing corpse or to have become an Anāgāmin.
(4) …, one should not engage in sexual misconduct.
(5) …, one should not speak of the faults of bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, or upāsikās.
(6) …, one should not sell alcohol.

Like the BNS, selling alcohol is worse that consuming it. Similarly, no mention of other mind altering substances. The sexual misconduct is interpreted, as far as I can tell, according to rather strict Chinese rules. The fifth precept is about making sure the lay follower understands the pecking order. This theme repeats in the minor precepts.

The Twenty-eight Minor Upāsaka Precepts

(1) If an upāsaka who has accepted this precept fails to make offerings to his parents and teachers, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(2) … indulges in drinking alcohol, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(3) …, out of disgust, fails to visit the ill, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(4) … refuses to give anything to a solicitor for alms, sending him away empty-handed, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(5) Suppose an upāsaka who has accepted this precept sees [the appearance of] anyone among elders, bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās. If he fails to rise to receive, salute, and greet him, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(6) Suppose an upāsaka who has accepted this precept sees someone among bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās violate any precepts. If he says arrogantly, “I am better than he; he is less than I,” he has committed the sin of negligence.
(7) … fails each month on the six purification days to observe the eight precepts and to make offerings to the Three Jewels, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(8) … fails to go to hear teachings of the Dharma given within forty lis of his place, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(9) … takes bedding or furniture from a temple, he has committed the sin of negligence. Without rising above this impure act, which is conducive to continuing his cyclic existence, [after death] he cannot avoid going down an evil life-path.
(10) … suspects that there are insects in the water but drinks it anyway, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(11) … travels alone through perilous areas, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(12) … stays overnight alone at a nunnery, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(13) … for the sake of his wealth or life, beats and scolds his slaves, servants, or outsiders, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(14) … serves leftovers to bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, or upāsikās, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(15) … raises cats or foxes, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(16) … raises animals, such as elephants, horses, cows, goats, camels, or donkeys, and refuses to give them away to someone who has not received the [upāsaka] precepts, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(17) … fails to stock ceremonial robes, begging bowls, and staves [to give to monks or nuns], he has committed the sin of negligence.
(18) … needs to make a living as a farmer but fails to seek farmland and pure water, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(19) … makes a living by selling goods by weight. He should not raise price from an agreed price, and should weigh goods honestly. If he fails do so, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(20) … has sex in inappropriate places or at inappropriate times, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(21) … fails to pay taxes for his business and runs away, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(22) … breaks the law of his country, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(23) … enjoys the fresh grains, fruits, melons, and vegetables he has acquired, and fails to offer them first to the Three Jewels, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(24) … expounds and praises the Dharma despite denial of permission by the Saṅgha, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(25) … walks ahead of a bhikṣu or śrāmaṇera, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(26) If, when serving food in a temple, an upāsaka who has accepted this precept serves better food and more food to his teacher than to other monks, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(27) … raises silkworms, he has committed the sin of negligence.
(28) Suppose an upāsaka who has accepted this precept encounters an ill person on the road. If he walks away without stopping to see to his problem and make arrangements for him, he has committed the sin of negligence.

#1 is Chinese filial piety.

Some expand on the major precepts, #2 is about alcoholism. #20 expands the restrictions on sex to certain times and place– I checked, I can’t find a description of the times and places that were out of bounds. The rule about overnight stays at a nunnery appears to be aimed at horny men who want to lure the women away.

Four rules about animal rights– 10, 15, 16, 27 and the first major precept covers all life including insects. The purification days include fasting, which essentially meant being vegetarian for the day.

A couple of rules about following the law and personal and professional prudence. 22, 21, 19, 18.

One third of the rules about the lay-ordained pecking order, 26, 25, 24, 17, 14, 12, 9, 6, 5.

From a modern or American standpoint, a lot of these rule don’t bite. No one raises silk worms anyhow. I’ve never seen water with insects in my life, at least not that I was planning to drink. The ordained Sangha barely exists. So in order to act arrogantly towards the Sangha, you’d have to first go out of your way to find it. Someone who has gone out of their way to find the ordained Sangha, probably already feels positively and respectfully towards it. The modern issue is, who cares about the ordained Sangha, in particular, do we care that an ordained, celebate, full time Sangha doesn’t exist here in the west? (except in a numerically trivial sort of way) There isn’t a business model for the ordained Sangha, people are becoming interested in Buddhism after they have already settled into their family and careers. With such big basic issues like this, worrying about if I feel like filching sugar packets from the temple at tea time seems absurd.

The prohibition on cats and dogs does bite. This is one area where the Chinese are more pro-animal rights than I am. I still own a cat. I mitigate by keeping it in doors. In part by accident, cat food is part plant based, part animal based. For me, owning pets is a mixed good. If people didn’t own cats and dogs, they likely wouldn’t have any relationship to animals at all to form the basis for sympathy towards less charismatic animals like pigs. Pets and zoo animals, are the unwitting and involuntary diplomats from the animal kingdom.