Rules of Purification

These rules are specified in part 1 of the book of "The Rules of Purification," which was written by Master Thich Thanh Tu. Originally, it's in Vietnamese, but later has been translated into English. The complete version of this book contains 2 additional parts: the second part covers the rites and third part is auxillary. Note the enforcement of these rules is slightly different upon the circumstances at each monastery.


Buddha had expounded the three Prajnas: Prajna of listening, Prajna of contemplation, and Prajna of meditation. Prajna of listening is what we hear or learn from our masters or scholars. From learning, we are able to understand the excellent things that the Buddha had taught us and they still are inscribed in the Buddhist scriptures. But it's not enough for us to fully discern our true nature by only understanding the Buddha's teachings through the masters' lectures. We need to contemplate the Buddha's teachings in order to understand them thoroughly. After fully understanding the concepts, we should apply them in our daily life. This is called the Prajna of meditation. It's the same that an ill person needs to be examined by a doctor first, then he/she has to evaluate the doctor's diagnosis. When he/she knows for sure that he/she needs to buy certain medication for his/her treatment, he/she buys it and takes it. If he/she follows the instructions correctly, he/she should be cured. Thus, even though the doctor gives the right diagnosis and you agree with it, you still can't terminate the illness if you don't buy the medication. It's the same for listening, contemplation, and practice. If we listen and contemplate, but we don't practice, we won't be able to terminate suffering. The intention of this book of "The Rules of Purification" is to assist the monks and nuns succeed in the practice after they complete the first two steps: listening and contemplation.

Our practice could be done in various forms such as thinking, speaking, and acting. A practical example is the Six Harmonies. Besides, we have to let go all bad karmas of the past and present. We have to observe the Ten precepts as our basic practice. In order to adapt ourselves to the lifestyle at monasteries and to get along with practitioners, we must exercise the additional precepts of Internal Rules. To progress in our practice, we must sincerely practice the Rite of Repentance each night so that our transgressions from previous lifetimes and this life could be terminated.

Our focus at monasteries is practicing zen (meditation). All students at these places should consider meditation as their life. Therefore, in four postures of meditation, they are always in awareness. Though, to fully fulfill it, they need those times of sitting meditation. The zen practicing method that has been excercised by the students at monasteries is the practicing method that was combined by the practicing methods of Patriarch Hui Ko, Hui Neng, and The Great Teacher of Bamboo Grove (Truc Lam Dau Da). Thus, this book of "The Rules of Purification" should be used and enforced at all monasteries.

March 25, 1999
Zen Master Thich Thanh Tu
Rector of Truc Lam Monastery