Hịa Hảo Buddhism sought the accommodation of traditional values with the modern civilization. A great deal of adaptation was needed and a great change took place. Subsequently, Hịa Hảo Buddhism established and sustained itself as a viable religious congregation.
Like many other Buddhist thinkers, Huỳnh Ph Sổ continually reminded laymen that Buddha is best honored by doing the duties enjoined. The minimum duties of a layman were summed up in what was traditionally known as the observance of the Five Precepts or Five Prohibitions, also known as Pancasila or Ngũ Giai Cấm in Vietnamese.
As for the Five Prohibitions, the accepted formula is:
1. To abstain from taking life.
2. To abstain from taking what is not given.
3. To abstain from going wrong about sensuous pleasures.
4. To abstain from false speech.
5. To abstain from intoxicants.
The adepts of orthodox Buddhism were also supposed to observe the ten precepts or siksapadas.
Huỳnh Ph Sổ introduced the Eight Prohibitions, or Tm Điều Răn Cấm. The accepted formula is:
1. To avoid social-ills and to follow moral rules.
2. To abstain from laziness and undue occupations, to practice compassion in everyday life.
3. To abstain from seeking money, property and fame, not to be egoistical, to lead an exemplary life.
4. To abstain from being arrogant, rude and from mentioning Heavens, Buddhas, and deities improperly.
5. To abstain from taking life, including domestic animals such as buffaloes, cows and dogs either as aliments or as offerings because the deities do not accept bribes to forgive sins.
6. To abstain from burning golden votive paper because this is a futile waste, while the money can be used to assist the poor.
7. To abstain from thoughtless speech but make well-thought judgements.
8. To love and to encourage one another to practice religion so as to save all living beings. Cf. Huỳnh Gio Chủ. Sấm giảng thi thơ tồn bộ. Gíao Hội Phật Gio Hịa Hảo, 1965. Santa Fe Spring, CA: Văn Phịng Phật Gio Hịa Hảo Hải Ngoại, 1982, pp.178-179.
It should be pointed out that the Eight Prohibitions were not of purely doctrinal characters. Transversely, these moral precepts aimed at transforming Vietnams social realities in a positive direction and reversing perceived trends of social decline. The Eight Prohibitions were also supposed to encourage adherents to lead a religious life of appropriate morality and avoid social evils. In short, the prohibitions outlined a path of human perfection, which was an important element of Hòa Hảo doctrines.
As has been seen, eventhough the doctrines of Hòa Hảo Buddhism were not systematic, they were firmly rooted in the traditional Oriental system of Three Teachings. The gist of the Hòa Hảo Buddhist message was to offer concrete solutions for moral dilemmas of everyday life.
Correspondingly, the Hòa Hảo moral message, notably the Eight Prohibitions, provided adherents some practical guidance and help. Therefore, the followers became able to identify their place in society at large, avoid immoral acts and practice good deeds.
Specifically, the works of Huỳnh Phú Sổ included detailed practical recommendations on a variety of issues, notably culture and civilization, national traditions, the origins of the Vietnamese nation and the national state, issues of family and marital life, and ritual aspects of wedding and funeral rites.
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