This special fasting and purification practice is performed in conjunction with the practice of Eleven-faced Avalokiteshvara the Buddha of compassion. It is very powerful for purifying negative karma of body, speech and mind, and for pacifying strong delusions such as desirous attachment and hatred. It is also a special method for receiving blessings and improving our experience of love, compassion and bodhichitta.
Usually this practice is done over two days, with the eight Mahayana precepts being taken at the beginning of each day. On the first day, it is customary to abstain from all meals apart from lunch. On the second day, we engage in a complete fast abstaining from all food and drink for twenty-four hours. On both days we do three sessions of the puja Drop of Essential Nectar –one first thing in the morning, one before lunch, and one in the late afternoon. Those who are unable to engage in a complete fast can participate in the puja on the second day, provided they take the eight Mahayana precepts on that day.
On each day, before the break of dawn, we begin by taking the eight Mahayana precepts according to the sadhan entitled A Pure Life and then we begin the first session of the sadhana entitled Drop of Essential Nectar.
Mahayana Precepts (punctual attendance required): 6:30am
Session 1: 7:30am-9.00am
Session 2: 10.30am-12:00pm
Session 3: 3.30pm-5.00pm
The practice of taking and keeping the eight Mahayana precepts is a special practice of moral discipline that is performed with bodhichitta motivation – the supreme good heart.
The essence of the practice is to take eight precepts – promising to abstain for twenty-four hours from eight actions: (1) killing, (2) stealing, (3) sexual activity, (4) lying, (5) taking intoxicants, (6) eating after lunch, (7) sitting on high or luxurious thrones or seats, and (8) wearing ornaments, perfume, etc, and singing and dancing and so forth – and to keep them purely for this period of time.
By doing this practice again and again, we acquaint ourself with the practice of moral discipline and thereby make our human life meaningful.
We first need to receive these precepts from a qualified Preceptor, and then we can take them on our own as often as we wish. We engage in the practice in conjunction with the prayer booklet, A Pure Life which contains a clear explanation of why we abstain from these eight activities.