For a Future to Be Possible

Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts

Thich Nhat Hanh
Parallax Press: Berkeley, California, 1993.
281 pp., $16.00 (paper).

Thich Nhat Hanh has elaborated and interpreted the precepts to address contemporary ethical concerns. By choosing examples from our shared daily life—such as the Rodney King beating—and pairing them with provocative analyses (saying of the King beating that "a violent society creates violent policemen"), Thich Nhat Hanh redirects rage or easy finger-pointing and challenges the reader to examine his or her place in a community. Part two of this thoughtful, inquiring volume is made up of essays by fourteen contributors, including Robert Aitken, Richard Baker, Chan Khong, and Maxine Hong Kingston. (Most of the essays were written for this collection; only three have been published previously.) The essayists address a wide range of issues from requirements for receiving the precepts in a formal ceremony, to the question of how societies as a whole can strive to practice the precepts, to the connection between precepts and a sense of belonging. The two concluding sections are devoted, respectively, to a study of a chapter from the Upasaka Sutra and ceremonies.

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