The Recitation of Precepts for Lay Followers According to the Zaijiaren busa fa（在家人布薩法）
Sylvie Hureau（Maître de conférences à l’EPHE, Section des sciences religieuses.）
The “Method for lay followers to observe poṣadha, fascicle 7” (在家人布薩法卷第七) is a manuscript comprising 308 lines, concerned with the performance of the bi-monthly recitation of precepts. The text consists of 5 parts. Part 1 (Introduction, 序), opens with definitions, translations and explanations of the word “布薩”, and continues with mentions of methods previously composed in China. Part 2 (General ideas, 略意) is a survey of intentions, peculiarities and ideas related to the ritual. Parts 3 (Prior measures, 前方便), 4 (Main practice, the raison d’être of the ritual, 正行事) and 5 (Following measures, 後方便), which cover 220 lines, present at great length the setting and performance of the ritual: preceded by the installation of the room, it opens in the morning with the call and preparation of the attendants by purification through self-examination, mutual confession and repentance, continues in the evening and culminates with the recitation of the precepts, and closes at night, after the recitation of scriptures, with a vow, a prayer and dispersal of the attendants.
As indicated in the title, it is a performance for lay practitioners, but the text also makes clear that the laity for whom it was intended were previously ordained with the bodhisattva precepts. Right from the beginning, the text quotes the Sūtra of Brahma’s net 梵網経 saying that bodhisattvas shall recite those precepts, unless being guilty of a fault. It also contrasts the lay follower in the Hīnayāna tradition to the lay bodhisattva, and, throughout, the text addresses itself to bodhisattvas. Moreover, it shows certain resemblance in style, presentation and content with the Dunhuang manuscript“Method for ordaining those who have left the household with the bodhisattva precepts, fascicle 1” (出家人受菩薩戒法巻第一, Pelliot 2196), which was a manual concerned with the performance of bodhisattva ordination composed―or requested―by the Emperor Wu 武 of the Liang dynasty (r. 502-549). Written in the same vein, and motivated by the same spirit, the two texts explain how to receive the bodhisattva precepts and how to recite them once every fortnight.
The ritual combines instructions from various sources, including both scriptural ones as varied as Vinaya scriptures, Sūtra of Brahma’s net and some lost texts, and oral sources. It is modelled on the ritual traditionally performed by members of the saṃgha, with adaptations for lay practitioners engaged on the bodhisattva path.
Although the text has not been preserved in canonical sources, it appears to have been known and used by the master of the Vinaya school, Daoxuan 道宣 (576-667), in a passage describing the ritual of recitation of precepts in his Abridged and revised excerpts on the procedures [described] in the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya (四分律刪繁補闕行事鈔).