In Sôtô Zen, practising zazen and practising the precepts are one and the same thing.
In the practice of zazen, the precepts are naturally, automatically and unconsciously realised. Consequently, if zen is zazen, receiving and protecting the precepts in daily life is also zen in itself.
In zazen, thoughts – especially thoughts of covetousness, thoughts nourished by detestation or aversion, thoughts nourished by ignorance or stupidity… – all appear and disappear of their own accord.
In everyday life, in the midst of all that we have to do, in the activity of body and mind, it is not possible to let all thoughts pass, since some are necessary to the activity in which we are immersed. It is then that the light of the precepts protects us, enabling us to avoid going in the wrong directions. At every moment, we need to ask ourselves: is this thought useful for what the situation requires? To do this, it‘s important to keep the precepts in mind and to see whether a particular thought is contrary to the spirit of the precepts.
Thoughts of hatred, aversion, greed, anxiety, jealousy… and the energies associated with them are not necessary for doing great and good things, quite the contrary.
On the other hand, we can see at any given moment, as circumstances dictate, if we are breaking the precepts, if our mind is tainted by the three poisons. This is necessary in order to free ourselves from them and not to follow them. This is the practice of awakening in daily life.