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.