How should we proceed in our practice when we have broken some of the five precepts? I am anguished over this unwholesome behavior and the negative karma I created. Ajahn Brahm talks about self-forgiveness and the Buddha in the Sankha Sutta (the Conch Trumpet Sutta) talks about waking up from unwholesome behavior by refraining from such actions in the future. And of course, there is the story of Angulimala, so there are some examples in the teachings of people waking from patterns of negative karma-making. I suppose the only way to proceed is to maintain the precepts, deepen my practice and strive to create wholesome karma?
Don't regret or repent! That is bad Karma. What you need to practice is Samma Vayama(The right effort) of the noble eightfold path.
(1) to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states;
(2) to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen;
(3) to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen;
(4) to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.
Take the triple refuge and the five precepts every morning to remind yourself. Then at night, before going to sleep, reflect on the day's activities and see if you broke any precepts or if you can improve with Samma Vayama and try to do better next day.
When you start off you can keep contemplating on the virtues and adhere to them. If any is broken make a strong determination not to break it again. As you progress look at the sensation each volition creates. If then sensation is gross then the action that follows will also be a gross action (breaking a virtue) hence should be avoided. Repenting is not productive. At higher stages you will notice that repenting also causes gross sensations, but until then keep in mind that repenting aggravates the Karma.
- Sit with your emotions of regret and cry and truly feel the pain you caused others
- Decide to fuel it into following the Noble Truths to live a balanced life and work towards the super awesome goals of Buddhism which are far beyond anything that any drug or thing or person can ever give you!
- Make a small offering (a small bowl of rice will do, throw it in your garden the next morning) to your family ancestors, ghosts and the other beings and ask them for their help every night.
- Forgive yourself when you have fully taken this decision to change and made this sacrifice
- List the different things you want to change
- Describe how each of these things are triggered and decide to avoid these triggers! (a certain social circle may not be seeing you in a while!)
- Find a replacement habit for each of the things you want to change (for example, if you feel relaxed by drinking, listen to music instead and do deep breathing... it'll give you a similar feeling and will lead you towards even higher attainments--while enhancing your brain and body)
- Keep monitoring your avoiding these triggers. Each day you can avoid these triggers (that are related to certain unbeneficial behaviors) is a day closer to permanent change! Studies show that if you can maintain a habit for 21 consecutive days, you basically have changed the way your brain works!
You put your concern into an abstract concept, which is a hindrance. When you know, that you did something unhealthy/unwise etc. "make it good" where you did bad. I.e. if you'd hurt someone, tell them you know and how you feel about it now, no matter how their reaction might be. You can only solve problems on their very level but never in abstract religious-conceptual-whatever way (by putting a concrete situation into a philosophical or religious structure.