I thought it might be good to hear some perspectives about the precepts from other folks and recall a few key points that have been presented in the last six weeks.
The first is from Shunryu Suzuki from his teachings on the Sandokai, an eight century poem by Shitou Xiqin1
There were two monks traveling together, and they came to a big river where there was no bridge to cross.While they were standing on the bank a beautiful woman came along. One of the monks carried the woman on his back across the river. Later the other monk became furious. “You are a monk! You violated the precept not to touch a woman. Why did you do that?” The other monk responded. “You are still carrying the woman. I already forgot about her. You are the one who is violating the precepts.”
Maybe as a monk it was not completely right to carry the woman. Even so, as all human beings are friends, we should help them even if it means violating a buddhist precept. If you think about the precepts in a limited or literal way, that is actually violating the precepts. So to see the woman was not to see the woman. When he was crossing the river with her on his back he was actually not helping her. Do you understand? So, not to help her was to help her in the true sense.
When you are involved in the dualistic sense of precepts, – man and woman , monk and layperson, that is violating the precepts and is a poor understanding of the Buddha’s teaching. Without any idea of attainment, without any idea of doing anything, without any meaningful practice, just to sit is our way. To be completely involved in sitting
meditation this is how we observe our precepts. Sometimes we will be angry and sometimes we will smile. Sometimes we will get mad at our friend and sometimes we will give them a kind word. But actually what we are doing is observing our way.
From Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutras.2
The quality of pure discipline is explained next. With loving hearts, bodhisattvas always relinquish their lives, enjoyments, and spouses to sentient beings without the slightest unhappiness and with great joy. Then why would they not refrain be able to refrain from selfishly taking lives, stealing, engaging in sexual misconduct, blind intoxication or deceitful speech.
From Middle Beyond Extremes
Discipline keeps others from being harmed as it entails giving up harming others as well as the basis of such acts.
Roshi Norm Fischer teaches that the practice of sila paramita is:
“easy going serene conduct, beautiful conduct…actively benefiting others…joyful, expansive effort to be of service.”3
From earlier posts.
Of great importance is to remember that the vow of harmlessness is a practice. We will drop the ball, miss a cue, forget, even reject. There is no punishment or reward for failing or perfection. That would cause harm.
This is the practice of sila and the moral precepts of buddhism. They are not laws imposed from upon high, but discoveries that are made when we are generous with our lives and open to relinquishing the barriers of imprints and habits that imprison us. Barriers that also keep us from allowing others to show up in their complete goodness.
I vow to cherish life, not to kill
I vow to receive only what is offered, not to steal.
I vow to respect others, not to misuse sexuality.
I vow to practice clarity of mind, not to intoxicate self or other.
I vow to practice truthfulness, not to lie.
With the practice of dana, selfless generosity, we become aware of activities of body, speech and mind that discolor or even obstruct dana, as well as their remedies that are the seeds and the effects of dana. The practice of these precepts takes patience with self and other; the third paramita.
Perhaps take time this week to review the posts on sila and dana. Also look into your experiences, thoughts and speech as well as others to notice the natural occurrences of sila ,discipline, moral virtue. In this time of great chaos and polarization there is a tendency to remain focused on the horrors and to lose the awareness of the natural, inherent qualities of goodness that are present even in the darkness.
With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings.
1. Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness. Zen Talks on the Sandoval, Shunryu Suzuki. Pg 102. Mel Weitsman, Michelle winger editors. University of California Press, Berkeley , Ca. 1999
2. Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sutras. Maitreya’s Mahyanasutralamkara with commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Miphham. Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee. Snow Lion, Boston, 2014.
3. Norm Fischer Roshi “Sila Paramita”. Being a Good Non-Person. (The Six Perfections Part 5)” Upaya Zen Center. Copyright October 2023 URL.https://www.upaya.org/2015/11/norman-kathie-fischer-sila-paramita-six-perfections-part-5/
Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome.
We practice on ZOOM: Notice weekday morning sit time is changed to 6:30 instead of 6.
- Mondays – Calm abiding and insight meditation. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time
- Sundays – Brahmavihara. 7 AM Pacific Time
ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789
Please Note. We will be putting the afternoon practices on hold for a bit. We look forward to seeing you in the morning sessions! Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to email@example.com