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Thread: Rebirth

  1. #1

    Rebirth

    Hi. Nishijima-san writes on his blog that there is no rebirth. I've tried in vain to find out whether this is something he's find in Dogen or if it's a personal belief - could someone enlighten me please...??

    Gassho
    Walker, even more confused than usual

  2. #2
    This may help a little:
    http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/2007/...questions.html

    I like this one too:
    http://www.hsuyun.org/Dharma/zbohy/L...carnation.html

    You could also look here:

    http://www.hsuyun.org/Dharma/zbohy/L...carnation.html


    My own thoughts are that we are going through the process of rebirth moment to moment. But once the body is gone all that is left is your Karma.

    Hope that was helpful.

    Gassho,
    Jordan

    Ooh Harry Zap mee too please!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan
    This may help a little:
    http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/2007/...questions.html

    I like this one too:
    http://www.hsuyun.org/Dharma/zbohy/L...carnation.html

    You could also look here:

    http://www.hsuyun.org/Dharma/zbohy/L...carnation.html


    My own thoughts are that we are going through the process of rebirth moment to moment. But once the body is gone all that is left is your Karma.

    Hope that was helpful.

    Gassho,
    Jordan

    Ooh Harry Zap mee too please!
    Really good articles from hsu yun Jordon. Thanks for that.
    Cheers,
    Bruce

  4. #4
    Bruce,
    You are welcome!

    Cheers,
    Jordan

  5. #5

  6. #6
    Thanks guys for your enlightening insights...

    From just surfing the net, I get the impression that most Zen schools accept the concept of rebirth as fundamental, but that no schools really talk much about it - it's one of the basics of buddhism and therfore an important fundament also in Zen. However, Zen focuses more on the daily practice and less on theory and that's why it's not that much talked about. JMHO.

    And, "what died"? The process that was conveniently labelled "you" died, or rather transformed, into another process. Maybe...

    Gassho
    W

  7. #7
    Harry,

    I would say that the whole universe dies and is reborn moment to moment. At least that is what my gut says at this particular moment in space and time .

    Keep in mind that I am prone to idealism though. ops:

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  8. #8
    Dear All,

    The answer to the mystery of 'reincarnation' was made clear to me during my previous life as Charlegmagne ... (just kidding)

    Jordon, thank you for providing those two very special essays by the Chan teachers, Ven. Chuan Zhi Shakya and Ven. Fa Jian Shakya. I have never read such well written, complete statements of the modern Zen Buddhist point(s) of view on this subject (there are several points of view, from various angles). I have little to add to those essays, but I would underline a couple of points ...

    Yes, in our Zen practice, we do not know for sure what happens after we "die", thus we should merely take care of the life we lead in this world. What, if anything, happens thereafter is what will happen.

    Of course, as I discussed last week in my talk on turtles/tortoises, our appearance in this life seems such an unlikely happening, that I have a few suspicions that there is something special to it. But, it is just a suspicion, with little evidence. Nor is it important really. So, I just live my life.

    However, I would like to emphasize that the question of "life" and "death" becomes something quite different when we drop the words and concepts "life" and "death" from mind. Likewise when we drop from mind "before" "after" "self" and "not self". It is very hard for me to express this in words, and much easier to show ... so I tried to do so in these two talks and video essays. Might I ask folks to take another look?

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/08 ... tives.html

    and

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/08 ... death.html

    You know, from a very real perspective ... all of us now are "incarnations" of each other!

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9
    Thanks. But I cannot understand all these references to reincarnation. That requires a soul and we don't have that in Buddhism...

    Anyway, I've seen on another site (e-sangha, and I do understand it's not universally loved...) a huge discussion of rebirth and have come to the conclusion that the jury is still out. Or, rather, that some people accept it as necessary for Buddhism, others say it's dangerous and just mumbo jumbo, others say it doesn't matter really.

    Whatever.

    I was just asking if Dogen wrote something about it...

    W

  10. #10
    Hi Mr. Walker,

    Yes, opinions vary. I tend to think of the idea of reincarnation as a little baggage that Buddhism picked up from Indian Hinduism that has little relation to its central doctrines. Other schools of Buddhism might disagree.

    In answer to your question, this is from a book of my teacher Nishijima's that I translated a few years ago, and is relates to Dogen.

    Gassho, Jundo


    Gudo: Ah. [The topic is] whether some ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ exists. When I was a child, I used to think of Buddhism as a religion that believes in the existence of a ‘soul,’ in ‘reincarnation’ and the like, and thus we do such things as perform funeral and memorial services, or offer the reading of sutras for the dead. However, I was later very surprised to find that Master Dogen, in his ‘Bendowa,’ denied the concept of the imperishability of a ‘soul,’ stating: ‘It is but an heretical view that the spirit, when the body deteriorates, is released here and is born anew elsewhere, that though it seems to die here, it is born there, that it never dies and continues eternally. This is an heretical view.’ By this, Dogen stated clearly that the idea of a spirit freed from the body after death and born into some other world … that it is but the spirit that continues on in life after the body … is a teaching of Brahmanism which was prevalent prior to the advent of Buddhism, but is not a teaching of Buddhism. Our way does not focus on what may or may not occur after death ….. a question the answer to which we cannot know for sure. Thus, our focus is on just living the life before us, being a complete human being here and now.

    Sekishin: This is the first time that I’ve heard explained that Buddhism does not believe in the immortality of a soul or like ideas. I am really surprised, and now I am a bit confused as to how best to think about Buddhism ….

    Gudo: I think that your surprise is reasonable. Even I recall that I received quite a shock the first time I read that passage from the Bendowa. But reading those words really stimulated my young mind, and caused me to want to set off on a study of Buddhism, and a study of the Shobogenzo…. So, you never know what is going to change you life.

    From " A Heart to Heart Chat with Old Master Gudo "

    http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Chat-Buddhi ... 909&sr=8-1



  11. #11
    Jundo,
    I think Gudo-san may have misunderstood... "Soul" is not a buddhist concept at all, hence Dogen's answer.

    Whatever.

    Gassho
    W

  12. #12
    When I got into Buddhism, I thought the idea of rebirth made sense. The idea of a physical heaven or hell for eternity in the Christian sense never made sense to me. However, the more I study, the more confused I get.

    Rebirth is certainly a different idea than reincarnation, which has connotations of an eternal "soul" that just takes another form. Buddhist literature seems to debunk that notion, yet at the same time some of it seems contradictory. However, the seeming contradictions may just be my misunderstanding.

    What is it that is "reborn" though? What continues? Is it a mind stream? Is it just karma? Are mind and karma the same? I read something by Jiyu-Kennett that would suggest the reborn being has not only traces of its own karma, but also traces of karma from other beings, a kind of communal karma I guess. If the rebirth notion is true, maybe it's that communal karma she spoke of that makes each of us perceive phenomenal appearances similarly. Again, I haven't a clue.

    If all phenomena (like us) arise from emptiness and return to emptiness like a wave arises from ocean and returns to ocean as non-wave (which was never separate from ocean in the first place), then what connection other than ocean does the second wave have to the first? This is where the notion of rebirth and karma get really confusing to me.

    Anyway, I used to take the idea of rebirth as a given, but now I don't know. I guess it's good that I don't know, but I don't know about that either.

    Gassho,
    Bruce

  13. #13
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Personally, I don't think it matters - what matters is NOW.

    Rebirth was an idea that did not originate in Buddhism, along with many other concepts that got grafted onto Buddhism, mostly because they were in the air at the time.

    Kirk

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Personally, I don't think it matters - what matters is NOW.

    Rebirth was an idea that did not originate in Buddhism, along with many other concepts that got grafted onto Buddhism, mostly because they were in the air at the time.

    Kirk
    Yep, and the more I've thought about it, the more I'm inclined to agree. What matters is this very moment. Just do no harm.
    Gassho,
    Bruce

  15. #15
    Hi Bruce,

    Quote Originally Posted by BruceS

    I read something by Jiyu-Kennett that would suggest the reborn being has not only traces of its own karma, but also traces of karma from other beings, a kind of communal karma I guess. If the rebirth notion is true, maybe it's that communal karma she spoke of that makes each of us perceive phenomenal appearances similarly. Again, I haven't a clue.
    Rev. Kennett was a fascinating woman, and a wonderful teacher. And I love many of the Practices that they have developed in her lineage. But, she also was very much the mystic, and had a bit of Joan-of-Arc about her (or Theresa of Avila might be a better reference), with many visions and voices that she heard inside. So, sometimes here interpretation of doctrine went in that direction.

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16
    Now Now Now Now Now... Hang on a minute....




    Whew. Ok. Im back.

    Now now now now now now now now now....

    You know. If you aren't careful you might be reborn in hell or in the animal womb. So, mind your P's and Q's. Treat people good. Not because of the inherent compassion from understanding "we are all part of the same tree". Only because this will prevent you from being born in hell or the animal womb.

    Although... being a pet cat might be nice.

    Gassho

  17. #17
    Yeah, I remember when I read that it really took me back. I've never read or heard anything similar before.
    Gassho,
    Bruce

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by will

    You know. If you aren't careful you might be reborn in hell or in the animal womb. So, mind your P's and Q's. Treat people good. Not because of the inherent compassion from understanding "we are all part of the same tree". Only because this will prevent you from being born in hell or the animal womb.
    Sorry, I don't catch the reference. Are you quoting something Will? Gassho, J

  19. #19
    Hi Mr. Walker,

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Walker
    From just surfing the net, I get the impression that most Zen schools accept the concept of rebirth as fundamental, but that no schools really talk much about it - it's one of the basics of buddhism and therfore an important fundament also in Zen.
    I can understand how you may have gotten that impression and don't want to get involved in a long debate, however here are just a few points to consider in addition to what the others have mentioned.

    In many Suttas, the Buddha is quoted as citing many occurrences from past lives which he 'remembers'. These Suttas are almost always directed at people outside his Order/Sangha, i.e. not to Bhikkhus, which suggests that the Buddha was attempting to speak to those interested persons on a level which they could relate to, given that reincarnation was taken as given in his day. Also, I've heard from people who know Pali that 'remember' is an incorrect translation. It should be something like 'reflect on' or 'contemplate', which lets Buddhas quotes appear in a completely different light. Last but not least, in certain Suttas the Buddha explicitly rejects the idea of reincarnation as being an idea which is opposed to dependent origination, for example MN 38 http://www.mettanet.org/tipitaka/2Su...-sutta-e1.html

    Here's a quote of the relevant passage:

    At one time the Blessed One was living in the monastery offered by Anąthapiļóika in Jeta's grove in Sąvatthi. At that time to a bhikkhu named Sąti the son of a fisherman this view had arisen: As I know the Teaching of the Blessed One this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else. Many bhikkhus, heard that this evil view had arisen to a bhikkhu, named Sąti the son of a fisherman: 'As I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else'. Then those bhikkhus approached, bhikkhu Sąti the son of a fisherman and asked: Friend, Sąti, is it true, that such an evil view has arisen to you: 'As I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else'Yes, friends, as I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else. Then those bhikkhus, desirous of dissuading the bhikkhu Sąti from that evil view, cross questioned, asked for reasons and studied with him: Sąti, do not say that, do not blame the Blessed One. It is not good to blame the Blessed One. The Blessed One did not say this. The Blessed One has said in various ways, that consciousness arises dependently. Without a cause there is no arising of consciousness. Even when those bhikkhus, cross questioned, asked for reasons and studied together with him, he held on to his evil view tenaciously and would not give it up and said. 'As I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else'

    As those bhikkhus could not dissuade the bhikkhu Sąti from that evil view, they approached the Blessed One, worshipped, and sat on a side. They said to the Blessed One: Venerable sir, to a bhikkhu named Sąti the son of a fisherman this view has arisen: 'As I know the Teaching of the Blessed One this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else' Then we approached the bhikkhu Sąti and asked him. Friend, Sąti, is it true, that such an evil view has arisen to you: 'As I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else'. Venerable sir, bhikkhu Sąti said thus to us. Yes, friends, 'as I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else'. Then, we bhikkhus, desirous of dissuading the bhikkhu Sąti from that evil view, cross questioned, asked for reasons and studied with him: Sąti, do not say that. Do not blame the Blessed One. It is not good to blame the Blessed One. The Blessed One did not say this. The Blessed One has said in various ways, that consciousness is dependently arisen. Without a cause there is no arising of consciousness. Even when we cross questioned, asked for reasons and studied together with him, he held on to his evil view tenaciously and would not give it up. As we could not dissuade the bhikkhu Sąti from that evil view, we approached the Blessed One, to inform about this.

    Then the Blessed One addressed a certain bhikkhu: Come! Bhikkhu, address the bhikkhu Sąti in my words, tell that the Teacher wants him That bhikkhu agreed and approached the bhikkhu Sąti and said the Blessed One wants you. Bhikkhu Sąti said yes friend and approached the Blessed One, worshipped and sat on a side. Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhu Sąti: Sąti, is it true, that such an evil view has arisen to you. 'As I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness tansmigrates through existences, not anything else'. Yes, venerable sir, as I know the Teaching of the Blessed One, this consciousness transmigrates through existences, not anything else. Sąti, how is that conscciousness? Venerable sir, this uttering and feeling one, that reaps the results of actions good and evil done here and there. Foolish man, to whom do you know me having preached this Teaching. Haven't I told, in various ways that consciousness is dependently arisen. Without a cause, there is no arising of consciousness. Yet, you foolish man, because of your wrong grasp, blame me, destroy yourself, and accumulate much demerit and that will be for your undoing and unpleasantness for a long time.

    Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, Bhikkhus, what do you think, shouldn't this bhikkhu Sąti, son of a fisherman be chastised from this dispensation of the Teaching. What is good, venerable sir, why shouldn't we? When this was said, the bhikkhu Sąti became silent, confused, with drooping body and face turned down, sat down unable to reply. Then the Blessed One knowing that bhikkhu Sąti son of a fisherman has become silent, confused, was unable to reply. Said thus to him. Foolish man you will be pointed out with your evil view. Now I am going to question the bhikkhus on this. Then the Blessed One, addressed the bhikkhus: Bhikkhus, do you too know this Teaching, wrongly grasped by the bhikkhu Sąti the son of a fisherman. By that he blames me. Destroys himself, and accumulates much unpleasantness. No, venerable sir. In various ways we are told, that consciousness arises dependently. Without a cause there is no arising of consciousness. Bhikkhus, it is good, you know the Teaching preached by me. In various ways I have preached that consciousness arises dependently. Without a cause, there is no arising of consciousness. Yet, this bhikkhu Sąti son of a fisherman, grasping this wrong view blames me and destroys himself, and accumulates much demerit. It will be for his undoing and unpleasąntness for a long time.
    Gassho
    Kenneth

  20. #20
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Jordan

    Thank you for the links, very helpful.

    Gassho

    Martin

  21. #21
    Hello Folks!

    According to my favourite poster on e-sangha's Zen-Forum, Anders Honore, Master Dogen affirms in his Shobogenzo Sanjigo (Karma in the three times) fascicle and Jishin-inga (Deep Faith in Cause and Effect) the literal truth of karma and rebirth in no uncertain terms. Does anyone know of any English translations of these texts online?

    It feels really stupid pointing to someone else's stuff again and again, saying: Yeah, that's exactly what I think at this time, but Mr. Honore also summed up my feelings perfectly when he wrote:

    " My take on rebirth is that I don't think it's obligatory to believe in in anyway. However, as a general rule I don't think it's wise to out of hand disregard particular teachings of those whom we have faith in on the path, just because what they say isn't apparent to us right now or doesn't appeal to us, whether that be rebirth, the nature of Nirvana or whatever.

    I also don't think they taught about rebirth, even to those who patently didn't have empirical knowledge of it, because it was the cool thing to do, but because I think they actually had very thorough and good reasons for bringing it up.

    To cite the simile the Buddha used about the handful of leaves compared to all the leaves in the forest - The Buddha's knowledge may have been as expansive as the forest, but he only taught a handful, because that's the part that relates to dukkha and its cessation. So, I think it's worthwhile to at least consider that what he did teach was for a purpose in this regard.

    That is really the only reason why I argue against those who would like to write rebirth out of Buddhism. It's not that I think it is what ought to be believed in. Just that if those who mastered the path felt it was superfluous, I reckon they would have left it out and I don't think it's an appropriate role for future generations to try and make themselves wiser about this path than them unless one wants to come out and claim the same or superior attainment. As for what one personally makes of it, that is neither here nor there for me. Buddhism is an offer to sentient beings, not an obligation. "

    Here's the link to the whole thread: http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... 8623&st=20

    Gassho,

    Hans

  22. #22
    Martin,
    You are welcome!

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  23. #23
    Some interesting articles .....

    This is from Soto Zen journal. :
    http://www.sotozen-net.or.jp/kokusai/jo ... n07_07.htm

    From a Stanford U symposium Dogen Zen and its Relevance for Our Times:
    http://scbs.stanford.edu/calendar/1999- ... /nara.html

    Gassho,
    Bruce

  24. #24
    Jundo

    Sorry, I don't catch the reference. Are you quoting something Will? Gassho,

    Talaputa Sutta

    On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel's Sanctuary.

    Then Talaputa, the head of an acting troupe, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of actors that 'When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.' What does the Blessed One have to say about that?"

    "Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that."

    A second time... A third time Talaputa, the head of an acting troupe, said: "Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of actors that 'When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.' What does the Blessed One have to say about that?"

    "Apparently, headman, I haven't been able to get past you by saying, 'Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that.' So I will simply answer you. Any beings who are not devoid of passion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of passion, focus with even more passion on things inspiring passion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of aversion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of aversion, focus with even more aversion on things inspiring aversion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of delusion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of delusion, focus with even more delusion on things inspiring delusion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb."

    When this was said, Talaputa, the head of an acting troupe, sobbed & burst into tears. [The Blessed One said:] "That is what I couldn't get past you by saying, 'Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that.'"

    "I'm not crying, lord, because of what the Blessed One said to me, but simply because I have been deceived, cheated, & fooled for a long time by that ancient teaching lineage of actors who said: 'When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.'

    "Magnificent, lord! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has the Blessed One — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Community of monks. May the Blessed One remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life."

    Yodhajiva Sutta

    Then Yodhajiva1 the headman went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of warriors that 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.' What does the Blessed One have to say about that?"

    "Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that."

    A second time... A third time Yodhajiva the headman said: "Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of warriors that 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.' What does the Blessed One have to say about that?"

    "Apparently, headman, I haven't been able to get past you by saying, 'Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that.' So I will simply answer you. When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, his mind is already seized, debased, & misdirected by the thought: 'May these beings be struck down or slaughtered or annihilated or destroyed. May they not exist.' If others then strike him down & slay him while he is thus striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the hell called the realm of those slain in battle. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb."

    When this was said, Yodhajiva the headman sobbed & burst into tears. [The Blessed One said:] "That is what I couldn't get past you by saying, 'Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that.'"

    "I'm not crying, lord, because of what the Blessed One said to me, but simply because I have been deceived, cheated, & fooled for a long time by that ancient teaching lineage of warriors who said: 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.'

    "Magnificent, lord! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has the Blessed One — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Community of monks. May the Blessed One remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life

  25. #25
    Words are never capable of expressing any idea completely, so the words of the Buddha are always, in my opinion, about steering the minds of his followers in the right direction so that they might discover the truth themselves. My view of reincarnation is that the Buddha was discussing rebirth because it made sense to the worldview of the folks he was teaching. However, the four Noble Truths and indeed Dogen's teaching of zazen could be seen as being about finding a way to cease the continual choas of the monkey-mind (a moment to moment rebirth of sort). The actions of Buddhism are about the elimination of suffering, not particular beliefs. So whether or not we are viewing rebirth as a coming back to life in a different physical form, or simply the moment to moment creation of a new 'self', the bottom-line is the same: The way to short circuit the process is to stop and be present.

    To say it another way, many of our cells die from one second to the next, and all of our thoughts are different from one second to the next, so physically and mentally we are not the same being we were a few seconds ago. There is something that remains there, a kind of coherance, but we are constantly reborn. But, like the Shakyamuni's remarks about other metaphysical questions, I think none of that really matters much because our practice is about the non-speculative experience of the here and now.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  26. #26
    Hi Guys,

    Let me give you a take on this (that may or may not be ducking the issue. I think it does not duck the issue really, but makes it a 'non-issue'):

    Having read quite a bit of Dogen in Eihei Koroku and other places where he does make statements that ring of reincarnation, I have come to this conclusion:

    I think the man lived in the 13th century. 'Reincarnation' was the prevalent way of thinking about these things back then. Dogen came out of the Tendai school of Buddhism, a school of Esoteric Buddhism that taught a pretty standard view of Karma and Reincarnation. Finally, I think that Dogen had not the slightest idea (any more than you or I have) what happens after we die (I mean, maybe he has a better idea now, being dead and all!). I think that he ran hot and cold on the issue.

    So, I think that there are writings that indicate he had rather mixed feelings on the issue (much like you and I might have mixed feelings about whether 'God' exists.)

    Given all that, Dogen did not make a big deal of reincarnation very often (if ever), and seems to often have rejected it. At other times, he seems to have accepted it. Even when he did discuss it, it often just was not in the way you might expect (I hope we see examples when we start looking at Shobogenzo in a few weeks).

    I personally don't think of Karma and Reincarnation (in the literal meaning) as being central doctrines to our Practice. So, I care what Master Dogen thought about it just a little more than I care what Master Dogen's favorite color was. Nice to know, but a side issue.

    Does that help?

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - I also believe that most of the "Sutras" that claim to speak for the Buddha were written long after the man was dead. They were written by writers with different philosophical perspectives, and often contradict each other ... a Sutra for every philosophical position.

    Furthermore (and this may really be shocking to some folks), if the Buddha really did believe in something like Karma and Reincarnation ... well, he might have been WRONG! Or, at least, he might have had little better inside information than we have now about it (despite his suggested, implanted memories of 'past lives'). He too was just a man of his times, 2500 years ago. That was the dominant belief at the time for how the universe worked, and he took it (Heck, someday people will laugh at us now for many of our ideas ... "Ha ha ha, those 21st Century folks actually believed in gravity!") There is a very good chance that, as a human being, the historical Buddha was wrong about many things. He was a very wise fellow, sure, but not infallible. I think that his being wrong about the odd thing has nothing to do with his central message.

    I point everyone to this talk I gave awhile back called "THE BUDDHA WAS WRONG!"

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/06 ... wrong.html

    Gassho again, Jundo (who is always right)

  27. #27
    You know what Jundo? This is why I choose to call you my teacher. You have a way of whacking me with the big stick (virtually) and saying "GET REAL", even though you've never actually said that to me.

    I've realized, just in the past month, how many of the Buddhist myths I just took for granted as being real, because "Buddha said it". Maybe some of that is my background in Tibetan Buddhism. I don't know. But, I realize just how "fundamentalist" I had become in many ways and I absolutely despise fundamentalism.

    Sure I've thought many of the stories in the sutras, particularly the Mahayana sutras, were a bit fantastic, but I carried on in much the same way my parents believe in the Bible - that every bloody word is literally true - and I think that's childish.

    So thank you, and thank you for guiding us in our daily practice. It seems the more I practice the more I only care about now - just taking care of now, and taking care of myself and others. I reckon if we do that then karma and rebirth and Buddha and Jesus or whoever else don't really matter. I would just thank Shakyamuni for getting the wheel turning, if in fact he existed.

    Gassho,
    Bruce

  28. #28
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Bruce,

    I totally agree with you. My first contacts with Buddmism were through the Tibetan tradition, and I was somewhat surprised at how well developed the whole hagiography was. I eventually gave up because of the structure of Tibetan Buddhism - the ideas that I would have to, say, prostrate 108,000 times just to get a ticket to the enlightenment show, and the fact that they focused so much on enlightenment rather than the here and now.

    Kirk

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    "THE BUDDHA WAS WRONG!"
    How about Dogen? 750 years is also a long time :-)



    Wassho
    Galker

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Walker

    How about Dogen? 750 years is also a long time :-)
    Yes, there is no need to think that anyone is right 100% of the time ... as long as they seem to make sense most of the time. There may also have been several "Dogens", meaning he changed his mind on minor points now and then.

    This scholarly article was introduced earlier:

    The interpreter of Dogen, as we have seen, is faced with the problem of inconsistencies in Dogen's writings over the progress of his career and with the paradoxical nature of Dogen's method....

    Possible inconsistencies between early and late writings should, on the one hand, be considered in the historical context of (1) Dogen's rather unsatisfactory relationship with the Tendai establishment and the Kamakura government, (2) competition with the increasingly popular Japanese Rinzai sect, (3) problems within the order of monks at the Eihei-ji, (4) errors or misunderstandings, as perceived by Dogen, within his community of monks, many of whom had their early training in the Tendai, Tantric (mikkyo), and Daruma schools, (5) Dogen's increasing weakness due to illness toward the end of his life, (6) the possible realization on the part of Dogen that he might not have fulfilled his mission in passing the transmission to a fully qualified successor, and (7) problems of authorship and dating. On the other hand, we should take care not to jump to the conclusion that any particular proposition in the twelve-fascicle edition is necessarily at odds with his position in the earlier writings, because the differing modes of expression in the seventy-five fascicles and the twelve fascicles make such comparisons problematic. Finally, we may conclude that the twelve-fascicle edition can act as a corrective to what Dogen may have seen as misunderstandings of his earlier work, especially with regard to the major themes of Dogen's later writings: the affirmation of Buddhist causality (karma, pratiityasamutpaada) , impermanence, the Bodhisattva vow, the value of the monastic life, and the vow of the Bodhisattva as expressed in the Lotus Suutra.

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Dog ... putney.htm
    The inconsistencies can be seen mostly on side points, like the question of reincarnation or the value of Koan based meditation. In fact, much of Dogen's writing might be seen as closer to poetry than a philosophical text, as he tries to lead us to certain ways of viewing reality, certain perspectives on time and being, that go against our day to day way of seeing things. So, they are not 'wrong' any more than a poem can be 'wrong'.

    But, after reading Dogen for the last 20 years, I say that the guy was on to some things, saw some things that few people can see and knew a very unusual (yet effective) way to express them, leading the reader into that same understanding. You will see when we get into Genjo Koan in a couple of weeks.

    Gassho, Jundo

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    What's so wrong with being wrong anyway?

    To me Zazen is largely about accepting that we are oh so very wrong.

    If we want 'Right' we should look to gurus who put on a better stage show.

    Regards,

    Harry.
    You're right! :-)

  32. #32
    Amen Jundo!

    Seems to me many of these discussions stem from our tendencies to want perfect or omniscient teachers so that we can avoid the messiness of dealing with reality ourselves. Brad Warner wrote something to this effect in Hardcore Zen I think when he said our desire often is to have someone else take responsibility for our lives. Placing unquestioned faith in another's view of something is, in a way, doing that. It relieves us of the responsibility of thinking about difficult things.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Walker
    Jundo,
    I think Gudo-san may have misunderstood... "Soul" is not a buddhist concept at all, hence Dogen's answer.

    Whatever.

    Gassho
    W
    I obviously can't speak for Nishijima Roshi. but I have heard a few Buddhist teachers equate the "soul" with the 8th consciousness of the Yogacara. I think that they may not have a very complete understanding of the Judaeo-Christian concept of soul.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    So, they are not 'wrong' any more than a poem can be 'wrong'.
    This is the crux of the matter for me. I think many religious text should be read this way, and that the fact that we treat every text as a scientific textbook causes many problems.

  35. #35
    Harry, there you go - we're all Buddhas! And we're Dogen too! Rebirth or not (although the Buddha's are out of the rat race anyway...)

    Gassho
    Walker

  36. #36
    I'm still debating with myself about rebirth. The one thing I keep coming up against is the bodhisattva vow to not enter final nirvana, and to keep coming back into the world, until all beings are liberated. I understand that a bodhisattva is an enlightened being, and according to the teachings isn't subject to the sufferings ordinary beings are with regard to birth and death and everything in between, but it seems clear that they are "reborn" into the world. Seems to me that this is a central tenant of Mahayana Buddhism.

    OK, so assuming the traditional notion that when a regular being dies and that being's karmic tendencies are reborn in another being, would it be the same for a bodhisattva (ie, that consciousness is not the same, but is not entirely different either from the past life)?

    Despite me telling myself that whether or not I believe in the traditional Buddhist notion of rebirth doesn't matter, I can't stop thinking about it. While some writers say that rebirth isn't discussed in Zen, there seem to be Zen masters who do talk about it in the traditional Buddhist sense.

    I don't mean to obsess over this question as I do believe that what matters is right here, right now - but for the notion of the bodhisattva who vows to keep coming back, that idea being so central to the Mahayana path. Maybe this is just one of those things one has to decide for themselves whether or not they want to believe. I think I'm swinging back to the believer camp.

    Gassho,
    Bruce

  37. #37
    Thank you Bruce, I'm of the same opinion.

  38. #38
    Hey Bruce,

    The problem with knowing the truth about rebirth is that none of us are dead. I'm not in a big hurry to test the theory either.

    You'll come to the conclusion you come to, but here is my current take. If it helps, great. If it doesn't help forget I said anything on the subject.

    Maybe it's not the bodhisattva him/herself that is being reborn, but rather it is the ideal of the bodhisattva that keeps being reborn generation after generation through people taking the vows and upholding them.

    Apologies if someone else has said this earlier.

    Rodney

  39. #39
    Hi Rev,
    Like you said, none of us will know until we're dead, or become a Buddha. How many Buddhas are you absolutely sure you've known. I guess we don't know that either unless we're one of them.

    I might only question your notion by asking how just the idea of a bodhisattva helps to liberate, to use a Buddhist term, beings? That would seem to me to just be a feel good notion, kinda like Santa Claus. Or, possibly one could think that someone who is compassionate to them in a time of need, or one who is mean to them and makes them have to really use Buddhist principles is a bodhisattva. I don't know mate.

    Shakyamuni said not to believe him or anyone else without finding out for yourself, but man there's a lot of Buddhism that one seems to have to think about, make some personal judgement on as to reasonability and then just take on faith. Maybe there are higher or more subtle understandings of karma and rebirth, but I've yet to find them described.

    It's quite clear that what was taught was NOT reincarnation of some eternal self or soul, but that of karmic tendencies. Maybe another notion, not in Buddhist lingo, is that the universe is just a field of potentiality and so is karma. Potentiality emerges from itself and returns to itself (suchness, the void, emptiness just to throw in some lingo), and continues to do so until the potential is exhausted at which point it's just the field.

    Hell I dunno and it's 0115 here so I have to go to bed and stop thinking. :lol:
    Gassho,
    Bruce

  40. #40
    This is a big question; reincarnation, karma, and enlightenment are such big parts of Buddhism right?

    Hmmmmm. . . Not really, Just the window dressing in my humble opinion. A little embellishment that has been incorporated by some schools, but not the heart of the practice or the Dharma. It's not even a Buddhist concept, Theravada Buddhism borrowed heavily from the Vedic religions.

    Even from a viewpoint of a more orthodox Buddhism which seeks to cultivate the four noble truths and the eightfold path, the meaning of Karma and outcome of rebirth are secondary to what we do right now in this moment, in this lifetime.

    Is rebirth a possibility? Maybe so, but of what importance is it? I'm nostalgic for the mysticism and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, sure. But, isn't such end-gaining antithetical to the whole of the dharma?

    In Buddhist practice we find that the notions of Karma, rebirth, enlightenment are all sort of meaningless, or should I say nothingness?

  41. #41
    Hey Bruce,
    Since it'll be after sleep when you read this, I hope you slept well.

    Quote Originally Posted by BruceS
    Like you said, none of us will know until we're dead, or become a Buddha. How many Buddhas are you absolutely sure you've known. I guess we don't know that either unless we're one of them.
    Well the Buddha on my mantle has been rather silent on the issue.

    I might only question your notion by asking how just the idea of a bodhisattva helps to liberate, to use a Buddhist term, beings? That would seem to me to just be a feel good notion, kinda like Santa Claus. Or, possibly one could think that someone who is compassionate to them in a time of need, or one who is mean to them and makes them have to really use Buddhist principles is a bodhisattva. I don't know mate.
    You might be onto something there. Maybe the whole bodhisattva deal is a feel good idea, something to aspire to, something to keep us going when the chips are down.

    Shakyamuni said not to believe him or anyone else without finding out for yourself, but man there's a lot of Buddhism that one seems to have to think about, make some personal judgement on as to reasonability and then just take on faith. Maybe there are higher or more subtle understandings of karma and rebirth, but I've yet to find them described.
    Perhaps those concepts are not Buddhism. Perhaps they are Buddhism but they are not the wisdom of the Buddha. 2500 years is a long grapevine with countless teachers and thinkers adding their own opinions to the mix. Perhaps the whole thing is corrupt and we need to start over from the foundation.

    It's quite clear that what was taught was NOT reincarnation of some eternal self or soul, but that of karmic tendencies. Maybe another notion, not in Buddhist lingo, is that the universe is just a field of potentiality and so is karma. Potentiality emerges from itself and returns to itself (suchness, the void, emptiness just to throw in some lingo), and continues to do so until the potential is exhausted at which point it's just the field.
    Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches


    Hell I dunno and it's 0115 here so I have to go to bed and stop thinking. :lol:
    Sounds like the best place to start to me.

    Gassho to you as well Bruce

    Rodney

  42. #42
    Hi Bruce,

    I urge folks to avoid "angels on the head of a pin" arguments. Moreover, I urge folks to avoid magical suppositions in our Buddhist Practice. We "just sit" amid this ordinary world (magical enough for being ordinary). Here are my reasons:

    I tend to doubt (99.9% doubt, pending any reputable evidence otherwise) imagined mechanisms and fantastic stories without the least bit of scientific backing (I have read some of Matthieu Ricard's writings on these subjects, proposing various 'could be' mechanisms, and I find them strange, fantastic, nonsensical) That does not mean I completely rule out the possibility, merely that I have an extremely strong doubt and, thus, reject the idea based on my present experience.

    However, ultimately, what someone chooses to believe in ... be it UFO or ESP, Santa Claus or a reincarnating Bodhisattva ... is up to that person. Furthermore, our Zen practice can comfortably accomodate any of that. For example, if UFOs are not real ... just sit Zazen. If UFOs are real ... just sit Zazen as the aliens come to eat us.

    Quote Originally Posted by BruceS
    I'm still debating with myself about rebirth. The one thing I keep coming up against is the bodhisattva vow to not enter final nirvana, and to keep coming back into the world, until all beings are liberated. I understand that a bodhisattva is an enlightened being, and according to the teachings isn't subject to the sufferings ordinary beings are with regard to birth and death and everything in between, but it seems clear that they are "reborn" into the world. Seems to me that this is a central tenant of Mahayana Buddhism.
    It is some peoples' belief, some folks' "central tenet". Some people also believe in Feng Shui and Big Foot. It need not be the "central tenet" for other people. It is not mine.

    Here is a riddle: Is there room in the Buddhist pantheon for a creature that is halfway between Bodhisattva and Buddha? And if so, would she come back to this world sometimes, but at other times never again? Might it only come half way down? If so, which half?

    As I said, "angels dancing on a pin". I think.

    Despite me telling myself that whether or not I believe in the traditional Buddhist notion of rebirth doesn't matter, I can't stop thinking about it. While some writers say that rebirth isn't discussed in Zen, there seem to be Zen masters who do talk about it in the traditional Buddhist sense.
    There are some Zen masters who can add to Zen all kinds of things, some silly and some not. Does Big Foot have Buddha Nature?


    I don't mean to obsess over this question as I do believe that what matters is right here, right now -
    There, we can find common ground.

    Like you said, none of us will know until we're dead, or become a Buddha
    Personally, I reject the idea of Buddha as a creature who no longer reincarnates. Hey, you know what ... if you mean I can hold off on Buddhahood and have another shot at life, I'LL TAKE LIFE EVERY TIME!

    However, please don't think, based on the above, that I reject the notion of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I solidly believe that, when we realize our Buddhanature, we realize that no being in this world is in need of rescue. From the perspective of the Buddha, the world is perfectly what it is, beyond 'good' 'bad' 'this' 'that' and any separate thing in friction. However, despite that, the Bodhisattva works through compassion to aid those in need of aid. That is my interpretation of Nirvana and Samsara. That is the way in which I truly believe in Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

    Please pardon me if my tone becomes a little stronger than usual for ol' Jundo. I never claim that my view is necessarily right while others' views are necessarily wrong. Even so, I challenge hard any aspect of Buddhism that strikes me as silly superstition. Other teachers may teach otherwise, but I teach a Buddhism free of unfounded magic and fantastical creatures ... pending evidence otherwise.

    This ordinary world, of ordinary men and women, is magic just as it is.

    Gassho, Jundo

  43. #43
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jundo. I think, again, many of these ideas were either grafted onto Buddhism because of their existence in other traditions (as the Catholic church took the idea of Mariolatry from pagan beliefs), or added later. If we strip Buddism down to its basics, we keep coming back to that one thing: just sit.

    Kirk

  44. #44
    Guys,
    Not that I want to change direction here in this interesting thread, but I must say that Buddhism is not just sitting. Ethics is a large part of Buddhism as well, as for instance expressed in the precepts - regardless if we talk about the five basic precepts or the Bodhisattva precepts or whatever. Absolutely essential to Buddhism.

    At least to me, rebirth is an interesting concept but essential? Not sure. The jury is still out on that one...

    Gassho
    Walker

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Walker
    Guys,
    Not that I want to change direction here in this interesting thread, but I must say that Buddhism is not just sitting. Ethics is a large part of Buddhism as well, as for instance expressed in the precepts - regardless if we talk about the five basic precepts or the Bodhisattva precepts or whatever. Absolutely essential to Buddhism.

    At least to me, rebirth is an interesting concept but essential? Not sure. The jury is still out on that one...

    Gassho
    Walker
    Hi Mr. Walker,

    I agree with you about the Precepts, and this has been discussed quite a bit recently at other places on this Forum. I think about everyone here agrees on the important of the Precepts. Tomorrow, on 'Sit-a-long with Jundo', I plan to start doing a series of short talks on the Four Noble Truths & the Eightfold Path, the latter closely related to the subject of the Precepts.

    Read an interesting article in the 2006 Summer issue of Buddhadharma Magazine today stating the the concept of Karma and Reincarnation may have been a convenient mechanism of political and social control, and thus maintained for centuries. Basically, you could convince folks that the reason they are poor while others in society are rich is simply due to the working out of past Karma, while any current anti-social behavior (crime, etc.) would result in some cosmic punishment. Certainly, the '10 Commandments' and 'God's Favor' for some over others were used in Europe to like effect of social control for centuries.

    Gassho, Jundo

  46. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    In reality we can't 'do no harm' and live in the modern world: ...
    In reality, right and wrong break down too quickly for idealism to be realistic. ...

    What is ethical is one situation is not ethical in another in a complex world: strict rules can let us down. ...
    Hi Harry,

    I agree that we cannot see or foresee the ramifications of our actions, words and thoughts ... that any cause may have varied, unintended effects ... that we are bound to fail to keep many precepts because we are just human ...

    I might save a drowning baby who, years later, turns out to be a great murderer. Or I might sometimes yield to greed or anger despite my best intents.

    Still, we should seek to live, as we can, so not to do harm to ourself or others, and to act in ways healthful and helpful to ourself and others ... seeing that there is ultimately no gap beetween ourself and others.

    I think that a good standard, even if things may not always turn out well. Heck, without some such standards, society and our Zen Practice both turn quickly to nihilistic chaos. I think.

    Gassho, Jundo

  47. #47
    Well that post certainly generated a lot of comment! While I agree that belief in rebirth and bodhisattvas, as well as some of the other seemingly fantastic things talked about in Mahayana sutras has nothing to do with zazen or ethics, I'm having a difficult time with picking and choosing what to believe about Buddhism. I realize a lot of what's written may just be a way of teaching with nothing to do with the truth, but to me, some of it seems pretty clear that what was said is what was meant. So do we just say I like this bit but don't care for that bit just because it can't be proven or just seems too fantastic, and still call ourselves Buddhists? That's where I start having a problem. If I can think about it and feel that, well maybe it could be, then who am I to question it? There's enough that makes sense to me to accept the things I'm not at all sure of and to continue to practice and try to understand. The more I try to analyze things with my unenlightened mind, the more conceptuality I add and the more confused it gets.

    The last thing I ever thought I'd be doing is debating what to pick and choose out of Buddhism on a Buddhist forum, and it's just not how I want to spend my time. Maybe we want different flavours of Buddhism and that's fine. We should all hang out where we feel comfortable. So, I'll take my leave now. I wish you all the best.
    Gassho,
    Bruce

  48. #48
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    I agree with Harry - the "lack of God would create nihilism" meme is one propagated by Christian (and other) fundamentalists, and has no basis in reality. I think the precepts simply codify what we already know as appropriate social behavior. (And they do so a heck of a lot better than the X Commandments, with their worry about only worshipping the right God, and graven images and all that...)

    Kirk

  49. #49
    Hi Guys,

    I don't think we have to confuse the Precepts with the Commandments, nor threaten hellfire if they are broken, nor compel their keeping by Catholic/Jewish guilt (I have enough Irish, Italians and Jews in my family to know what that is) ... but, still ...

    ... they do play an important role. They can do so, as healthful guides without strangling us.

    On the other hand, it is necessary for them to strangle us sometimes. It is necessary so that we know how to get out of the grip of desire.

    I think the precepts simply codify what we already know as appropriate social behavior.
    Yes, but the Precepts do ask of us a degree of restraint and renunciation ... not to have that sexual relationship that is so available, not to cheat on something though nobody is looking, not to give in to anger that is so tempting ... What is more, "appropriate social behavior" and the Precepts often differ, for example, in this day and age, shopping and buying "stuff" is perfectly appropriate behavior. The Precepts, on the other hand, might guide us to a life of great simplicity and renunciation of material goods.

    What is more, sometimes it may be a small degree of restraint and renunciation, and sometimes it may be very hard and a very large degree. We do not have to turn into Carmelite nuns, but the Precepts should not always be easy, or just a matter of doing what our bodies feel. My body says "eat that extra piece of cake" "have that extra drink" "have that affair" "buy that sports car" ... the Precepts hold me back.

    Our Zazen Practice requires some pain ... be it in the legs, be it desire. It cannot be smooth sailing and ease every day.

    Practice without some degree of restraint and renunciation is not Practice. It is "feel good" Zazen that avoids the "feel bad" part of life. I think.

    I disagree with this a little too:

    he great thing about Zazen is that you don't have to believe in reality.
    Well, I would say that our Zazen Practice requires us to believe in Reality. It is, however, not the reality that most of the world takes as reality.

    On the other hand, neither is it any enchanted fairy filled fantasy reality that comes into our heads.

    So do we just say I like this bit but don't care for that bit just because it can't be proven or just seems too fantastic, and still call ourselves Buddhists?
    Yes. An enchanted fairy told me so.

    Bruce, I hope you find what you are looking for.

    Gassho, Jundo

  50. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Hi Jundo,

    Maybe I'm doing Zazen wrong. But, when I just sit up straight for a while I find that in practice it requires no believe,reference, faith or anything else whatsoever to just sit there.
    That sounds like good Zazen.

    Is that reality right there when I'm doing that?
    It is a Reality, I think. The Reality of Zazen right there and then.

    But the Precepts are for when you rise from the Zafu, head into the kitchen, see that piece of cake ... see that redhead woman who is flirting with you ... see that wallet that somebody dropped by accident ... Then the Precepts come into play.

    Anyone can keep the Precepts when sitting on the Zafu. That's easy enough.

    Gassho, J

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