Results 1 to 29 of 29

Thread: evil passions are themselves enlightenment

  1. #1

    evil passions are themselves enlightenment

    Jundo,

    I was wondering if you have anything to offer on the principle of 煩惱即菩提 "evil passions are themselves enlightenment?"

    I am interested to hear your take on reconciling this principle with the teaching of "not to do (or think) evil" and the teachings of right thought and right action.

  2. #2
    Hi Jun,

    It is a very interesting question. First, the doctrine of "bonno-soku-bodai" (Earthly desires/evil passions are enlightenment) is found in most schools of Mahayana Buddhism in one way or another.

    I take it this way: There is a perspective on reality by which all thoughts of good/evil and right/wrong are dropped. Reality is just what it is, beyond human ideas of "good" or "bad". Weeds are not even "weeds" if we don't judge them so.

    As well, everything is just what it is. Even the evil passions are just what they are, perfectly what they are. Weeds are just weeds.

    Hand in hand with this, we realize a tremendous freedom as humans ... a freedom right this moment to murder, pillage and plunder should we choose. We are that free. (The "Dark Side" !)

    It is because of the foregoing freedom that the Precepts guide us to take the road that avoids harm, and to seek a way which is beneficial. In other words, we realize that we are so free as human beings that we are free to jump off a cliff or not jump off a cliff, to do damage or not do damage. The Precepts guide us not to jump off the cliff, not to do damage. It makes for a better Practice, a better life, a better world.

    Also, in Mahayana Buddhism, there is the view that the evil passions are not to be extinquished, so much as transformed or guided into healthy avenues. This might involve, for example, taking our greed, anger and ignorance, sexual passions, and channeling them into our Practice and into healthy avenues in life.

    An interesting comment I found on "bonno-soku-bodai" from the Soka Gakkai ...

    This contrasts with the Hinayana view that extinguishing earthly desires is a prerequisite for enlightenment.

    According to the Hinayana teachings, earthly desires and enlightenment are two independent and opposing factors, and the two cannot coexist; while the Mahayana teachings reveal that earthly desires are one with and inseparable from enlightenment. This is because all things, even earthly desires and enlightenment, are manifestations of the unchanging reality or truth-and thus are non-dual at their source.
    I might diverge from Harry slightly on one comment ...

    It would follow that a person who had realised the mind of shikantaza could commit no evil, or good, because they would be beyond such discrimination and affliction; they would just act perfectly and intuitively in accordance with the situation.

    I agree with the sentence up to the word "intuitively". I may misunderstand Harry, but I think that the whole idea of "Zen" being about "intuitive action" is overstated. Yes, it is in some cases ... swinging a sword, answering a koan with spontaneity, writing a poem, for example. I also think that Zen practice makes us more sensitive to circumstances, maybe better able to "read" people and situations. However, I do not think that it gives us some all purpose intuition about how to act in most situations. I don't think Harry meant that though.

    Also, I do think that military service is within the Precepts if needed to save life. However, in Homeless Kodo's case, he seems to have just gotten caught up in the militarism of 1930's and 40's Japan (a lot of Japanese Buddhists did, from Zen and all other schools). They tended to stretch the Precepts in any way necessary to justify Japan's military efforts, and I do not think it can be so easily explained away as just "supporting the troops".

    I am still a little sick and not at fill speed in thinking clearly. Please excuse if my writing is a little off.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Hi Jundo,

    If I can call on playing music to explain "theory"/action:

    Musicians spend many hours of practice where they think about scales, they focus on certain areas of technique and the mechanics of technique, they weigh up the merits of various aspects of technique and where they should occur in a piece etc. etc... when the practice is over and it comes to playing that attitude of theory and critique is best dropped. .
    Hi Harry,

    I am still not thinking clearly myself.

    But, what you describe for a music gig, I think is only part of "Zen Life". Most of life is not like that. I think that it is a bit of a stereotype (from those Koan stories in the D.T.Suzuki books mayber) that "Zen Masters" are always running around giving brilliant Koan retorts perfectly appropriate for every situation, knowing (like Yoda in Star Wars) the right thing to say and do for every situation. Forget the stereotype of Kane from Kung Fu, with the right kick and punch for whatever is thrown at him.

    Zen folks, even the famous ones from 1000 years ago, were likely just people. Their thinking about daily life was probably about like the thinking of everyone else, like you and me. For example, today I spent 20 minutes thinking deeply about whether I wanted to take a mattress with me back to Japan ... To heck with intuition, I felt driven to weigh the fact that I think it is a comfortable mattress, and not a cheap mattress, against the fact that, according to my wife, my son has peed on it once too often. A silly waste of 20 minutes' mental time and energy perhaps, but that is what it means to be human ... and I bet the Buddha himself spent a good bit of time on silly mental activities that never made it into the Buddhist story books. Intuition helps on the bandstand, not with mattresses.

    Most Zen teachers I have met in my life are about the same. If they are "intuitive" in any way, I have seen more than a few examples of their intuition being wrong as right.

    That being said ... "Zen folk" do not think like other people. I spoke about this yesterday on the blog, with the "sky and clouds". We are not trapped by our thoughts, we do not think that whatever emotion we are feeling is necessarily the only way we can feel, we taste non-thinking, we drop a lot of questions that bother the rest of the world (like that whole life/death thing), we are pretty balanced at whatever life throws at us ... we may even have a couple of insights on human psychology (of greed anger and ignorance) that the rest of the world misses. But I think that "intuitive action" is a tool limited to certain specific situations, like a flute solo.

    Gassho, J

  4. #4
    As well, everything is just what it is. Even the evil passions are just what they are, perfectly what they are. Weeds are just weeds.
    Nice!

    If a person acts without guilt, or anger, or anything else but just acts be it a venerative bow, falling on their ass, playing a masterpiece perfectly, or a bum note, or killing someone/thing then that is a 'perfect action' as I'm calling it. I don't mean to say that it is right, wrong, better, worse, indifferent, wonderful or terrible etc. etc. etc... in that scheme of things. Maybe there is a universe endorsed method of making a pigs ass of things?
    Something I've been contemplating recently.

    Also, in Mahayana Buddhism, there is the view that the evil passions are not to be extinguished, so much as transformed or guided into healthy avenues. This might involve, for example, taking our greed, anger and ignorance, sexual passions, and channelling them into our Practice and into healthy avenues in life.
    I am very big on this which is emphasised strongly in our traditions teachings.

    Thank you both for your input.

  5. #5

    evil passions and enlightenment

    Hello Jun:
    I saw this thread you started and really liked it. I didn't have time to post then, and now I have time to post, but not enough to read what others have said, so I hope I'm not being redundantly redundant in my remarks.

    My take on this is: consider the context in which each set of words is stated, consider the author and the context in which these phrases/concepts are used.
    There is a sign with the instruction 'in case of fire, break glass,' when that moment arises, maybe it makes perfect sense. Then there is the sign FIRE EXIT. Which do you do, break the glass, or exit? Perhaps it requires that moment for it to be perfectly clear.
    Evil passions as enllightenment itself is a 'fire exit' and not doing/not thinking evil is 'in case of fire, break glass,' or so it seems to me.

    keishin

  6. #6

    Re: evil passions and enlightenment

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    Hello Jun:
    I saw this thread you started and really liked it. I didn't have time to post then, and now I have time to post, but not enough to read what others have said, so I hope I'm not being redundantly redundant in my remarks.

    My take on this is: consider the context in which each set of words is stated, consider the author and the context in which these phrases/concepts are used.
    There is a sign with the instruction 'in case of fire, break glass,' when that moment arises, maybe it makes perfect sense. Then there is the sign FIRE EXIT. Which do you do, break the glass, or exit? Perhaps it requires that moment for it to be perfectly clear.
    Evil passions as enlightenment itself is a 'fire exit' and not doing/not thinking evil is 'in case of fire, break glass,' or so it seems to me.

    keishin
    Keishin, that was most eloquently put. Very nice.

    I came across the statement bonnő soku bodai (煩惱即菩提), and was perplexed as to what it could ultimately mean. That according to the non-duality of Buddhism (Mahayana at least), the essence of one's passions are exactly the same as enlightenment? There are numerous and conflicting analogies to the term.

    The statement, "bonnő honkũ" (煩惱本空) "evil passions are essentially empty" makes things clearer as a statement to the insight of Buddhist practice, in my mind anyhow.

    Apparently bonnő soku bodai was the idea put forth by Hua-yen in the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra where it is mentioned together with the idea of "birth and death are themselves enlightenment" (生死即涅槃). It was Hua-yen who posited the idea that "Sentient beings are originally Buddha," (Buddha-nature) an idea that doesn't appear prior to the writing of this sutra which dates to around the 720s C.E.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Jun,

    evil passions are not to be extinquished, so much as transformed or guided into healthy avenues. This might involve, for example, taking our greed, anger and ignorance, sexual passions, and channeling them into our Practice and into healthy avenues in life.
    How does one exactly do that?

    How do we take a hindrance and simply move it in another direction? Doesn't the simple act of noticing the hindrance, and acting mindfully realizing that urge for what it is transform it into something else? By transforming it, we do extinguish that original "evil passion". This is the process as described in the Theravada/Insight tradition, is what Mahayana offers fundamentally different than this?

    Theravada specifically does make a big effort in describing the "Purification of Virtue" but when Zen practitioners realize the role of the precepts in practice isn't this too the same function.

  8. #8
    But, then again . . . I need only to look to the Heart Sutra for some clarification on this.

    "With nothing to attain, a bodhisattva relies on prajna paramita,and thus the mind is without hindrance. Without hindrance, there is no fear. Far beyond all inverted views, one realizes nirvana."

  9. #9
    I prefer: "Far beyond all delusions, one realizes Nirvana is already here."

    potato, potato??

    G,W

  10. #10
    Hey Gregor,
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    How do we take a hindrance and simply move it in another direction?
    Perhaps the "evil passion" itself is not redirected or transformed at all but rather the effort we put into clinging to this "evil passion" is redirected.

    Like a light bulb. You flick the switch and the bulb goes out, the electricity that powered the bulb remains in the circuit to be used for something else.

  11. #11
    Stephanie
    Guest
    This is a wonderful teaching expressive of the Tantric view.

    The simple answer is, "It's all energy, right?"

    An emotion is just an emotion, a natural biological and mental phenomenon. Ain't nothin' "evil" about it in and of itself. It is our actions, and only our actions, that are "evil" or "good." So the matter is not the presence or absence of one of the passions, but how we respond to it. That's where wisdom and equanimity come in. To the enlightened mind, anger is the energy of freedom, exploding all false dualistic boundaries, and greed is the expansive energy of delight and generosity, that never has enough of the happiness of others. All that it takes is the awareness that the self-centered view is a misery-making delusion for a destructive passion to become a delightful, prosocial surge of positive creative energy.

  12. #12
    Stephanie
    Guest
    "Love is an angel disguised as lust, here in our bed till the morning comes."
    -Patti Smith

  13. #13
    Stephanie

    It is our actions, and only our actions, that are "evil" or "good."
    I do not think this is accurate.
    I think that good and evil are only mental constructs.
    A matter of perception, perhaps.

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  14. #14
    Stephanie

    An emotion is just an emotion, a natural biological and mental phenomenon. Ain't nothin' "evil" about it in and of itself. It is our actions, and only our actions, that are "evil" or "good." So the matter is not the presence or absence of one of the passions, but how we respond to it. That's where wisdom and equanimity come in. To the enlightened mind, anger is the energy of freedom, exploding all false dualistic boundaries, and greed is the expansive energy of delight and generosity, that never has enough of the happiness of others. All that it takes is the awareness that the self-centered view is a misery-making delusion for a destructive passion to become a delightful, prosocial surge of positive creative energy.
    Hi Stephanie. I'd like to know where you have gained this insight from and the conclusions that you have come to? Is it through your sitting practice?

    In Gassho Will

  15. #15

  16. #16
    Stephanie
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan
    Stephanie

    It is our actions, and only our actions, that are "evil" or "good."
    I do not think this is accurate.
    I think that good and evil are only mental constructs.
    A matter of perception, perhaps.

    Gassho,
    Jordan
    Gassho~

    Well, sure. But we've gotta use mental constructs to talk about this stuff, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Hi Stephanie. I'd like to know where you have gained this insight from and the conclusions that you have come to? Is it through your sitting practice?

    In Gassho Will
    Gassho~

    It's come from a mix of things: my sitting practice, my day-to-day lived experience, and psychological research, actually. But the biggest component of it is the "experiential wisdom" part. I spent a lot of time on the cushion and in my daily life trying to make myself into something else--purer, better, more perfect, etc. Didn't think I should ever feel angry or sad, felt like the fact I still enjoyed sense pleasures as much as I did was a sign of how "unenlightened" I was. I went through this stupid mental battle on and off the cushion, but over time, I started to see the folly of this perspective.

    Part of it too is that when I look out at the world and see other people, I cannot accept the notion that the common elements of the human experience are somehow worthless or erroneous or "impure." I don't want to go to a Heaven that excludes others and ignores those in hell, and I don't want to uphold a vision that negates the worth and power of the universal human experience.

    But it really came out of seeing how I was using Buddhist teachings to further a cluster of neuroses and to abuse myself further. I was using these idealized teachings to "act out" my self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. As I sat more, the focus became less on the absence or presence of certain kinds of thoughts, but the emotional tenor underlying them. I started to practice holding myself in a "field" of compassion, and it dramatically altered things. In a weird way, I began to look at my "self" as if from the outside and instead of wanting to destroy or alter it, I wanted to care for it, hold it in compassion.

    This experience alerted me more and more to seeing how this inner battle is played out in so many others, and it's become one of my day-to-day "missions" to share a perspective that encourages acceptance and compassion of oneself as well as others. Often there's a very palpable shift when someone who's feeling really embarrassed or miserable sees that you don't see them or their situation that way, and then they realize that they don't have to see it that way either. That's one of the best things I ever experience--seeing someone shift out of the mindstates under which I suffered for so long.

    And ironically, it's something that often occurs in the Buddhist practice world. People that haven't worked through basic psychological neuroses or conditioning just play them out in their practice, and they don't see it. I think that's a horrible tragedy, when people take the tools that could free them and just make their misery deeper. But maybe that's a necessary part of the path? It certainly has seemed that way for me.

  17. #17
    Hey Tigress,

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    This is a wonderful teaching expressive of the Tantric view.
    Is it? I thought it was a brain fart like most of my comments.

  18. #18
    Well I think there are at least 101 ways to describe this phenomena. Whether we want to say we are extinguishing, transforming or redirecting . . . In the end it's the same process.

    I straddle the line between the Zen and the Theravada/Insight perspective. I know I'm supposed to be a a big boy, make up my mind and pick and choose. But I don't really see a conflict between them. They all describe the same truth, emphasize the same values, and spring from the same roots (four noble truths and eightfold path).

  19. #19
    Thanks for the reply Steph.

    Gassho Will

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    I straddle the line between the Zen and the Theravada/Insight perspective. I know I'm supposed to be a a big boy, make up my mind and pick and choose. But I don't really see a conflict between them. They all describe the same truth, emphasize the same values, and spring from the same roots (four noble truths and eightfold path).
    Brilliant, that is good to see.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Also, I do think that military service is within the Precepts if needed to save life.
    In many cases military service, when saving the lives of your fellow countrymen, also requires taking the lives of the people labeled enemies. How does that fit in the picture?

  22. #22
    Hi Mike,

    Good question! Let me try ...

    Sometimes when we are told to fight an "enemy", we are just being fed propaganda. Sometimes, it may be a true enemy whose actions will do great damage to innocent lives. Sometimes we also know that, in our fighting the enemy, innocent lives will be taken too. The soldier (assuming he/she is given a choice) must weigh all that, including the likelihood of saving many lives by taking some lives.

    My feeling is that all we can do is follow our hearts as to which course (fighting / not fighting) is likely to save more lives in the end. Furthermore, as in all human action, we cannot accurately foresee the actual results. Therefor, we must stick our finger into the wind, take our best guess, and act (or not act) accordingly.

    (It is also a special situation if a soldier is drafted or ordered to fight, but let us leave that aside now. For many a soldier or most soldiers, there is a general commitment to sacrifice oneself for the good of a society without asking questions about particular orders received ... In that case, the soldier probably just has to do his/her duty, or choose "conscientious objector" status or go awol)

    In all cases, if a soldier (or any of us) must do some harm (take some lives) in order to save other innocent lives, the soldier should still bear in his/her heart the weight of what he/she felt compelled to do (take life).

    Is that a perfect formula? No, not at all. But is is the reality of how we must make a decision that is unsure and will have both positive and harmful effects both if we act and do not act. I think.

    Gassho, Jundo

  23. #23

  24. #24
    Thank you for your thoughtful reply Jundo. I agree on many parts. I also like Will's path.

    It is also a special situation if a soldier is drafted or ordered to fight, but let us leave that aside now.
    Well, if you have time and would like to tackle this particular position too, I'd like to hear your thoughts of that as well. You see, in Finland the armed forces is formed mostly of conscript men so if push ever comes to shove around this part of the world many of the boys doing the fighting are not doing so of their own free will. And the same may of course be true about the other participants. Makes the issue even more difficult if everyone involved is there against their wishes... :?

    My decision, at this point, is that I would not take part or actively support any such course of actions or plans that will result in deliberate killing of other human beings. Especially since nations and armies rarely (I'd say never but that's such a strong word!) exhaust all non-violent options before resorting to force.

  25. #25
    Hi Mika,

    I have to speak merely from theory here, never having been a soldier. Perhaps Jordan and some of the other present and former military folks can offer insights from experience.

    If you feel as you describe, I do not see that you have much choice besides to serve (and do as a soldier is expected to do) or go "awol" or (as may exist in a very progressive society like Finland) try to take "conscientious objector" status and do community service.

    There is no single "right" answer here, I think. One person may choose to save life by defending society from threats, even if that means taking life ... including innocent life. Others may completely disagree and take the path you advocate. So long as the person is sincere in their heart about wishing to do what needs to be done to preserve life, I do not say which is best. I think a soldier who is out fighting to (as he/she sees it) protect the rest of us is doing an act in keeping with the Precepts ... especicially if he/she can somehow do so as "bitter medicine" without becoming trapped in the anger and hate.

    My own teacher, Nishijima, has been quite a hawk of late. He thinks that wars such as Afganistan and Iraq were necessary to preserve "civilization", and thus "necessary evils". I had several discussion with him in which I tried to persuade him otherwise (especially with regard to Iraq). I did not change his mind.

    Gassho, Jundo

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    (as may exist in a very progressive society like Finland) try to take "conscientious objector" status and do community service.
    Yes, that is an option here, although with the present laws even those who perform community service instead of military service in time of peace are expected to grab the guns if a state of war is declared. That is however changing in the future - and it is good, I think. People should be allowed to follow their conscience in such matters. I would like to clarify a bit that I'm not asking for advice what to do here, as I have done my "duty", but just to hear how others view these matters and maybe gain some insight from a different perspective. And of course all this is merely philosophical playing for now because there's no actual threat involved.

    There is no single "right" answer here, I think.
    As often in (real) life. I do think, however, that there lies a danger in thinking that violence, killing or war is all right or the right course of action sometimes. In my opinion we should always think of the violent outcome of a situation as a failure and try to learn from it for the future, and at the same time - perhaps, as Buddhists - accept that the outcome is the present reality.

    I think a soldier who is out fighting to (as he/she sees it) protect the rest of us is doing an act in keeping with the Precepts ... especicially if he/she can somehow do so as "bitter medicine" without becoming trapped in the anger and hate.
    I once read somewhere, can't remember where and exactly what, some Buddhist teacher saying something to the effect that if you, when killing someone, do so with clear mind and are without hesitation willing and ready to suffer the pains of Hell as a result then the negative karma caused by the deed is redeemed. Of course this was very much linked into the reincarnation beliefs, but I think it had a similar idea at the bottom.

    My own teacher, Nishijima, has been quite a hawk of late.
    We all have our shortcomings.

    With G,

    Mika

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Perhaps Jordan and some of the other present and former military folks can offer insights from experience.

    Sometimes when we are told to fight an "enemy", we are just being fed propaganda. Sometimes, it may be a true enemy whose actions will do great damage to innocent lives. Sometimes we also know that, in our fighting the enemy, innocent lives will be taken too. The soldier (assuming he/she is given a choice) must weigh all that, including the likelihood of saving many lives by taking some lives.
    Jundo, this was really well stated. I think we could easily switch the words around in this to make it easily applicable to all concerned.

    Sometimes when we are told to buy a product, we are just being fed advertisements.
    Sometimes it may be a product that can/has/will do great damage to innocent lives.
    Sometimes we also know that, in our buying or not buying a product, innocent lives will be affected too.
    The consumer must weigh all that.

    Consider the reasons that countries go to war. I see them as Idealism and materialism. They go to war because we consume ideas and materials. There is greed, there is anger, and there is ignorance on any opposing sides. The Soldier may enlist for flag or fortune, but the soldier only fights for the person next to him. The person next to him who he has shared meals with, prayed with, suffered with and shared fellowship with. In order to preserve the live we know we sometimes have to extinguish the life we do not know.
    Before a fight a chaplain might say there are no atheists in foxholes, I say when you are actively engaging the enemy there is no room for idealism.

    The cause of any conflict is never just enough. But the folks with the boots on the ground often are. I do not know what our civilian government is up to, I vote and that is all I can do to have my say. I know that my brothers overseas are doing the best they can do in the situation they find them selves in as I did when I was over there. Please do not judge then harshly.

    I consider military life to be a life of service to my fellow Marines, and by extension service to the whole universe. So Mika, I do not know if what I say offers you any comfort but that is me weighting in, sorry if it appears ambiguous, but there are rules that I have to obey, much like the precepts, but much more legalistic.


    In Gassho,
    Jordan

  28. #28
    Jordan,

    Thanks for sharing this. I think it points to some things that are pretty important for those of us who have not served in the military to realize.

    take care,

    Greg

  29. #29
    Greg, I am glad that you appreciated it.

    Thank you! & Gassho,
    Jordan

Similar Threads

  1. If all is a manifestation of Dharma, what about 'evil'?
    By Myozan Kodo in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 26
    Last Post: 09-01-2010, 01:20 AM
  2. Enlightenment
    By Jundo in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 03-10-2009, 12:37 AM
  3. Enlightenment 3
    By Longdog in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 05-10-2008, 08:00 AM
  4. Enlightenment
    By will in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 03-01-2008, 05:11 AM
  5. Dogen on Evil
    By will in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 02-28-2008, 01:18 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •