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Thread: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

  1. #1

    things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Hi,

    This question relates to today's video presentation.

    I'm OK with grains of sand, oceans, rivers, flowers and mountains as they are.
    I'm OK with cats, dogs, tigers and elephants as they are - after all they just follow their own nature.

    But what about people-as-they-are? I'm thinking more about the extremes; those who wage war on others or who exploit/damage the world in some way. What's the Zen viewpoint in those cases?

    JohnH

  2. #2

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    But what about people-as-they-are? I'm thinking more about the extremes; those who wage war on others or who exploit/damage the world in some way. What's the Zen viewpoint in those cases?
    Would it be something like this: we are them, they are us, following our nature just as much as cats, dogs, tigers, and elephants follow theirs.

    If a tiger starts killing people or an elephant goes on the rampage we try to stop it. Similarly with war and exploitation.

    :Charles

  3. #3

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    I agree with Charles.

    Joko Beck says something like, "how can we hope to change things if we don't first accept them as they are?" I'm paraphrasing, but her point is a good one. How can we put out a fire if we are in a fit of rage over the starting of the fire? We accept that a fire is occurring and take appropriate measures to put it out.

    Peace,
    Bill

  4. #4

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Thanks Charles and Bill,

    This is a related question... S Suzuki lived through WW2 in Japan. Does anyone know how (or if) the Zen monasteries responded to the situation in Japan at that time?

    JohnH

    (PS: The questions arise because we have just commemorated "ANZAC day" in Australia. It's a day when we're reminded of the sacrifices made by those who participated in wars.)

  5. #5

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    jrh001!!!

    A fellow Aussie at last (even if u r from melb - haha!!, juz kidding) ! How'z it goin mate?

    I think it's common sense and compassion.

    Act kindly as much as possible.

    Ignore when they are not harming anyone else other than themselves (if they are unwilling to stop or to listen and i'm not applying this to suicidal ppl, put out all the preventative stops in that instance).

    If they are harming others, then stop them, interrupt them, bring it to their attention. Tell the authorities. Go to war if you are fighting the nazis or the Imperial Japanese. Facism should not be ignored, just common. But no reason to overeact to the all too common fallacies of the human condition.

  6. #6

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Hi Aswini,

    Thanks for the response. If you're in Sydney and I'm in Melbourne, I wonder if I'm Treeleaf's southern-most outpost. (37° 54' 12" S)

    In terms of the topic, it looks like I'll have to do some research.

    cheers,

    John

  7. #7

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    Hi Aswini,

    Thanks for the response. If you're in Sydney and I'm in Melbourne, I wonder if I'm Treeleaf's southern-most outpost. (37° 54' 12" S)

    In terms of the topic, it looks like I'll have to do some research.

    cheers,

    John
    After traveling for 30 days on foot, Huineng arrived at Huang Mei (Yellow Plum) Mountain,
    where the Fifth Patriarch Hongren presided.
    Master Hongren asked the newcomer, “Where are you from? What do you seek?”
    Huineng replied, “I am from Ling Nan (South of the Peaks—today’s Guangdong or Canton).
    I’ve come from far away to pay my respects to the master. I seek nothing else but to become a
    Buddha.”
    Hongren said, “You come from the South, that makes you a barbarian. How can you become
    a Buddha?”
    Huineng replied, “People may come from north or south, but the Buddha nature has no north
    or south.
    The body of a barbarian is different from Your Reverence’s, but what difference is there
    in our Buddha nature?”
    Master Hongren knew he was special, but said harshly, “Don’t say anymore. Go do chores in
    the rice mill.” Whereupon Huineng stayed to chop wood and pound rice.

    Jundo adds ... just because there is no north and south, does not mean there is no north and south.

  8. #8

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    Hi,

    This question relates to today's video presentation.

    I'm OK with grains of sand, oceans, rivers, flowers and mountains as they are.
    I'm OK with cats, dogs, tigers and elephants as they are - after all they just follow their own nature.

    But what about people-as-they-are? I'm thinking more about the extremes; those who wage war on others or who exploit/damage the world in some way. What's the Zen viewpoint in those cases?

    JohnH
    Hi John,

    Buddhism offers several perspectives that are very wise, I believe. Again, all can be seen as simultaneously true, tasted at once, each in its own way.

    Let us take, as an extreme example, the case of truly anti-social, violent individuals who might kill or otherwise harm random people, men women and children ... a terrorist or cruel dictator or psychotic killer, for example. (However, what I am about to say will also apply, in much the same way, just to someone we find a bit difficult to be around ... the fellow at the next desk in your office who simply "drives you crazy". :roll: The perspectives I offer really can apply to both.)

    So, for example, we do take this world as it is, a garden of flowers and weeds. The Buddha taught that, among the many kinds of "suffering" (Dukkha) is to have to live among those people we find disagreeable. "Suffering" arises, however, when we cannot close the gap between the world "as-it-is" and the world we dream "should be" or "we wish to be" in order for us to be happy and content. Our Buddhist practice allows us to be at one with this garden, both its flowers and weeds just as they are ... no gap, no resistance.

    Yet, even as we accept and embrace the garden and its weeds ... we can still, as we can, pull the weeds and water the flowers. I call this attitude "acceptance without acceptance", and I have spoken about it many times. Here is a talk I gave after a senseless school shooting in the headlines a couple of years ago ...

    ... when we drop all thought of "good" and "bad" , "right" , "wrong" , "just" and "unjust" , we experience a world that just is-what-it-is. It goes-the-way-it-goes, even if that way is not the way we personally might desire. Letting aside both "cruel" and "gentle" , "ugly" and "kind" , we no longer resist, do not judge, and embrace it all ... even the most terrible.

    By such perspective, sometimes there is war in the world, sometimes there is peace. Sometimes there is health, sometimes disease. Same for all the rest. In Zen Buddhism, we may embrace the world as-it-is, with all its seeming imperfections. The world is just the world. We are free of disappointment at a world, at its people or a society failing to meet our ideals and expectations. In this stance, our minds are still, our hearts tranquil, our attitude soft and yielding. We merely observe it all, accept it all ... war, peace or whatever comes.

    And dropping all divisions, we see this too [another simultaneously true perspective]: There is no separate person to be killed, no separate person to do the killing. There's nothing taken away and nothing to lose, as nothing is ever lacking. Without thought of birth and death, what birth and what death? It is like the water of a sea that is always wet, whole and complete, while waves go up and down. We can experience the world in that way too. More than a sad resignation to life (do not think that Zen practice is mere resignation), it is the subtle taste of no loss no gain.

    Yet. should we simply stop there? In that self-(no self)-satisfied tranquility, ignoring the daily pain of others, are we not left uncaring, blind, apathetic, cold-hearted?

    Is there, perhaps, another perspective ... simultaneously true?

    For ours can be a path of acceptance sans acceptance - precisely blending both views. It is much the same in the case of a man or woman who, facing an illness, perhaps some cancer, accepts the condition fully - yet fights the good fight for a cure. We need not feel anger within at the natural state which is the disease, we can accept within that all life is impermanent and that death and sickness are just the reality ... but still we might search for the healing medicine, struggling without for health and life. We can know that within and without are not two.

    War, fire, flood, death and disease, humanity and nature's most horrible turns can all be observed dispassionately and from an unshakable inner peace, fully accepted ... all while we choose to resist what we can, to extend comfort and compassion as we can, to make the world better when and where we can.

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2 ... tance.html
    Please give that talk a watch when you can.

    I do not know who, if anyone, built this garden. Nor do I know exactly why (if any "why" at all) it is laid out as it is. But this world and life is a wild place, often a jungle, with people free to act. Sometimes those free actions include the freedom to harm others. I wish it were not so, but this would be a very different world, a world of less freedom, if that were not so. Thich Nhat Hahn often speaks of a world of interbeing in which, from a wider view, flowers cannot be without compost heaps of garbage, and garbage arises because flowers grow and die. This is the deep interconnection and life of this world.

    But back to our topic ...

    We also see both the violence doer, and the recipient of violence, as BOTH victims of greed, anger and ignorance. Taking the case, for example, of a child abuser ... we can often clearly see such people as themselves having been abused in their own childhoods, themselves the victims of predators. The stream of violent Karma continues. The racist or Nazi or terrorist is often a product of circumstances creating and nurturing seeds of greed, anger, division and ignorance within them. The true "enemy" is not the person, but the cycle of greed, anger and violence, division and ignorance.

    We also see that "there but for the grace of Buddha go I". We must recognize that, under other circumstances, we could be the doers of harm, perhaps we all have the worst potential of humanity buried within us ... ready to arise should we find ourselves in the wrong circumstances. All of us may be victims of the cancer. You or I could as easily be 'victimizer' as 'victim'.

    Thus, for this reason too ... we first try to deal with difficult or truly harmful people by finding peace, tolerance and non-violence in our own hearts. This is the only true way to end the cancer cycle of anger, intolerance and violence. We do not end the cycle of violence by more violence.

    We are also fast to forgive, and to drop the resentment and anger in our own hearts. It is not always so easy, or even possible perhaps ... but our Buddhist path guides us to try.

    HOWEVER (switching to the next perspective :shock: ) ... we often must do what is necessary to save lives. Our Precepts guide us to "avoid the taking of life" ... but (I believe) sometimes that may require the taking of life, and use of violence, in order to save innocent lives. This was a big topic of discussion during our Precepts study for our last Jukai ... please have a look at that thread ...

    We may accept the cancer ... yet sometimes we must hit it with strong medicine. I wrote this to some of our Sangha members who are in the military or police ...


    [T]here may be times in which we are forced to act in apparent violation of this Precept.

    For except, speaking just for me in another extreme hypothetical situation, if I were a policeman holding a gun pointed at man X ... and if I knew that, unless I killed man X (let's assume that wounding is not sufficient), man X would kill child Y ... I will shoot and kill man X in an instant! No hesitation.

    However, what is important to recall, I think, is this part of the story ...

    In his compassion, the captain [Buddha-to-be] was willing to take hellish torment upon himself by killing the man
    In other words, no matter how justified and right our actions, we should not take them lightly (most police officers and soldiers I know who were in like situations do not, cannot, take lightly what they were forced to do). We should always carry the weight with us, and reflect on what we needed to do, no matter that it was right action in the circumstance.

    As well, we should also be freed from the weight and burden of our act by knowing that it was right. We should bear the weight, yet be free of the weight, at the same time.


    viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1175
    Finally, our Precepts and all of Buddhist Practice point us toward a world where ... perhaps someday ... we will not need violence, and in which greed anger and ignorance will be history. We can only hope.

    Gassho, Jundo

    Ps- I do not think that tolerance and forgiveness is only a Buddhist teaching. All religions teach this in some way. I read this ugly & beautiful story in today's news ...


    Priest forgives suspect in confessional stabbing

    * Story Highlights
    * The Rev. Michael Massaro was stabbed after hearing confessions
    * Police say his alleged attacker called Massaro the Antichrist
    * Massaro says he forgives the woman, who appears to be troubled
    * Knife's blade missed vital organs by centimeters

    By Rich Phillips
    CNN Senior Producer

    -- The Rev. Michael Massaro says he has a few aches and pains, but a good night's sleep has done him some good as he recovers from being attacked Saturday with a knife in a confessional at his church.

    It was one of the most harrowing weekends in the 28 years he's been a Roman Catholic priest, Massaro said. But it won't stop him from hearing confessions.

    "We're at the mercy of the people we serve," Massaro told CNN. "We can't live in fear. God has asked us to live in trust. If it's going to happen again, it's going to happen again, but that's not going to prevent me from doing God's work."

    Massaro had just finished hearing confessions in his Florida church when he was stabbed twice in the back by a woman who later told police Massaro is the Antichrist.

    "It was paralyzing, like a nightmare, and I just feel like I woke up from it. It was so quick and sudden," Massaro said in a telephone interview.

    Vero Beach police arrested Josephine Gatchell in connection with the attack. The 57-year-old suspect is being held in the Indian River County Jail. She is being held without bail
    ....
    Massaro underwent surgery to repair the damage. Doctors used 14 staples to close the "T"-shaped wounds.

    The priest feels compassion for the woman who attacked him, and he is turning the other cheek.

    "We have to continue to pray to do the church's work. To love, and most of all to forgive," he said. "To be sure she doesn't do this again, she needs proper medical care. No one in their right mind would do this."
    PPs -

    This is a related question... S Suzuki lived through WW2 in Japan. Does anyone know how (or if) the Zen monasteries responded to the situation in Japan at that time?
    I have spoken about the issue of "Zen at War" a few times, and will in a "Tackles the BIG Questions" thread I am now working on.

  9. #9

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Thanks for that posting, Jundo. It really helped me to get some things in perspective.

  10. #10

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Hi Jundo,

    Thanks for the detailed reply. My understanding of precepts has been very literal until the recent discussions on The Sandokai. In the case of conflicts, history has shown repeatedly that one group has been able to convince themselves that persecuting another group is OK. To interpret the "avoid killing" precept literally removes the opportunity for someone to rationalise that it may be alright in some circumstances. (But this has probably been covered already, so I'll read the Jukai threads on precepts.)

    Thich Nhat Hanh writes about seeds in one of his books. He says that we each have a complete set of good and bad seeds and, depending on the "nutriments", some of those seeds will develop and grow. Given the right circumstances we may be capable of anything - although it does appear that some have a greater propensity for oppression and violence - just as others have a greater propensity for altruism and caring.

    I can see the ideal is to avoid feeling angry or vengeful. The other side of the coin is to avoid feeling sorrow or pity by providing excuses for violent people's actions - "acceptance without acceptance" as you say. How to do that without becoming "indifferent" is something I'll have to ponder.

    You quoted Huineng earlier. I noticed in the Platform Sutra that Huineng had to sneak away from the monastery to avoid the jealous monks who, upset that the patriarch's robe and bowl had been given to the kitchen hand, were likely to harm him.

    I look forward to the next installment of Jundo tackles the BIG questions.

    best wishes,

    John H ("barbarian from the south" )

  11. #11

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    "You quoted Huineng earlier. I noticed in the Platform Sutra that Huineng had to sneak away from the monastery to avoid the jealous monks who, upset that the patriarch's robe and bowl had been given to the kitchen hand, were likely to harm him."

    according to the story they actually chased him south for quite awhilw with the intent to kill or at least seriously discourage him from returning. one of the monks, a former general, caught up with him and huineng convinced him to be his student. I believe this turning over of the mind is possible in most any situation. so huineng changed a potentially violent situation to a peaceful situation.

  12. #12
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    "You quoted Huineng earlier. I noticed in the Platform Sutra that Huineng had to sneak away from the monastery to avoid the jealous monks who, upset that the patriarch's robe and bowl had been given to the kitchen hand, were likely to harm him."

    according to the story they actually chased him south for quite awhilw with the intent to kill or at least seriously discourage him from returning. one of the monks, a former general, caught up with him and huineng convinced him to be his student. I believe this turning over of the mind is possible in most any situation. so huineng changed a potentially violent situation to a peaceful situation.
    This in addition to the story of Angulimala.

    Chet

  13. #13

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    "This in addition to the story of Angulimala.

    Chet"

    Thanks. I enjoyed reading about it here
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angulimala

  14. #14

    Re: things-as-it-is (specifically people-as-they-are)

    At the end of the wiki article on Angulimala it mentions The Angulimala prison chaplaincy organisation in the UK and our spiritual director Venerable Khemadhammo. He is at the moment in the middle of a controversy surrounding armed forces chaplains. One issue is regarding the membership of the committee that appoints and advises chaplains (the first committee was fired and now sits as the unofficial committee) but the other issue is whether Buddhists should support the idea of chaplain who is directly employed by the armed services. A Buddhist friend who was himself in the army and a former Falklands war vet is firmly against a directly employed chaplain. I am not sure about this myself but I certainly would find the job difficult.

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