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Thread: More about Zen and morality..

  1. #1
    disastermouse
    Guest

    More about Zen and morality..

    Hey guys,

    I wanted to elaborate a bit more about Zen morality...

    In my experience, the perfection of each moment is unconditioned. A realization of this is fundamental to Zen practice, IMHO. As the Heart Sutra proclaims, 'Form is emptiness'. A realization of the true emptiness of self and objects, that one does not directly experience them - this is the essence of 'Right View' - the starting point of awakening. Many, many things about Zen will make no sense whatsoever without an experiential understanding of this. Grappling with Buddhist morality without this realization may only allow you to 'unhook' from non-subtle, ego-reinforcing views (consumerism, petty grudges, blatantly harmful pursuits) in favor of more and more subtle and yet equally ego-reinforcing views (anti-isms, dietary and sexuality based restrictions, 'Spiritual Athleticism', and other apparently 'Buddhism-approved' means of ego-reinforcement). That is, the ego attempts to become a 'Good Buddhist' - and one tends to judge the rest of the world according to these ideas of what a 'Good Buddhist' is. This is subject/object morality and compassion. It is only as good as these preformed ideas about being a 'Good Buddhist' pertain to actual reality - but it is very limited and frequently causes as many problems as it solves. Rationalizations of one's behavior are not hard to find, and there's a sort of 'violence' behind the energy that is entirely indicative of its roots in ego-identification. This is obviously not the path prescribed by the Buddha or the long line of ancestors through which these teachings have come to us.

    Paradoxically, a realization of emptiness can also itself be a means of ego-identification. There are pitfalls involved with Kensho! Nonetheless, without a true realization of emptiness (not necessarily in one grand 'event') true morality will not be possible, as all attempts will be beset with attachment, clinging, aversion, and just generally taking your thoughts, beliefs, and 'positions' very, very seriously. Good outcomes from deluded views come only by luck or grace.

    Then we come to the next barrier to Buddhist morality - namely, nihilism or 'emptiness poisoning'. Seeing the ultimate perfection in this moment, one can delude oneself into taking a position that since all expressions of the moment are none other than perfection, that all expressions are equal in their communication of Wisdom. Wisdom is a conditioned arising that comes about from Right View - and Right View arises from moment-to-moment freedom from delusion, not a simple one-time awakening. A kensho is an expression of wisdom if it's happening right now. A non-immediate kensho, besides being an oxymoron, can actually become a burden - one will confuse its expression and the thoughts formed around it as being something special or real. Essentially, a remembered awakening is a 'dream of awakening'. Actual awakening is immediate.

    This is 'Emptiness is form'. Form is an expression of emptiness, emptiness is the essence of form. Although all expressions of emptiness are equally imbued with perfection, Wisdom/Virtue is, as said before, a conditioned arising. It is, namely, the expression of that perfection with 'nothing added on'. Wisdom/Virtue is then, nothing but the most complete expression of this perfection - unhindered by clinging, aversion, or ignorance. Unhindered by clinging, aversion, or ignorance, compassion naturally arises.

    What causes unskillful action? The three poisons of clinging (wanting something you don't think you have), aversion (reverse-clinging - not wanting what you do have), and ignorance (not being aware of the perfection of the present moment, not being engaged with the present moment).

    If one tries to enforce morality upon oneself, there is internal conflict - there is then dualism and the casting of shadows. This will never work, because creating allies and enemies within oneself is inherently self-defeating.

    Zen and shikantaza 'short-circuit' this cycle by invalidating the content of mind and emphasizing substance of mind. Ignorance is usually presented as the last of the three poisons, but it is actually the only ever-present condition of the deluded state. Clinging and aversion only come about via ignorance.

    Something interesting about this practice is that this 'unhooking' that is taught here can be applied on or off the cushion. The internal delusion of the mind that is confronted in zazen is not much different than the projected delusion of one's life 'off the cushion'. The relaxed vigilance that causes one to realize he or she has been 'hooked' in zazen is not much different than the same sort of vigilance that can cause one to realize he or she is 'hooked' by 'off the cushion' events or ideas related to them. Through this continued 'unhooking', compassion and virtue naturally arise. Until you unhook whatever clinging, aversion, or ignorance is causing the unskillful action or behavior, enforced morality from 'outside' will only cause further ignorance and fractured unconsciousness.

    This is why zazen is primary in the Zen tradition. Zazen is the practice of 'unhooking' that resolves internal and external conflicts and allows the 'clear blue sky' of virtue/wisdom/compassion to be expressed unimpeded.

    IMHO.

    (I realize that was a long and rambling ride to the final conclusion, but I felt like some things needed to be shown in considerable detail.)

    Chet

  2. #2
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I think we have found our Nagarjuna...

    Yes Chet, I quite relate to what you write... But sometimes I need to take the child by the hand, to calm the fool, to shout at the deluded guy (the child, the fool, the deluded guy being mine, faces and masks). I may just witness them, and they generally fade away. But, in essence, morality arises as prajna arises, not because we rehearse it or enforce it upon ourselves, it is the scent that comes with the flower being turned and toyed with. Self arising wisdom.

    Now, we also may learn to communicate with the energy behind delusion, the hub of light that sleeps under the darkness, this is also opening the treasure box. In the famous Koan of the young monk being tempted by a gorgeous looking girl and being kicked out of the hermitage by the old lady, the foolishness is to act upon the urge or to repress the urge. Sex or no sex, this is not the right question. Behind the urge is the face of Kannon, that 's what we are invited to meet.

    And it is true that this is ok as it is too...

    Thank you to play so nicely under the dancing snake of speech.

    gassho


    Taigu

  3. #3

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Form is emptiness, emptiness form
    Emptiness is morality, morality emptiness

    As we grow in prajna our understanding of emptiness progresses and our actions display it. The absolute expression of morality is emptiness and awareness is a total imersion in THIS! When realization from the myriad things melds us with them, self-other dies, and morality becomes as natural as our breath.

    Chet,
    Thank you for your profound questioning and gifted expression. What a gem to have at Treeleaf.

    Taigu,
    Thank you for your teachings. They inspire great growth.

    Gassho Gassho

  4. #4
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    But, in essence, morality arises as prajna arises, not because we rehearse it or enforce it upon ourselves, it is the scent that comes with the flower being turned and toyed with. Self arising wisdom
    This. It distills the multiple paragraphs I wrote into two simple sentences. *gassho*

    I guess there's just a lot of 'if people are practicing zazen and not becoming better people, why sit zazen?' type questioning in Western Zen. There's a lot of confusion between the 'let it be' of shikantaza and 'work on yourself' of Buddhist morality in general and I wanted to point out how they are linked.

    Chet

  5. #5

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Hey Guys,

    I am going to dissent on some of this ...

    My subject today on the 'Sit-a-Long', by the way, happened to be the Precepts, which support our Zazen, are supported by our Zazen, and our one with Zazen ...

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=16388

    Quote Originally Posted by zak
    As we grow in prajna our understanding of emptiness progresses and our actions display it. The absolute expression of morality is emptiness and awareness is a total imersion in THIS! When realization from the myriad things melds us with them, self-other dies, and morality becomes as natural as our breath.
    I do not think so, as I do not think it anywhere near so automatic and "natural as our breath" ... because I have seen enough cases of folks who have Zazen'ed for years, including some great and gifted teachers, who then crawl off the Zafu and sometimes act all too weak and human. Some folks, for example, who I would consider quite "realized" in their higher nature, still get dragged around by their lizard brains from time to time, or by the "little buddha" in their pants.

    Human moral conduct is more complicated than just seeing into, and being intimate with, "emptiness" or that "self and other" are not separate.

    I once wrote this about teachers who have "fallen down" ...

    In our Zen practice we taste a realm beyond all desire ... beyond "we" ... a view by which there is nothing lacking, so no base or object for greed ... where all hate, longing and despair evaporate, all swept away in peace and wholeness. There is such Liberation, and it can be known by anyone who follows this Way of Zen.

    But so long as we are human beings ... whether an 80 year old man or a child of age 3 ... we must also live in this ordinary realm of flesh and blood, its sometime desire ... a world where "you" and "me" are separate too, where we may feel lack and greed ... subject to anger, longing and times of despair. So long as we are in this world ... so-called "Zen Master" or not ... we cannot escape fully the realm of Samsara (even if, ultimately, there is no other to stumble into, no place we can fall).
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2074

    This practice may tend to tilt us in the direction of gentleness, generosity, non-violence, etc ... but no guarantees. Dropping "right and wrong" on the Zafu, realizing that "in emptiness, there is nobody who gets killed even when we kill", and thinking that "I am the universe" is playing with dynamite for some ...

    Also, I am not sure of some of Chet's points (if I understood correctly) ... Chet wrote:

    Grappling with Buddhist morality without this realization may only allow you to 'unhook' from non-subtle, ego-reinforcing views (consumerism, petty grudges, blatantly harmful pursuits) in favor of more and more subtle and yet equally ego-reinforcing views (anti-isms, dietary and sexuality based restrictions, 'Spiritual Athleticism', and other apparently 'Buddhism-approved' means of ego-reinforcement). That is, the ego attempts to become a 'Good Buddhist' - and one tends to judge the rest of the world according to these ideas of what a 'Good Buddhist' is.
    I agree with the first part ... that this Practice and realization will help us "unhook" from excess consumerism, petty grudges, harmful pursuits. I also agree that people can be "attached" to Kensho, wear their Buddhism (or vegetarianism, or liberal politics, or "anti-speciesism", etc.) on their sleeve. Each can be an object of excess, imbalance, abuse and attachment. However, I am not so sure of the second part.

    There are people in this world who function better, and are free, within a very detailed and circumscribed morality (many ... certainly not all though ... Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians, Pennsylvania Dutch, Wahabi Muslims and Theravadan monks). People who choose to live that way are often happy, generous, self-less, gentle and feel "free" amid the seeming "restrictions". Others do better with more flexible, case-by-case morality, and Precepts which are more "general guidelines" than "rules with penalties" (although some folks freak out amid the chaos of that open freedom). Shakyamuni Buddha, Dogen Zenji and most monastics were certainly in the former group ... most (not all, by any means) modern, liberal Western Zen Buddhists tend toward the latter. Rigid dietary restrictions, "spiritual athleticism", black/white morality are not all "ego reinforcement" and can often be, quite the contrary, a path to dropping the ego aside. "Judging the world" by one's moral standards may seem harsh (if one is on the receiving end of the judgment), but the person doing the pointing may be acting out of a sincere concern for the world ... a self-less concern. Again ... Master Dogen and many other teachers of the past were usually very rigid moralists and very judgmental fellows on issues of Buddhist behavior. Zen practice has been filled with "rules imposed from outside" that one was expected to abide by ... whether internalized or not (read Eihei Shingi) ...

    http://books.google.com/books?id=XJHAOI ... &q&f=false

    I agree that a true insight into "emptiness" is one point of this Practice (at least, in its Mahayana version). But I think that both kinds of Buddhists ... the moralists and the liberals ... can have deep insights into "emptiness" and all of it.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Wow... Thank you(s)

    Gassho

  7. #7

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I'd like to thank those great guys at Industrial Light and Magic who have been working to express all this in a couple of diagrams.

    1. Zen and Morality - via the Right View


    2. Zen and Morality - via the Wrong View


    Of course, as reverend Taigu points out, both conditions can occur in the same being, and the one with 'Right View' can come to the aid of the 'Wrong view', either by intervening or observing.

    (For better or worse - usually worse - I really do have to make diagrams to understand quite a few treeleaf posts. My brain is not good at holding on to concepts over more than three paragraphs. )

    I am getting a lot from everyone's comments though,

    gassho,
    Michael

    Attached files

  8. #8

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Jundo said,

    There are people in this world who function better, and are free, within a very detailed and circumscribed morality (Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians, Pennsylvania Dutch, Wahabi Muslims and Theravadan monks). People who choose to live that way are often happy, generous, self-less, gentle and feel "free" amid the seeming "restrictions". Others do better with more flexible, case-by-case morality, and Precepts which are more "general guidelines" than "rules with penalties".
    I would tend to agree with this interpretation, sort of in combination with Chet's. The way I see Zen morality, or Buddhist Morality, or perhaps best: Morality from one Buddhist's point of view, is that if you truly reach realization, then you can't help but act in a way that is morally sound. Maybe, like we said in other posts, kensho isn't a sudden "Aha!" moment, but several little, "Oh...." moments, so maybe we realize different aspects or parts of the Dharma at different times. So you could be a great, and realized Zen master on many levels, but not all levels (then you'd be a Buddha). So Right View would lead to moral action, if you realize that part. If not, and you need the structure that Jundo was talking about, that could be called Right Practice or Right Effort. I think the Eight Fold Noble Path, is Eight Fold, because each part not only builds upon the others, but also helps support them. Perhaps, enough Right Effort, and enough Right Concentration can lead to Right Mindfulness and so on. I think that the Eight Fold Path is like Indra's Net, each piece a jewel in itself but reflecting all the others at the same time. This way, Right View, Right Practice, and Right Action are not separate things but just different reflections of the same "kensho (s)"

  9. #9

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I wonder what Bird's Nest Roshi would have to say about this thread........ :wink:

  10. #10

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    It's funny how what I think and feel about things is often so different than what I actually do about things. Wisdom may be a function of time and being present for the right time. If all this describing it helps someone practice it then I'm all for it.
    /Rich

  11. #11
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I do not think so, as I do not think it anywhere near so automatic and "natural as our breath" ... because I have seen enough cases of folks who have Zazen'ed for years, including some great and gifted teachers, who then crawl off the Zafu and sometimes act all too weak and human. Some folks, for example, who I would consider quite "realized" in their higher nature, still get dragged around by their lizard brains from time to time, or by the "little buddha" in their pants.
    Isn't this really covered by 'ignorance' though? Whole aspects of my dysfunction were released through therapy - but we reached into aspects of my identity that I'd absorbed as a kid that I didn't even know weren't me.

    The other thing, the way you (You personally, Jundo) approach shikantaza - with no 'concentration aspect' of the practice, really does allow one to take the 'unhooking' of shikantaza back out into the world away from the cushion.

    Those deep hooks and mistaken identity issues are very difficult to uncover - and that's why I agree with you that therapy and other means of identifying them and 'dis-identifying with them' is very helpful...but the general practice of 'unhooking' works with the uncovering of deeper issues in ways that pure discovery does not.

    Chet

  12. #12

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Wow guys! :shock:
    Thank you for all this... honestly I can't add anything to what is being said but I'm learning a lot!

    Gassho,
    Luis/Jinyu

  13. #13
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Jundo,

    What do you think about what I see to be the Buddha's basic admission near the end of his life that all the rules he'd set up would not be necessary after his passing? Think what you want about Genpo Roshi, but he detailed in a talk that when he accepted the rule of celibacy, he went to unusual lengths to try to break his vows, at one point driving several hundred miles to hook up with am old girlfriend and upon finding that she was in a relationship, driving ANOTHER several hundred miles to contact ANOTHER ex-girlfriend?

    Self-repression for short lengths of time can indeed teach us about the unquestioned needs and preferences we have, but ultimately, we lose that fight. Not only that, but the communities you've mentioned are notorious for passing on a tradition of guilt that can only be considered a hindrance to happiness. Lastly, it is just these communities that, given sufficient power, seek to enforce their restrictions on others or become offended easily and ferociously in ways that cause them to cause untold amounts of suffering - even glorifying killing in the defense of these restrictions.

    From my own experience, lengthy attempts at self-repression simply do not last long and they do not lead to the passing of suffering and dissatisfaction.

    Chet

  14. #14

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I would like to add some issues with regard to this topic, on morality I have read that people who are strict in religious perspective, being too much fanatic or having the moral guidelines as a kind of heavy cloth, have more tendancy to depression then people who take it a bit looser. I can derive from that study that the moral restrictions can drive people to a situation where even the guidelines or morality is in conflict with what the person ( or the ego) thinks is the right thing to do, and because there is such a clinging to morality issues, and the rules are supposed to be the "only" reference point, a depression is the ( possible) consequence. During the last 25 years ( at the time when I started to be interested in more spiritual things), I can see a tendancy in what new agers would describe as a more "consciousness" oriented part of the population on the globe, but on the other hand a larger growing number of people hardening their points of views and stricter moralism. At the end of the story, there is no "guarantee" if you take the vows, rules or guidelines too strict or too softly that one is becoming a human being with compassion or not. It is for each person different, I think and clinging to the guidelines or trying to be loose just for the sake of the proof that your ego is taking care of it all, is not going to help you in any way.

    Just some thoughts,

    Gassho

    Ensho

  15. #15

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Sex or no sex, this is not the right question. Behind the urge is the face of Kannon, that 's what we are invited to meet.
    Nice. Gassho

    Hey guys,

    I wanted to elaborate a bit more about Zen morality...

    In my experience, the perfection of each moment is unconditioned. A realization of this is fundamental to Zen practice, IMHO. As the Heart Sutra proclaims, 'Form is emptiness'. A realization of the true emptiness of self and objects, that one does not directly experience them - this is the essence of 'Right View' - the starting point of awakening. Many, many things about Zen will make no sense whatsoever without an experiential understanding of this. Grappling with Buddhist morality without this realization may only allow you to 'unhook' from non-subtle, ego-reinforcing views (consumerism, petty grudges, blatantly harmful pursuits) in favor of more and more subtle and yet equally ego-reinforcing views (anti-isms, dietary and sexuality based restrictions, 'Spiritual Athleticism', and other apparently 'Buddhism-approved' means of ego-reinforcement). That is, the ego attempts to become a 'Good Buddhist' - and one tends to judge the rest of the world according to these ideas of what a 'Good Buddhist' is. This is subject/object morality and compassion. It is only as good as these preformed ideas about being a 'Good Buddhist' pertain to actual reality - but it is very limited and frequently causes as many problems as it solves. Rationalizations of one's behavior are not hard to find, and there's a sort of 'violence' behind the energy that is entirely indicative of its roots in ego-identification. This is obviously not the path prescribed by the Buddha or the long line of ancestors through which these teachings have come to us.

    Paradoxically, a realization of emptiness can also itself be a means of ego-identification. There are pitfalls involved with Kensho! Nonetheless, without a true realization of emptiness (not necessarily in one grand 'event') true morality will not be possible, as all attempts will be beset with attachment, clinging, aversion, and just generally taking your thoughts, beliefs, and 'positions' very, very seriously. Good outcomes from deluded views come only by luck or grace.

    Then we come to the next barrier to Buddhist morality - namely, nihilism or 'emptiness poisoning'. Seeing the ultimate perfection in this moment, one can delude oneself into taking a position that since all expressions of the moment are none other than perfection, that all expressions are equal in their communication of Wisdom. Wisdom is a conditioned arising that comes about from Right View - and Right View arises from moment-to-moment freedom from delusion, not a simple one-time awakening. A kensho is an expression of wisdom if it's happening right now. A non-immediate kensho, besides being an oxymoron, can actually become a burden - one will confuse its expression and the thoughts formed around it as being something special or real. Essentially, a remembered awakening is a 'dream of awakening'. Actual awakening is immediate.

    This is 'Emptiness is form'. Form is an expression of emptiness, emptiness is the essence of form. Although all expressions of emptiness are equally imbued with perfection, Wisdom/Virtue is, as said before, a conditioned arising. It is, namely, the expression of that perfection with 'nothing added on'. Wisdom/Virtue is then, nothing but the most complete expression of this perfection - unhindered by clinging, aversion, or ignorance. Unhindered by clinging, aversion, or ignorance, compassion naturally arises.

    What causes unskillful action? The three poisons of clinging (wanting something you don't think you have), aversion (reverse-clinging - not wanting what you do have), and ignorance (not being aware of the perfection of the present moment, not being engaged with the present moment).

    If one tries to enforce morality upon oneself, there is internal conflict - there is then dualism and the casting of shadows. This will never work, because creating allies and enemies within oneself is inherently self-defeating.

    Zen and shikantaza 'short-circuit' this cycle by invalidating the content of mind and emphasizing substance of mind. Ignorance is usually presented as the last of the three poisons, but it is actually the only ever-present condition of the deluded state. Clinging and aversion only come about via ignorance.

    Something interesting about this practice is that this 'unhooking' that is taught here can be applied on or off the cushion. The internal delusion of the mind that is confronted in zazen is not much different than the projected delusion of one's life 'off the cushion'. The relaxed vigilance that causes one to realize he or she has been 'hooked' in zazen is not much different than the same sort of vigilance that can cause one to realize he or she is 'hooked' by 'off the cushion' events or ideas related to them. Through this continued 'unhooking', compassion and virtue naturally arise. Until you unhook whatever clinging, aversion, or ignorance is causing the unskillful action or behavior, enforced morality from 'outside' will only cause further ignorance and fractured unconsciousness.

    This is why zazen is primary in the Zen tradition. Zazen is the practice of 'unhooking' that resolves internal and external conflicts and allows the 'clear blue sky' of virtue/wisdom/compassion to be expressed unimpeded.

    IMHO.

    (I realize that was a long and rambling ride to the final conclusion, but I felt like some things needed to be shown in considerable detail.)

    Chet
    And it's always nice to bow and recite stuff.

    Gassho

  16. #16

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Why is there "zen" and then "morality"?

    Why do we say, "here is zen, where is the morality in it?" Or, "is morality something that we can apply to zen practice?" Or, "how does morality fit into zen practice?" Not that we're just saying that, but I wonder about this wrestling match.

    Why not just be moral?

    The world can get along without zen, without a 'thing' called zen, but the world needs morality. When is it time to be moral? Is now not the time? Is now not the time for zen?

    I'm sorry, but I just see no distinction between morality and zen.

    gassho

  17. #17
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    The point was not to make a distinction between Zen and morality, and frankly, I think you'd have to try hard to see that in what I posted.

    What IS morality? How does it function? If it's just super-ego, then it's only as good as the tradition or social preference that was internalized.

    I'm suggesting that a deeper morality is possible.

    Chet

  18. #18
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Monkton:

    Cool diagrams, btw!

    Chet

  19. #19

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Jundo,

    What do you think about what I see to be the Buddha's basic admission near the end of his life that all the rules he'd set up would not be necessary after his passing? Think what you want about Genpo Roshi, but he detailed in a talk that when he accepted the rule of celibacy, he went to unusual lengths to try to break his vows, at one point driving several hundred miles to hook up with am old girlfriend and upon finding that she was in a relationship, driving ANOTHER several hundred miles to contact ANOTHER ex-girlfriend?

    Self-repression for short lengths of time can indeed teach us about the unquestioned needs and preferences we have, but ultimately, we lose that fight. Not only that, but the communities you've mentioned are notorious for passing on a tradition of guilt that can only be considered a hindrance to happiness. Lastly, it is just these communities that, given sufficient power, seek to enforce their restrictions on others or become offended easily and ferociously in ways that cause them to cause untold amounts of suffering - even glorifying killing in the defense of these restrictions.

    From my own experience, lengthy attempts at self-repression simply do not last long and they do not lead to the passing of suffering and dissatisfaction.

    Chet
    NOTE FROM JUNDO - IN MY EXCITEMENT, I THINK I "OVERSPOKE" HERE A LITTLE IN THE FIRST COUPLE OF PARAGRAPHS. I DO NOT MEAN TO SAY THAT "BUDDHA" IS JUST A FICTION (ONLY SOME WORSHIPFUL STORIES ABOUT WHAT THAT MEANS)! I HAVE TRIED TO FRAME IT BETTER IN A POST BELOW. viewtopic.php?p=35051#p35051

    Perfect Buddhas and Zen Masters exist primarily in dusty books. Such perfect Buddhas and Masters -- being the product of the writer's imagination -- are drawn to always act in the perfect way appropriate to the circumstances, always say the right and wise thing to fit the story in which they appear. Perfect Buddhas are perfectly enlightened and perfectly moral ... and probably someone's dream of what a Buddha should be.

    I believe that perfect Buddhas and Zen Masters are perfectly the creation of some author's idealized imagination and worshipful tale telling. They are legends and fables in which someone has drawn a picture of a "spiritual hero" ... not a flesh and blood human being trying to get by in this less than ideal world.

    That does not mean that "Buddhas and Masters" are just deluded beings either ... prisoners of greed, anger and ignorance (don't get me wrong). It just means that the reality is usually more "down to earth" and somewhere in between. No one in this world is ever "totally free" of their inner potential for greed, anger, harmful conduct toward self and others (its hard wired into our animal brains) ... only perhaps "freer" based on this practice, on a sliding scale, with the potential to "revert" to ignorance and delusion always present.

    I live in the real world where things are more complex, sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly, and less black/white. Real history is not a fairy tale. Even the greatest heroes have blemishes.

    Get over your dreams of Nirvana, folks, and get back to life right here in Samsara (which is also Nirvana if one can see it as so ... but still bloody complex Samsara nonetheless). .

    Sure, I believe that the image of a perfect "Buddha" or any hero serves a purpose, is a symbol high on a pedestal to which we can all aspire. But I just do not think that "real Buddhas" exist the way they are painted to exist in Buddhist fictional tales.

    IN OTHER WORDS ... one must always pursue this practice as if walking through a minefield of moral temptations, plentiful opportunities to transgress, to fall down. That's life in Samsara.

    I believe most Buddhists I know (like most other religious people I know in all religions) are, more often than not, gentle, kind, compassionate, moral people. But I have seen little evidence in my years as a Buddhist that anything about this practice necessarily guarantees that folks will end up that way. Yes, this practice might gently tilt someone toward the good ... and away from the harmful ... but I have seen little evidence that any insight into Emptiness, Non-Self or the like will necessarily cause someone to be moral. It's baloney ... a theory that sounds good when said as a platitude (or drawn into Monkton's diagrams), but which does not prove true in real life. People are too complex, life in Samsara is too unpredictable

    Do this Practice, sit Zazen and seek to learn from the Precepts ... and, probably, you will have a peaceful, gentle, rewarding life.

    But Buddhas can fall to earth at any moment.

    As to the other issue ... I do not paint with a broad brush. I know many good people who are happy, peaceful, fulfilled and living well as Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians, conservative Theravadan monks and the like. And I know many people who cannot cope. are depressed and neurotic, and live poorly, amid more liberal moral systems. Different people need different medicines.

    Gassho, J

  20. #20

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Jundo, thank you for being realistic.

  21. #21

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    Jundo, thank you for being realistic.
    Don't misunderstand my point. I would not have stuck with the Practice either for 30 years if I thought it was all a waste of time, just someone's fairy tale. It does lead to freedom and wholeness and Wisdom and Compassion, just as advertised.

    However, it is just that the "real richness and pay off" of the story is a bit more complicated than the "children's version" of the tale that many of us are first exposed to. What I mean is ... take marriage as an example. Real marriage is not, usually, the Disney "Cinderella's Glass Slipper" version. Real marriage is much more complex, much more ups and downs, with many moral temptations and pitfalls along the way and ... if it works out ... unfathomably better than that "fairy tale".

    This Practice ... including where it takes us on the bumpy road of morality ... is something like that.

    Gassho,J

  22. #22

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Is there that much difference between what Chet and Jundo are saying?
    I don't think Chet is saying all you have to do is 'x' and 'y' will happen - or if he is, he's also saying that in attempting to do 'x' you have to first overcome w, f, b, r, h, and q. And all of those letters are the stuff of our lives: our failings, addictions, compulsions, revulsions, delusions, misinterpretations, ignorances and picking the kids up from band practice. All the stuff that we load on ourselves (which Chet seems to be talking more about), and all the stuff that is loaded on to us (which Jundo seems to be talking more about).
    If it was really x+y=easy we would be knee deep in Buddhas, instead of being, er, knee deep in Buddhas (you know what I mean).
    Back to the four noble truths - it is all suffering, but it can be overcome ('can' - not 'will'). And in the meantime as we wade through, as Stephanie would probably say: Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.
    gassho,
    Monkton

  23. #23
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Nice quote Monkton

    I also enjoyed your diagrams.

    I think truth is being expressed by all here. I agree with Chet that underneath most of our moral errors is our being "hooked" or driven by ego, and the practice of learning how to "unhook" over and over again can dramatically decrease unskillful behavior.

    However, I am not so sure about how awakening and morality are linked. Supposing that one leads to another means supposing that a moral code is deeply woven into Reality, because awakening is seeing Reality directly, no? I always used to suppose there was an underlying 'moral order' but now I am not so sure. I think humans act compassionately more often than we suppose, but that aggression and competition are also part of who we are. We are complex beings.

    I certainly don't believe awakening experiences automatically create a sense of morality. There are many people whom I do not doubt have had kensho who have also afterward continued to act in very deluded ways. Seeing the nature of Reality does not necessarily mean no longer having any blind spots. Awakening is not dependent on causes or conditions, but our tendencies and blind spots arise from them. We can see Reality for what it is without anything else about our condition changing, just as we can see thoughts for what they are while sitting without having the thoughts all disappear.

    I think becoming aware of all that makes us tick and untying the knots in our psyches that lead us to act in destructive or counterproductive ways takes a lot of work and demands a lot more than sitting zazen. This is where other forms of self-inquiry and self-knowledge can be valuable, as well as other Buddhist practices.

    I like that we are complicated creatures. Tormented or flawed "saints" and "heroes" are much more interesting than ones that never struggle with inner conflict, IMO.

  24. #24

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by monkton
    Is there that much difference between what Chet and Jundo are saying?
    I don't think Chet is saying all you have to do is 'x' and 'y' will happen - or if he is, he's also saying that in attempting to do 'x' you have to first overcome w, f, b, r, h, and q. And all of those letters are the stuff of our lives: our failings, addictions, compulsions, revulsions, delusions, misinterpretations, ignorances and picking the kids up from band practice. ... Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.
    gassho,
    Monkton
    Well, you have described my point. So long as we are in this "Samsara", we must deal with each of our individual failings, delusions, misinterpretations, ignorances and picking the kids up from band practice.

    We are Sisyphus.



    Some folks think the point of this practice is to get to a place where we can put the stone down for good (perhaps by realizing that the stone is just a dream). Perhaps we might see his pushing that boulder (of ignorance and delusion) as his practice, his striving, to finally be free of the boulder of delusion by reaching (attaining) that place where the boulder will rest at the top of the mountain permanently, his practice accomplished, Sisyphus free once and for all of the burden of delusion and need to practice.

    However, so long as he is a human being, we know that Sisyphus will likely never reach that stopping place ... perhaps not for countless lives, if ever ... The "Promised Pure Lotus Land" is very far away. I mean ... when you are dead, then you can put the rock down! :shock:

    What is more, if he gives up his efforts to push the boulder of ignorance up that hill (practice), he will be quickly crushed by ignorance and delusions which will roll over him ... so he cannot and must not stop practicing.

    What is he to do? A Koany dilemma!

    Well, by realizing "Just This" total accomplishment in every step-by-step of effort he thus constantly arrives, is finally free of the boulder, attains that place of rest and ever and always accomplishes what there is to accomplish ... in the very act of constant practice with rocky delusion! "The earth where we stand is the Pure Lotus Land, and this very body the body of Buddha", to quote Hakuin.

    What is more, as he keeps pushing that boulder, he actually gets better at it ... learns to handle it better, keep control better ... he loses control and suffers the boulder rolling over him less often (although maybe still sometimes, until he is a 'Perfect Buddha'). The Practice is truly less of a burden!

    He finds that he is Buddha pushing Buddha up Buddha, that the very pushing is 'Buddha'.

    BUT (AND THIS IS MY MAIN POINT) ... every second, he must keep pushing for, if he stops, he will be run over ... and every second he risks tripping up and being crushed by that boulder! Practice never ends during this life! There is no guaranty ... even if you have been doing a glorious 'smashing' job of pushing that boulder 30 years ... that you will not stumble in the next step and be smashed!

    And that was Master Dogen's point of Practice is Enlightenment Itself ...

    But I do not see that "seeing into the emptyness of the rock" or that "rock and self are one beyond one" etc. etc. necessarily will make one a better, more "moral" rock pusher! I mean, it will help ... but that's only part of it.

    By the way ... I rather prefer this image of sisyphus as the rock as the mountain ... each causing and effecting the other in this thing we call "living" and "practice" ...


  25. #25

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Deleted.

  26. #26

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    Jundo, thank you for being realistic.
    Don't misunderstand my point. I would not have stuck with the Practice either for 30 years if I thought it was all a waste of time, just someone's fairy tale. It does lead to freedom and wholeness and Wisdom and Compassion, just as advertised.

    However, it is just that the "real richness and pay off" of the story is a bit more complicated than the "children's version" of the tale that many of us are first exposed to. What I mean is ... take marriage as an example. Real marriage is not, usually, the Disney "Cinderella's Glass Slipper" version. Real marriage is much more complex, much more ups and downs, with many moral temptations and pitfalls along the way and ... if it works out ... unfathomably better than that "fairy tale".

    This Practice ... including where it takes us on the bumpy road of morality ... is something like that.

    Gassho,J
    For me, morality is correct action. Most of my actions are almost automatic without much separation between thinking and doing. But some times many the correct action is not so clear and must be thought about, discussed and digested, usually there are also a lot of feelings and emotions that go along with this. To be able to put this down and trust the answer will come in its time, and just come back to the present moment has been one of the gifts of practice. At least that's what I believe

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    BUT (AND THIS IS MY MAIN POINT) ... every second, he must keep pushing for, if he stops, he will be run over ... and every second he risks tripping up and being crushed by that boulder! Practice never ends during this life! There is no guaranty ... even if you have been doing a glorious 'smashing' job of pushing that boulder 30 years ... that you will not stumble in the next step and be smashed!
    This is so true and I have been very fortunate to still be here and I will keep trying and pushing because that is my job. Time to walk the dog.

    /Rich

  27. #27
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    However, I am not so sure about how awakening and morality are linked. Supposing that one leads to another means supposing that a moral code is deeply woven into Reality, because awakening is seeing Reality directly, no?
    No. Awakening IS reality. It is reality being reality. As for morality, technically, it doesn't exist.

    What causes 'immoral' behavior? Is it anything other than confusion, ignorance, delusion, etc.? We should start there. If immorality comes from somewhere besides the three poisons - the foundational poison being ignorance, well then - besides knocking Buddhism on its ass philosophically, we need to determine from whence comes immoral behavior.

    Chet

  28. #28

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    What causes 'immoral' behavior? Is it anything other than confusion, ignorance, delusion, etc.? We should start there. If immorality comes from somewhere besides the three poisons - the foundational poison being ignorance, well then - besides knocking Buddhism on its ass philosophically, we need to determine from whence comes immoral behavior.
    This is true, and "immoral behavior" is (as far as I can think of any example) the product of greed, anger and ignorance. Killing out of simple anger, robbery, rape, child abuse clearly are "immoral" by almost anyone's standards (not merely Buddhist standards, but generally in human society), and are not harmonious with Buddhist Practice.

    Generally, this practice will allow us to see through the ignorance, and to drop away much greed and anger, violent instincts etc. One cannot taste the fruits of this practice if flooded with extreme greed and anger ... and, in turn, this practice will help us be free (or "free-er") of greed, anger and the like.

    However, I just happen to think that the "drives" for such things as violence, sexual greed and the like are so "hard wired" into the most primitive parts of the human brain, that this practice simply does not completely eradicate that within us ... at least, not so long as we are living in these human bodies (or until we all become "Perfect Buddhas"). This practice lessens, rechannels, sublimates and tames ... but does not eliminate the potential in any human being to get caught up in any of that (given the right or wrong circumstances, we all have the potential for great charity or terrible deeds within us ... both an angel and a devil inside).

    In other words, the Practice does not completely free Sisyphus of the rock ... but the Practice is how Sisyphus deals with the rock of greed, anger and ignorance he must wrestle daily. Pushing the rock --is-- the Practice.

    Thus, this practice allows us to "see through" the greed, anger and ignorance to a realm where there is nothing to take, nothing to be taken. Further, this practice helps lesson the desire to take in excess or what is not given. However, it will never completely remove that drive within us (at least, not for most of us) ... and Sisyphus must wrestle with that rock every day (just as do all human beings).

    What is more, while murder, robbery for profit, rape, child abuse are clear cases ... there is nothing about this Practice that provides definite, black/white standards on "moral conduct" of a more ambiguous nature (apart, of course, from the writing of some detailed "Code" like the Vinaya ... but even that is subject to some interpretations). Is it acceptable to rob a bank if truly needed to feed one's family? Is a little drug use okay? Is it okay to cheat on your taxes if most of the money is going to fund a war (or if you simply do not like the government)? Can a Buddhist teacher sleep with several students if all are consenting adults? Is war ever justified? Is eating meat okay (the latter are actual "debates" recently held in this Forum). All one can do is "sit with each of these issues" ... weigh them in one's mind ... and each person will come to their own conclusions. Opinions will vary, even among "Buddhist teachers".

    Thus, while it is absolutely true that "immoral conduct" comes from "greed, anger and ignorance" ... it is not always so easy to keep us from falling into that trap no matter how long we have practiced, nor is it easy to always say exactly what "moral action" would be in a given "gray" situation ... AND MOST OF LIFE IN SAMSARA IS "GRAY" SITUATIONS!

    Finally ... I think someone mentioned that the Buddha, on his deathbed, said to abolish the Vinaya moral code. I cannot find such a reference, and would be surprised. The codes of behavior (for monks and lay folks, male and female) were certainly kept thereafter, as they were during the Buddha's life ... and with incredible detail on what constitutes "Kosher" behavior. Buddhism (Chan/Zen Buddhism was no exception ... never in any way), from the time of the Buddha through all the centuries ... until it hit the "libertine" and liberal West and "modern times" ... has been a great, moralistic, rule bound practice of "do this on Wednesdays, don't do that of Fridays" that would put Hasidic Jews to shame.

    Gassho, J

  29. #29

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Thus, while it is absolutely true that "immoral conduct" comes from "greed, anger and ignorance" ... it is not always so easy to keep us from falling into that trap no matter how long we have practiced, nor is it easy to always say exactly what "moral action" would be in a given "gray" situation ... AND MOST OF LIFE IN SAMSARA IS "GRAY" SITUATIONS!
    Maybe it has to do with intention, when ones intention is freed from greed, anger or ignorance it (ones intention) is "morally" (""cause moral in this sence is nothing to attain) correct, isnīt that simple? The outcome is a different matter, that one can not always (or never) predict.

    Just a thought.

  30. #30
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    What causes 'immoral' behavior? Is it anything other than confusion, ignorance, delusion, etc.? We should start there. If immorality comes from somewhere besides the three poisons - the foundational poison being ignorance, well then - besides knocking Buddhism on its ass philosophically, we need to determine from whence comes immoral behavior.
    I am glad that Jundo came in and responded before I first got a chance to, as he expressed some of the points I would have made quite clearly.

    I do agree that the "three poisons" are a lucid distillation of what drives us to engage in "immoral behavior." But I also think that a lot of behavior, as Jundo points out, is either "hard-wired" into us or powerfully conditioned and doesn't magically disappear when we have an insight.

    When I say, "I always used to suppose there was an underlying 'moral order' but now I am not so sure," I am not saying I do not believe that the Three Poisons can be identified as the main source of harmful behavior. Rather, I'm saying I'm not sure that whether or not we act from the Three Poisons matters to anyone or anything else other than the human beings who invented that concept. I do believe karma works, and I don't understand how skeptics like Stephen Batchelor say they don't believe in karma, because karma is just cause and effect. Our actions have effects that affect us. But I don't think "the universe" cares one way or the other if we act good or bad. If anything, evolution on Planet Earth has rewarded greed and aggression (and sometimes even ignorance) in the game of survival.

    So how this connects to the discussion of kensho / awakening and morality is that if in a moment of clear seeing we are seeing beyond the human concepts that normally frame our experience of Reality, we're not necessarily going to see "the error of our ways" and forever after be "good" because we've seen the foolishness of harmful behavior. I think "seeing the foolishness of harmful behavior" is a long process that takes years, and is tied intimately with wisdom and insight, but I don't think kensho or even practice produces morality by default. We can certainly learn to "unhook," and as you point out it is a similar mechanism in insight into reality and removing the charge from the impulse to engage in harmful behavior... but I don't think that freeing ourselves from the impulse to engage in harmful behavior happens unless we are making continuous effort toward that end, even if we are having kenshos every day.

    I don't think "the universe" cares what we do. The universe just reflects what we do back to us, and we decide whether we like what we see or not. So I don't think that someone who has a moment of seeing the universe clearly is going to necessarily receive a definitive "moral lesson" in that experience. Morality comes as the result of a choice. We must continue to make choices throughout our lives. Our wisdom can inform our choices, but there is no definitive experience that is going to ensure we always make the right choice forever afterward. Nor is there a guarantee that insight into emptiness will translate into self-restraint and moral purity.

  31. #31
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Thus, while it is absolutely true that "immoral conduct" comes from "greed, anger and ignorance" ... it is not always so easy to keep us from falling into that trap no matter how long we have practiced, nor is it easy to always say exactly what "moral action" would be in a given "gray" situation ... AND MOST OF LIFE IN SAMSARA IS "GRAY" SITUATIONS!
    I don't think that the point here is one ever attains moral perfection - I think the point of my original post was to differentiate WHERE morality comes from in Buddhism and how it's not conventional morality - that is, it's not the preferences of the one's parents and the greater culture that are absorbed into the super-ego. It comes from a falling off of the three poisons, and proper moral activity also springs from an immediate lack of delusion in the moment.

    Chet

  32. #32
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    But I also think that a lot of behavior, as Jundo points out, is either "hard-wired" into us or powerfully conditioned and doesn't magically disappear when we have an insight.
    Who's asserting that anything magically disappears upon having an insight? In the moment of insight, it may...but I think you guys are dragging up a strawman here, because I don't recall asserting the magical disappearance of immoral behavior anywhere in this thread.

    Steve Hagen asked, "What's the most important thing in Zen?" He answered himself, "To wake up." Then he asked, "What's the second most important thing in Zen?" Again he answered himself, "To wake up again." (And yeah, he began with the caveat that there's really no such thing as 'the most important thing in Zen')

    My point here has never been some fairy tale about the complete vanquishing of unskillful actions - my point is rather that the removal of obstacles comes primarily from insight and NOT from willpower or direct attack upon one's own 'immorality' - because that only causes the suppression of drives that come out in other misery-making ways. Can we not agree that all immoral behavior springs from a misunderstanding either about who and what we are and also what will ultimately bring us the most happiness? This 'hard-wired' bullshit - this is a cop out. If immoral and unskillful behavior is truly hard-wired into us, why bother with any sort of a morality practice? Accepting this little piece of rationalization also completely cuts of the Buddhist path as pertains to liberation. You are saying that liberation is not possible. Let's call this what it is, please - utter bullshit.

    No. Nothing is hard-wired. Karmically it may be nearly intractable, but it is only 'nearly' intractable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    hus, while it is absolutely true that "immoral conduct" comes from "greed, anger and ignorance" ... it is not always so easy to keep us from falling into that trap no matter how long we have practiced, nor is it easy to always say exactly what "moral action" would be in a given "gray" situation ... AND MOST OF LIFE IN SAMSARA IS "GRAY" SITUATIONS!
    And this is exactly WHY prescribed moral actions do not work - because of the grey area. This is why no one can tell you what the correct action is. Ultimately, the idea is not to avoid all moral predicaments - moral predicaments are often precisely what causes us to become honest with ourselves.

    This thread wasn't really about avoiding immoral behavior - because it's often immoral behavior that can give us insight into our own self-deception when nothing else can. (And let me cut you off at the pass by hoping you're bright enough to not translate that into 'Immoral behavior ALWAYS leads to insight.' I would think people would be smart enough to see that the two statements are not the same, but I don't want to expend energy batting away errors in logic or misattributions of what I actually DO say, LOL.)

    My point has never been that perfect insight leads to perfect morality. My point has been that, on the Buddhist path, there is no honest morality WITHOUT insight. Whomever mistranslates that into, 'Insight always translates into morality.' is guilty of a grievous logical flaw. That is to say, and let me put it in bold AND capitalize it:

    INSIGHT IS A NECESSARY BUT INSUFFICIENT COMPONENT OF MORALITY.

    Chet

  33. #33

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Zen the practice, morality the resulting action.

    The morality of which I speak is not of the forced fed variety by institutions and judged by them. Morality is rooted in and eminates from "Buddha Mind." How do we discover this mind which has alwaways been with us?
    I'm sure there are various ways but, my choice is the way of Zen.

    I'm sure when Siddhartha was sitting throught the nine years prior to his enlightment he too had his detractors. They probably told him that his way was bogus forget his foolishness and come join them because their way was the correct one. This living, breathing, eating, sitting, walking human being found the way to enlightment. So is the way not established for anyone who has the will to do the same? For those who say the possibility to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime is not possible, i think not. Who can say there was not many such enlightened folks that quietly passed throuh life without display. Perhaps, that is why we are left with," Buddhas can only speak with Buddhas"

    Lizard mind and the "little buddha" in our pants(for some not so small) that is the human condition now and exists in unison with our ability to choose various actions. Isn't it our choice of action that defines us? Isn't the power of choice an awsome responsibility?

    For the fall of the so called realized Zen teachers just how realized where they? Did they leave any good teachings behind? Isn't that what really matters? From where did they fall and where did they land?

    For me morality eminates from " Buddha Mind" and manifests in compassion for all Myriad Things. (us included) Gassho

  34. #34

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    My point here has never been some fairy tale about the complete vanquishing of unskillful actions - my point is rather that the removal of obstacles comes primarily from insight and NOT from willpower or direct attack upon one's own 'immorality' - because that only causes the suppression of drives that come out in other misery-making ways. Can we not agree that all immoral behavior springs from a misunderstanding either about who and what we are and also what will ultimately bring us the most happiness? This 'hard-wired' bullshit - this is a cop out. If immoral and unskillful behavior is truly hard-wired into us, why bother with any sort of a morality practice? Accepting this little piece of rationalization also completely cuts of the Buddhist path as pertains to liberation. You are saying that liberation is not possible. Let's call this what it is, please - utter bullshit.

    No. Nothing is hard-wired. Karmically it may be nearly intractable, but it is only 'nearly' intractable.
    Personally, I find a few things here that I don't know if I can agree with, Chet. If the removal of obsticals comes primarily from insight, and not the suppression of drives as you suggest, then why the Precepts? I think that this line of thought might be putting the cart before the horse. The fact that we are physically built to enjoy eating to excess, or anything sense based for that matter, shows that some things are indeed hard wired into our systems. Elsewise the sensory feelings would be dull and muted or our brains would not recognize them as feeling "good". This doesn't cut out the path of Buddhist liberation, it supports it. The Buddha said that we are held prisoner by our wants, desires, delusions and attachments, and only by our "practice" which is designed to lead us to insight, can we break free. The Buddha gave us the Precepts as a part of that practice, and he did so for a reason. Muscle memory perhaps. Live moral long enough, and you become moral. Insight, or realization, liberation, any of it isn't usually so easy to understand, else we would all be truly realized already and this would all be moot. The practice, I think, leads us to insight, not insight leading us to practice. Though for those "unmarked Buddhas" out there that live and die without us knowing about it, maybe it does work that way for them. But they'd be the exception, not the rule. The rest of us, must content ourselves with effortlessly working towards it, while enjoying the Nirvana of Samsara.

  35. #35

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    This seems to be a debate between the Freudians and the Maslovians.

  36. #36

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    This 'hard-wired' bullshit - this is a cop out. If immoral and unskillful behavior is truly hard-wired into us, why bother with any sort of a morality practice?
    I read this in New Scientist last week - fortunately it's on line so I don't have to describe it myself: http://www.newscientist.com/article/...cial-bias.html

    I do note that it stops short of saying that it proves that racial stereotyping is innate or 'hard wired' in the last sentence. But it does point towards innate biological tendencies - which are 'perfect' in themselves - but which for the greater good of society we have outlawed as 'immoral'. (And I'm not suggesting that's a bad thing and that we should all follow our 'natural' inclinations!)

    So, because society is defining what is immoral here, we can say that something that we would call immoral or unskilful behaviour is a fundamental part of our make up, and that we can be totally unaware of it until we are taught that it is wrong, or until our empathy skills develop to the extent that we can attempt to use them to override these instincts. Our ability to act morally could be described as our ability or willingness, to overide these tendencies. Which involves some sort of internal work, some sort of practice, is not guaranteed so even if practised will not automatically produce the 'best' result. Scribbling away here, not sure if I said what i meant to - time to walk the dogs - catch up with you all later
    gassho,
    Monkton

  37. #37
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    My point here has never been some fairy tale about the complete vanquishing of unskillful actions - my point is rather that the removal of obstacles comes primarily from insight and NOT from willpower or direct attack upon one's own 'immorality' - because that only causes the suppression of drives that come out in other misery-making ways. Can we not agree that all immoral behavior springs from a misunderstanding either about who and what we are and also what will ultimately bring us the most happiness? This 'hard-wired' bullshit - this is a cop out. If immoral and unskillful behavior is truly hard-wired into us, why bother with any sort of a morality practice? Accepting this little piece of rationalization also completely cuts of the Buddhist path as pertains to liberation. You are saying that liberation is not possible. Let's call this what it is, please - utter bullshit.

    No. Nothing is hard-wired. Karmically it may be nearly intractable, but it is only 'nearly' intractable.
    Personally, I find a few things here that I don't know if I can agree with, Chet. If the removal of obsticals comes primarily from insight, and not the suppression of drives as you suggest, then why the Precepts? I think that this line of thought might be putting the cart before the horse. The fact that we are physically built to enjoy eating to excess, or anything sense based for that matter, shows that some things are indeed hard wired into our systems. Elsewise the sensory feelings would be dull and muted or our brains would not recognize them as feeling "good". This doesn't cut out the path of Buddhist liberation, it supports it. The Buddha said that we are held prisoner by our wants, desires, delusions and attachments, and only by our "practice" which is designed to lead us to insight, can we break free. The Buddha gave us the Precepts as a part of that practice, and he did so for a reason. Muscle memory perhaps. Live moral long enough, and you become moral. Insight, or realization, liberation, any of it isn't usually so easy to understand, else we would all be truly realized already and this would all be moot. The practice, I think, leads us to insight, not insight leading us to practice. Though for those "unmarked Buddhas" out there that live and die without us knowing about it, maybe it does work that way for them. But they'd be the exception, not the rule. The rest of us, must content ourselves with effortlessly working towards it, while enjoying the Nirvana of Samsara.
    I think you picked a good example with the over-eating because I have a real-world example that speaks to that example.

    I've tried to get a lean, bodybuilder's physique for over 10 years. I would try to 'eat right' - the right kinds of foods, the right portion sizes, etc. Inevitably, my willpower would wane and I'd be right back where I started - or worse. I got up to about 22-25% body fat - that's about normal for people in general, but it's an utter failure for a bodybuilder.

    Then I discovered intermittent fasting, a way to work WITH my tendency to over-eat by more strictly setting up WHEN I can eat. When I don't eat, I eat NOTHING - but when I do, I get all my calories in an 8-hour eating window. This means I get big, satisfying meals, even on a significant calorie cut. Willpower is only required about 2-4 hours a day, if that. The urge to over-eat is satisfied daily, and yet instead of getting fatter, I got much, much leaner.

    Combating my tendency to over-eat and my desire to feel satisfied never worked for long and it often ended with me getting fatter, not leaner. Working with my desire to over-eat turned my desire into an ally in a greater goal.

    Chet

  38. #38
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I was thinking this morning on the way to work that perhaps my take on this is influenced by my Freudian training (though I actually prefer Object Relations in terms of psychoanalytic schools) and seeing human behavior through terms of aggressive and pleasure drives--good call, gakuse.

    I was also thinking that this is a complex topic, which is what makes it an interesting discussion. I'm figuring out my thoughts on this as I type them up--this isn't something I have a solid perspective on yet, though I do have some thoughts.

    Something I've been trying to figure out how to articulate is a perspective I've been developing that is relevant to this discussion. Which is that Buddhist training and realization is a path that gives us the freedom to transcend our biological conditioning. The human condition already gives us more ability to transcend biological conditioning, and the Buddhist path is a path of perfecting the human condition. As people, we are still driven by instinct, but our creativity, our ability to think abstractly, to detach ourselves and think when we get that immediate rush of blood to the head (or wherever else), allows us to choose different paths in dealing with instinct. We can express it in multiple ways or repress it. We can be creative in terms of what foods we like and what we're attracted to. Moreso than other animals, that tend to respond to the same triggers in the same way, always (though animals too have some capacity to be creative and spontaneous).

    Buddhism takes all this a step further. Buddhism allows us to see the content of our minds as content and trains us not to automatically identify with it. It allows us to have a similar perspective on our bodies and feelings. We can think or feel something but detach ourselves from it. This allows us to act rather than to simply react.

    More and more, I believe morality is a choice. I believe we have a natural tendency to be helpful and kind, but we also have a natural tendency to be competitive and cruel. Neither tendency is more 'true' than the other. Both are part of who we are. Nature, or "the universe" (to use the phrase many Zen Buddhists seem to like to substitute for "God"), does not give a shit one way or the other. We have a lot of theories about how nature ultimately rewards good action, but I am not sure it is so. Nature rewards intelligence, strength, and dominance. From an evolutionary perspective, the stories of saints and bodhisattvas sacrificing themselves to hungry tigers are a "total fail." However, from a human perspective, these stories reflect something we recognize as good.

    Of course, we are a part of "the universe" too, so our ability to see beyond simple win/lose, strong/weak, etc., dichotomies, is also a tendency of the whole of reality. And perhaps something in the fabric of the universe has prescribed that such beings will arise. I don't know, and I don't think it matters that much. It seems to me though that there is no force out there pressing us to do good. It is ourselves, our own imaginations, that allow us to envision acts of "good" rather than simply acts of power or success. I think this is perhaps what Blake was talking about when he lauded Imagination as our highest human quality and saw Christ as an avatar of imagination. The ability to take moral action, to choose a good path, to be self-sacrificing, is something that has risen in the human imagination.

    So all this meandering thought goes back to... yes, we may be "hard-wired" in certain ways but that does not mean that we are "doomed" to act in certain ways. It means that we have evolved, perhaps, to be aggressive and to seek to dominate others, but that in our humanity we can rise above our hard-wiring and not act simply because instinct or impulse suggests we do. This is where the Buddhist path comes in... and the link between morality and insight. Both arise from our ability to disidentify with the goings-on of our organisms. We don't have to believe our thoughts about reality (insight) and we don't have to act solely driven by greed, anger, and ignorance / instincts / pleasure and aggression drives (morality).

    So yes, all this practice does go together. We learn to "unhook" from delusive ideas about what Reality is, and we learn to "unhook" from instinctive drives to aggress against others.

  39. #39

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Perfect Buddhas and Zen Masters exist primarily in dusty books. Such perfect Buddhas and Masters -- being the product of the writer's imagination -- are drawn to always act in the perfect way appropriate to the circumstances, always say the right and wise thing to fit the story in which they appear. Perfect Buddhas are perfectly enlightened and perfectly moral ... and probably someone's dream of what a Buddha should be.
    I believe that I way "over-spoke" here in my excitement. I do know and can see (beyond some thing to "see") a perfect "Buddha realm", Nirvana and "Perfect Buddha" (though all just labels for something beyond labels) ... that perspective where there is no one to kill or be killed, nothing to steal or in need of taking. It is True, folks! We encounter this (although ultimately no "we" and nothing to "encounter") in a quiet moment of Zazen.

    My point is merely that we all live down here in muddy, confused, sometimes beautiful sometimes not, Samsara, filled with complex moral choices each day (Should I buy a pair of sneakers if I know that there is a 15% chance it was made in a child labor sweat shop? Should I drive a car if I know that it contributes a little to someone getting lung cancer from the pollutants or suffering in an "oil war" on the other side of the world?) And while NIRVANA is PERFECTLY SAMSARA when known as such ... and although we all have our inner "Buddha" which is a small, still voice within of Wisdom and Compassion ... we have to be very very cautious in understanding just how that awareness perfumes, guides, forms and frames our moral choices down here in bloody Samsara. It Ain't so Simple as saying that, by merely tasting the Nirvana all around us, we will know whether to buy those sneakers or drive that car.

    That's really my main point.

    Gassho, J

    PS -
    Quote Originally Posted by Janne H
    Maybe it has to do with intention, when ones intention is freed from greed, anger or ignorance it (ones intention) is "morally" (""cause moral in this sence is nothing to attain) correct, isnīt that simple? The outcome is a different matter, that one can not always (or never) predict.
    Well, yes, both traditional views of "Karma", as well as the ordinary Civil and Criminal law in Western Societies generally hold us responsible for our intentional acts (or, in the case of the law, acts which we know or should reasonably know will likely come out some way, and thus are equivalent to "intentional"). I think it a fair moral standard.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    When I say, "I always used to suppose there was an underlying 'moral order' but now I am not so sure," I am not saying I do not believe that the Three Poisons can be identified as the main source of harmful behavior. Rather, I'm saying I'm not sure that whether or not we act from the Three Poisons matters to anyone or anything else other than the human beings who invented that concept.
    Well, as Taigu and I sometimes point out about Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion ... it does not matter whether a He/She actually exists in the world ... for when any of us do an act of Compassion, Kannon actually exists in the world. Same for an act of evil ... which makes the "devil" and "hell" real in this universe.

    viewtopic.php?p=15494#p15494

    I do believe karma works, and I don't understand how skeptics like Stephen Batchelor say they don't believe in karma, because karma is just cause and effect. Our actions have effects that affect us.
    I do not think that Stephen Batchelor (and me too, by the way) deny "Karma", that our volitional actions have effects. It is more the overly mechanical view that if we do X "we" will come back as bunny rabbits ... and that harmful acts have to have some 1-to-1 payoff somewhere down the road. In fact, at least for me, I do not deny it ... so much as call myself a "skeptical agnostic" who just considers the question moot so long as we focus on not doing harm right in this life, right now.

  40. #40

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    ... I think the point of my original post was to differentiate WHERE morality comes from in Buddhism and how it's not conventional morality - that is, it's not the preferences of the one's parents and the greater culture that are absorbed into the super-ego. It comes from a falling off of the three poisons, and proper moral activity also springs from an immediate lack of delusion in the moment. ...

    My point here has never been some fairy tale about the complete vanquishing of unskillful actions - my point is rather that the removal of obstacles comes primarily from insight and NOT from willpower or direct attack upon one's own 'immorality' - because that only causes the suppression of drives that come out in other misery-making ways.

    Chet
    I think it may be a too broad brush. Almost all human groups, Buddhist or not, share a common morality ... do not kill, do not steal, do not covet thy neighbor's wife. One might think that that is somewhat "hard wired" into the human brain too, based on its commonality. We all have some variation of the "Golden Rule" ... with the main Buddhist addition perhaps being that "the other" that your "self" "does unto" is "not two" from you!

    And I think that Buddhists, as much as anyone, need a combination of that small inner voice, the teachings of their parents, and imposed outside rules/laws/policemen/the Tax Office/Vinaya to keep us on the "straight and narrow" (or, in traditional Buddhism, the belief that one was going to incur "Bad Karma", and come back as a snake or burn in a Buddhist Hell! viewtopic.php?p=17953#p17953 ). We also need some inner "guilt" and "regret" (in moderation folks!) for the bad stuff we have done, and "willpower" to keep us from "doing the nasty" when nobody is looking sometimes. ALL human beings, Buddhist or not, need all of that (the history of Buddhist society is my "evidence", cause it has needed all of that to keep people "good" down here in Samsara since the time of the Buddha and ever since.).

    However, I do fully agree with this you wrote, Chet ..."INSIGHT IS A NECESSARY BUT INSUFFICIENT COMPONENT OF MORALITY."

    Gassho, J

    PS -

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Nature rewards intelligence, strength, and dominance. From an evolutionary perspective, the stories of saints and bodhisattvas sacrificing themselves to hungry tigers are a "total fail." However, from a human perspective, these stories reflect something we recognize as good.
    I very much disagree. "Nature" (of which we are part and parcel, as much as the lions and petunias) also rewards ... in human society, anyway ... generosity, kindness and cooperation, etc. (but that is even so in the animal kingdom ... where many animals cooperate, engage in self sacrifice for the group, etc.). So, stories of the saints and bodhisattvas are not a "total fails" ... any more than the tale of the soldier who jumps on a grenade for his buddies, the man who donates a kidney to a stranger, etc. They are human beings at our best ... and perfectly "natural" behavior.

    But, yes, as you say, ". I believe we have a natural tendency to be helpful and kind, but we also have a natural tendency to be competitive and cruel."

    ALTRUISM IN ANIMALS

    http://zoology.suite101.com/article.cfm ... in_animals

    Of course, we are a part of "the universe" too, so our ability to see beyond simple win/lose, strong/weak, etc., dichotomies, is also a tendency of the whole of reality. And perhaps something in the fabric of the universe has prescribed that such beings will arise.
    I feel it is so. But whether it is or not ... WE'RE HERE, and had better make the best of this self-life-world.

  41. #41

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Maybe this is why Buddha simplifiied everything by not owning anything except for a couple of robes and bowls and begging for food to survive. His very existance depended on the generosity and caring by others. His nirvana and samsara were much closer to one as compared to ours...maybe. Anyway if the right choice, decision or action isn't clear maybe we just have to wait for the clouds to clear up. A lot of times the choice becomes unecessary and irrelevent anyway. What kind of socially and environmentally friendly sneakers should I buy? :lol:

  42. #42

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Didn't the Buddha in the Pali say that the function of morality was to create the right conditions to achieve enlightenment..along with everything else. All tools to achieve the the beyond good and bad 'state' he called nirvana. Following the rules keeps people off your back, stops you having guilt etc.- all in all it benefits your practice and state of mind. As always a practical reason (the main focus of all my posts) is the why it is recommended. of course this doesn't leave others out because it is about them being happier too by our restraint and non-hurting mindset. if its something we need to rigidly adopt until we can live unconditoned by the poisons then it can be a great thing.
    As a separate note I was reading about the difference between modern and historical morality (a simplistic distinction). The author was saying that today we debate what would you do in such and such a situation or is it right to x, y or z. In the past there was more emphasis on character- who are you in the world, and out of taht naturally come the actions in situations. It is certainly worth contemplating the difference between the two approaches.
    I agree that ultra-forced morality can lead us to do the very thing we are trying to stop. That happens if we suppress. if we can allow the problem to be with us in consciousness, and then either we change it with chod- like therapeutic techniques or it just goes or loses its sting or is metta'd, then the restriction has served us by bringing to light that which is now accepted and transformed.
    Just some thoughts
    Rich

  43. #43

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I think that if everyone glances through the posts on this thread, you'll start to see a common theme. A desire to be enlightened and more than we are simply taught to be leads us to study Buddhism. This study encourages us to practice, part of which is to realize and identify when our human nature is trying to direct us to act instead of our realized selves. In practicing, we learn we are all inseparable, yet unique and in realizing that we make the effort to act morally. In acting morally we benefit all beings (as best we can). Eventually, (we hope) we realize that we are all inseparable, if unique, and because of that we act in a way that benefits all beings, which just so happens to coincide with what we call moral.

    As an illustration, it might look something like this......



  44. #44
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I should mention that I think the Buddha set up the 'imposed' morality of the precepts (and for monks, the Vinaya) in order to make practice and insight as likely and as simple as possible. Not only should you not lie because it sets up ill will amongst your neighbors - it's also mighty difficult to keep up with the many versions of truth you put out there. Much of the precepts is just 'KISS' logic. Like Grizzly said, it keeps you out of trouble and it keeps you from creating sticky new karmic situations that you then have to navigate.

    But for me - how did I learn restraint (whatever quantity of that quality that I can be said to possess, LOL)? Mostly through the painful lessons learned through lack of restraint, sadly.

    Chet

  45. #45

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I have found precepts, ethics, morals, (acknowledging that these are not exactly synonyms) can bring a lot of insight and benefits. For years I didn't take refuge (receive the "outer" precepts) until the precepts seemed to come out from within me 'spontaneously' [after considering them for a long time in the context of practice] as an insight.

    In practical terms as Chet just mentioned, but also in sitting, ethics and morality are important. It's hard to really "just sit" when you have heavy karma, hard to get to the subtle "other shore". This is in part because some of the insights you might gain have to do with the nature of your relationship to everyone/everything "else". Without a "me" opposing "you" what is there except relating, except interaction? How can we interact without consideration, without morality?

    Something you all might recall called "Mahayana Buddhism" came [at least in part] from such insight that self-release was good so far, but not quite the whole picture. My zen teacher used to say "when you sit, the whole world is sitting with you." This is not really just a metaphor. This is a great insight into ethics and morals.

    But we should remember, the "insight" that we are discussing, the one you imagine, is not really the 'true' insight - and that might get over looked in talking about it.

    You can't really talk about the true insight that releases us from [abolishes] unethical activity because it looks just like ethical behavior itself - what's the difference? When does morality happen? Now. When does insight happen? Now. You can't really say something like "when zen insight comes, will I have a different view of morality then?" Insight is now! Morality is now!

    Preachers TALK a lot about ethical behavior and look at how that ends up so often. Im not saying don't talk about it, Im just saying that talk is not morality, not insight. Talk always ends up contradictory, always, because it is conceptual - a representation of THIS. We should just remember this.

    Morality is the EXPRESSION of morality, the expression of compassion - which is the word I'm more used to.

    There are those [even in Buddhism btw] who have hidden behind [or were confused by] their own imaginary insight which supposedly put them above worldly ethics and morality.

    Just please, brake for cats crossing the street! THAT is insight. THAT is morality. Don't bring harm. Zen insight or what ever words you want to use will not absolve you of the fact and responsibilities of being-interdependence. What I would call "karma" or working within the karmic realm is exactly the work of Buddha - they are of "one taste" as Tibetans often say.

    If you screw up and are unethical or immoral in some way you don't get reprieve from being a Buddha, you ARE Buddha, you are just an unethical Buddha and you are on the hook for that.

    Zen and morality are exactly the same.

    gassho

  46. #46

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Dorje T

    Morality is the EXPRESSION of morality, the expression of compassion - which is the word I'm more used to.
    ...

    Just please, brake for cats crossing the street! THAT is insight. THAT is morality. Don't bring harm.
    Well spokern DT!

    Zazen, JUST DO IT. Morality, JUST DO IT, Living, JUST DO IT. Breathing, JUST DO IT. Enlightenment JUST DO IT.

    The proof of the sweetness is in the pudding.

    'Tis the "JUST DOING' that is the Zazen-Morality-Practice-Enlightenment! (In Master Dogen's Self-Life-Worldview).

    Tis the DOING that 'realizes' the morality (i.e., makes morality and compassion real in this world). Tis the DOING that realizes Zazen-morality-practice-enlightenment-living and breathing.

    JUST DO IT and let the DOING JUST DO YOU!

    (my favorite "Just Do It" picture ... just doin' what come natural)


  47. #47
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Great post, DT!

    Chet

  48. #48

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    It occurred to me this morning that the morality of, say, the Theravadans- and society in general are not actually prohibitions if looked at in another way. At this moment, and in most moments, most of us aren't breaking those rules. To break a precept (as an absolute rule) you have to DO something, not NOT DO something. The 'state' we are in for most the time is not breaking. This can lead to do a different approach to stealing/killing/getting drunk/speaking badly. If we have to break our current natural state to do these things we come from an original position of being "without sin" rather then being a "sinner" trying to repent and change. Different mindset. The blocking of an urge to break the precepts, which is what most of us try to do, is radically different from not allowing the arising of anything that needs to be blocked in the first place.
    I am rushing this thought out but it seems to me this is where perhaps absolute and relative can be seen as one?
    Rich

    Was thinking about this because I came across a story of a famous Korean Zen monk having relationships with students allegedly. I really think that we must condemn this behaviour (not because it is absolutely wrong and neither because he did anything bad- there was no allegations of non-consent etc) but because he wasn't transparent and didn't follow the rules he himself had accepted as a monk. If his state of mind was such that he needed that then he could've disrobed and admitted he was not fully enlightened (please don't pull me on this last word as I'm shorthanding this!)- it was most likely ego that prevented that. In Maezumi's case- he too could've stepped down and talked about having partial realisation and human problems- although I understand he was open about his drinking. It did however cause, or be part of the cause, for others suffering. Anyway this last paragraph isn't the point...just a follow on ramble...
    Rich

  49. #49

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly
    ....The 'state' we are in for most the time is not breaking. This can lead to do a different approach to stealing/killing/getting drunk/speaking badly. If we have to break our current natural state to do these things we come from an original position of being "without sin" rather then being a "sinner" trying to repent and change. Different mindset. The blocking of an urge to break the precepts, which is what most of us try to do, is radically different from not allowing the arising of anything that needs to be blocked in the first place.
    So, we can avoid this idea of "sin" [I know you probably meant is as analogy only] by recognizing this as cause and effect. When I do this, that is the effect. Taking effects into account is to have a big [deeper] view of things. When we have a really big view we can see the probable effects of our actions and thus avoid the negative consequences. That is one way of looking at it.

    But we can get caught up in even that. We can think that we have a really holistic, 'big view' now, we can fall in love with our "big view" and start to believe that any action that arises out of our "big view" is beyond negative because we have this "big view" after all. Right about then when we fall off the edge of the view point.

    We usually think that actions flow out from our thoughts, but actually, thoughts flow from actions as well. We might think that when we finally get enlightened everything we experience afterwords will then be the effect of or "flow" from our enlightenment. We might think that we have to get to somewhere called enlightenment, and then once we are there, what happens after that will be enlightened action. But actions can precede thoughts. We don't have to wait for enlightenment to express our enlightenment.


    What I've gotten from zen in the present context is this:
    The "big view" doesn't just flow from thought to enlightened action - in fact, if it does that it's called karma producing action. Enlightened action also flows from enlightened action to the big view. First we should just express the big view, express our enlightened action, then worry about attaining it if we want later, after we've already attained it.

    Sometimes your head leads your body to the cushion, sometimes your body leads your head.


    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly
    Was thinking about this because I came across a story of a famous Korean Zen monk having relationships with students allegedly. I really think that we must condemn this behaviour (not because it is absolutely wrong and neither because he did anything bad- there was no allegations of non-consent etc) but because he wasn't transparent and didn't follow the rules he himself had accepted as a monk. If his state of mind was such that he needed that then he could've disrobed and admitted he was not fully enlightened (please don't pull me on this last word as I'm shorthanding this!)- it was most likely ego that prevented that. In Maezumi's case- he too could've stepped down and talked about having partial realisation and human problems- although I understand he was open about his drinking. It did however cause, or be part of the cause, for others suffering. Anyway this last paragraph isn't the point...just a follow on ramble...
    Rich
    This is a complex issue. I think a lot of this came from cultural differences. Our culture in the west demands our own sense of openness and we certainly have our own sense of sexuality and gender issues. Not excusing any possible abusive behavior here, but we have to avoid putting teachers on perfection pedestals and we also have to not throw the baby out with the bath water. Teachers are very human. We add to the problem by making them otherwise. Our western culture will change the teacher student relationship for the better Im sure. At least it will suit us in the west. Now days most Buddhist centers recognize that relationships are not equal when one person is in a position of authority so some good has come from a bad situation I think already.

  50. #50

    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    Hi Dorje

    I'm not quite sure I understood you! I simply meant we have to actually DO something to break precepts. We are fine right now- we have to make an effort to go 'wrong'. That effort requires an intention and an action (is karmic). If we joined a Theravada monastery we would be keeping all the major precepts quite naturally...until we DID something else. That's quite amazing.....naturally and with no effort things are as they should be.

    I put sin in commas to show its relative nature but I'm quite happy with the term- it means 'missing the mark' (apparently was an archery term).

    I don't think its an issue of putting teachers on pedestals. Its a practical matter of openess and transparency and following rules we have set ourselves. As soon as we add to just being ordinary humans- we get a Dharma name, some robes, teach a bit etc. - we have chosen to represent a tradition and that tradition has explicit and implicit rules, it presents an image to the public of what its there for etc etc. We take on responsibilities. Take me, I'm a nobody. I have no Dharma name, no robes. I can say anything without causing the Buddhist world and students any problems really. As soon as you 'move up' you become a representative and have to be sure you are in a position to be that. I recall Nhat Hahn tells of when he was doing a peace talk over the 'Nam war. He was asked a hurtful question and responded admirably, then quickly left the stage. He went outside shaking and was desperately trying to regulate his breathing. It turns out the question had made him so angry that he had to control his breathing to such an extent he was having some problems after. He wasn't perfect (whatever that is) but he took full responsibility for not causing suffering to others and to take it on board himself and deal with it. Everyone goes on about 'no goal' in sitting and living, and its a good teaching in its way, unless we hold on to it and use it to justify philosophical positions. The only point of Buddhism is to end suffering for every being and reach a good functioning level of that in our lives here and now. If we don't then we might be better off doing other things than wasting time on what may well be, in our self-deception, just another ego-trip. Because we all suffer from self-deception (its scary how bad it can be) its so easy to come up with reasons, justifications and excuses. In fact our conscious minds' job is partly to write those stories- we very often have no idea why we do what we do because its unconscious. In one sense morality can bring offer a way in to that stuff perhaps. If we set ourselves a goal of not speaking harshly then we have direct evidence of whether we are achieving it every single day. If we have courage to investigate when we fail we might gradually uncover and transform what kept us from speaking gently. At the same time when someone says that its too hard to do that we can recognise the truth of this and their decision without throwing them out of our hearts. Obviously we do this for those at the top that fail too, even if they continue to maintain their status and justify themselves, because our compassion includes them and reduces world suffering that way too.

    Have a good day

    Rich

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