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Thread: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

  1. #1
    Stephanie
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    Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    One of the points argued by Jundo in the recent exchange between Jundo and Chet was that true realization manifests itself in our day-to-day behavior, and that how we can judge a person's spiritual wisdom is by how he behaves. A truly realized person would be kind, humble, and gentle, of inoffensive speech and tactful manner.

    I'm not sure I agree with this.

    I don't think that personality type or conditioning has much to do with understanding or wisdom. Most people use a manner of speech that is natural to them. And others respond to it who are conditioned to think and speak in that way themselves. To me, this is just a testament to the value of upaya and the need for many, many different bodhisattvas who can speak to many, many different assemblies. The real Tower of Babel is our conditioning, which splits the singular fabric of reality into a billion different ways of seeing and speaking about it. The reason we can't understand one another is because of our different conditioning. But that conditioning is also our greatest tool in learning how to communicate our experience to others.

    I think it's easy for any of us to want to pat ourselves on the back for how good or wise we are, and we use our own forced episodes of goodness as evidence. I know I'm guilty of it. "Look, see how kind I was to you and how unkind you were to me." Such behavior always has a hook in it, a hidden intent and agenda. We act good because of what we think it will get us, even if that is only kudos.

    As far as I understand it, realization is letting go of grasping after results. It's letting go of our ideals about the saints we would like to be. It's letting go of our ideas about how we and the world should function, including moral ideals. Realization is seeing when we are grasping, and letting go. I don't think there's any particular moral flavor to it. We can grasp after "goodness" just as much as we can grasp after "sin" and "evil." We might be the greedy "taker" who can't stop taking and using and eating everything, or the saintly "giver" so high on spiritual pride and self-righteousness that we are sated on that alone. Each is just a role. The truth isn't switching one role for another, it's dropping the roles altogether and seeing that they're just constructions of the mind, imposed on reality.

    I think bodhisattvas are hidden in plain sight everywhere. And I'm not just talking about people who perform random acts of kindness. A bodhisattva might smell of heavenly perfume and she might also stink of three day old b.o. and alcohol. What matters isn't what she smells or looks like, it's whether her words wake us up, help us drop the deluded thoughts and opinions we're clinging to. And who does this for whom tends to vary from person to person. Try to tell it to me with jazz, and I'll probably just look puzzled. Tell it to me with heavy metal, and I'll give you the horns. Whereas some people cannot hear the thunderous wisdom of the metal gods but hear a thousand cosmic secrets in the lines of jazz.

    I think it is possible to wake up and I don't think it has to do with becoming a nicer person or learning how to live a quieter, happier life. Nothing wrong with those things. But attachment is attachment whether we're attaching to something nice or something nasty. Of course, it's wiser to attach to something pleasant smelling than something stinky, but that sort of conventional wisdom--which is not to be sniffed at--is not the same as realization, which is seeing clearly the arbitrariness of attachment and its inability to bring us the things we desire.

    I think something is to be said for the value of being urged to see through convention and morality and belief, to let go into total freedom. Aleister Crowley called it "crossing the Abyss." Because it's terrifying to let go of the familiar things that give us comfort, like our reassuring ideas of right and wrong and what kind of people we are. But you have to go through the terror to get to the freedom on the other side.

  2. #2

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    I think both you and Jundo are correct.

    Personality type and conditioning and manners of speech are an individual thing and like you, I do not think they matter much. I do not believe wise people necessarily behave in any particular way, expressing what we culturally think as "niceness" or "humbleness" or whatever. It is very typical (especially in international communities) that someone is thought of as either rude and mean or a push-over when in fact they are neither, but simply behave in a personal and cultural way that gives those signals to another person, possibly of another culture.

    However, I do not think all "wisdom" and "morality" are related to such things. Kindness is kindness and meanness is meanness regardless of cultural and personal differences. We just need to learn to see through the culture and accept that e.g. respect might sometimes be expressed in a way we would express disrespect.

    As to "awakening" and "enlightenment"---I do not know what the proper definition of those are. But would awakening simply being a "personal realization and letting go of grasping" not result in the whole thing being just a personal trip into feel-good land? Why would we care if someone is awake or not (including ourselves), if it changes nothing?

  3. #3
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaana
    Why would we care if someone is awake or not (including ourselves), if it changes nothing?
    Exactly.

  4. #4

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Stephanie, Jaana,

    Two brilliant posts. Kinda like Jaana said, I don't think this is a black and white equation. Jundo isn't wrong but neither is Stephanie. The important thing to look at here is "striving to be..." or priorities in/of life. If you slip up in your conduct or speech it is just that, a slip up. Unless of course you are someone that gets off on being harmful and disgusting towards your fellow man. There is obviously a line though, you can't suggest you don't WANT to and were striving to be good while you tied someone up and cut their throat. But failing to be perfect while having a complete understanding of what maybe you should have said instead IS part of the path. It is your intentions and motives that are just as or more important than your actions/words the vast majority of the time. Don't forget about the worst horse...
    "Do No Harm"

    ~Rob

  5. #5

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Hi.

    The tenth oxherding picture is "returning to the market", and even after his "enlightenment" Gautama still suffered and had troubles dealing with the world...
    It's all good practice.
    Enlightenment changes nothing, and that changes everything...

    Being humble all the time is not acting on the moment, or even acting as one should.
    Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.
    Enlightenment doesn't make you humble, nice or whatever.
    It makes you what you are, or maybe rather makes you see what you are...

    But in the end, its all good practice.
    Thank you for your practice.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  6. #6

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Quote Originally Posted by Jaana
    Why would we care if someone is awake or not (including ourselves), if it changes nothing?
    Exactly.
    When the self becomes the selfless/self everything is irrevocably changed. The whole has been transformed. The greatest change of all takes place within oneself without the "attachment" of approval from anyone. Gassho Shogen

  7. #7

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    "Morality" and "wisdom" are only words. Words to attempt to describe the ineffable. Yet, of course, we must come to terms with them as they are important parts of our path.

    We fall; we get up.
    Our teacher falls; our teacher gets up.
    No one "masters" walking to the point of never falling again.
    No one masters life/wisdom/etc. to the point of never falling again either.

    We tend to think that when someone trips and falls that how he/she gets up is what is important.
    I think what is more important is what the folks observing the fall do.

    Do they say, "See, I told you you weren't as good as you thought you were."?
    Do they say, "Well, he is an excellent walker, so there must have been someone else who placed an object in front of them. He would have never fallen if it weren't for them." Or, "I know a guy who is a much better walker than him, let's go watch him."?
    Do they offer to help him up?
    Do they sit back and see how bad the damage is and see if he's going to be OK on his own?
    No one is perfect. That's not an excuse for bad behavior, but it IS the human condition.

    If you want a perfect teacher, you are screwed. That's all there is to it, because there are no perfect teachers. EXCEPT that there are ones who are just like us, perfect in their imperfection. So how can we accept our imperfection/perfection and not accept those of others? I don't mean that we should enable or condone bad behavior. But isn't it possible to be aware that we are all students . . . teachers included? Very few of us benefit from having 100 people jump on them when they make a mistake. A word of reprimand followed by words of encouragement seem to be a better solution. THAT seems to be the practice of both morality and wisdom.

    If we cannot have compassion for the failings of the teachers (and I mean ALL of them, all the way back to Shakyamuni), how can we ever deal with our own?

    Maybe I'm taking this thread somewhere it wasn't going to go. For that, I apologize.

    Gassho,
    Eika

  8. #8

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Hello friends,

    It seems that what is missing is balance; sometimes there is need for a masseuse, sometimes a chiropractor. Being completely soft is just as much off balance as being completely hard. Skill and wisdom come from learning when to use one or the other, and in what measure.

    Not being in the know about the events with Chet, I cannot comment on how this is applicable, but I do believe that true realization does manifest itself in one's everyday actions. Not from being soft or hard, though, but from being selfless. From doing what needs to be done regardless of the outcome to oneself, and regardless of whether it will be seen as soft or hard.

    Just my thoughts, and please disregard them if they make no sense.

    Metta,

    Perry

  9. #9

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    One of the points argued by Jundo in the recent exchange between Jundo and Chet was that true realization manifests itself in our day-to-day behavior, and that how we can judge a person's spiritual wisdom is by how he behaves. A truly realized person would be kind, humble, and gentle, of inoffensive speech and tactful manner.
    Per my understanding - a truly realized person wouldn't be judging a person's spiritual wisdom in the first place. A truly realized person would understand that humble, gentle, and inoffensive are judgements of small mind and also just another trap.

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I think it's easy for any of us to want to pat ourselves on the back for how good or wise we are, and we use our own forced episodes of goodness as evidence. I know I'm guilty of it. "Look, see how kind I was to you and how unkind you were to me." Such behavior always has a hook in it, a hidden intent and agenda. We act good because of what we think it will get us, even if that is only kudos.
    If you are acting "good" because of what it will get you, I don't believe you are type of person Jundo was describing. It is a trap that people can fall into and I'd be lying if I said I never did that, but truly acting in a kind and gentle way is not about what it gets you, whether it's kind behavior in return or enlightenment. It just doesn't work that way. And if your experience has been that people are only good for what it will get them (perhaps I'm overstating that), I truly feel bad that you have not had more people who act goodly and kindly without thought of reward.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I think bodhisattvas are hidden in plain sight everywhere. And I'm not just talking about people who perform random acts of kindness. A bodhisattva might smell of heavenly perfume and she might also stink of three day old b.o. and alcohol. What matters isn't what she smells or looks like, it's whether her words wake us up, help us drop the deluded thoughts and opinions we're clinging to. And who does this for whom tends to vary from person to person. Try to tell it to me with jazz, and I'll probably just look puzzled. Tell it to me with heavy metal, and I'll give you the horns. Whereas some people cannot hear the thunderous wisdom of the metal gods but hear a thousand cosmic secrets in the lines of jazz.
    It is true that there are bodhisattvas everywhere, but to say all those who teach us lessons are bodhisattvas is much like those who claim to have been famous people in a previous life. As Crash Davis once said, "How come nobody ever says they were Joe Schmoe?" I think you are using the fact that Chet does have lessons to teach and has impacted the lives of people here at Treeleaf in a positive way to excuse the very unkind and harsh manner he has often displayed. I don't disagree that sometimes harsh words can lead someone else to wake up, but I honestly don't believe that such is the case for most people...and that in many cases harsh words can do quite a bit of damage. Has a kind word or a gentle manner ever hurt someone's awakening? I'm sure that's possible, especially if those actions are based in what you described earlier...an attempt to get something. But I honestly believe that kind words have a much broader effect than harsh ones...that's just my opinion and certainly open for debate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Because it's terrifying to let go of the familiar things that give us comfort, like our reassuring ideas of right and wrong and what kind of people we are. But you have to go through the terror to get to the freedom on the other side.
    I agree with the first part of that statement, but couldn't disagree more with the second part. Freedom does not require terror. To think it does is clinging to a very particular worldview that I personally do not share. I've had my share of terror and I'm sure it has led to freedom for some, but it is not indispensable.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  11. #11

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Hi everyone!
    Thank you Stephanie (and everyone) for this thread!
    It seems that last weeks discussions on the forum have been very rich and even difficult sometimes ... Anyway, Stephanie points to something important in this thread...
    I just read the all thing and I had a lot to say... Of course, it is sometimes difficult to answer to Stephanie who has a so beautiful way to explain herself...

    But, when I came to the end of the thread I realize that I don't need to say anything...
    Dosho just did it!

    So, thank you Dosho! Because you just said exactly what sprang in my head!

    gassho,
    Luis-Jinyu

  12. #12

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    One of the points argued by Jundo in the recent exchange between Jundo and Chet was that true realization manifests itself in our day-to-day behavior, and that how we can judge a person's spiritual wisdom is by how he behaves. A truly realized person would be kind, humble, and gentle, of inoffensive speech and tactful manner.
    I think realization does manifest in our day to day behavior. It's like what Taigu said in a sit-a-long. Even our posture or the position of our mudra during zazen is a reflection of where we are in our mind, what's going on with us. It's the same in everyday situations, body language, how we speak and treat others. It doesn't mean we have to walk on eggshells around each other, but it does mean that we should try to treat each other with a modicum of respect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    As far as I understand it, realization is letting go of grasping after results. It's letting go of our ideals about the saints we would like to be. It's letting go of our ideas about how we and the world should function, including moral ideals. Realization is seeing when we are grasping, and letting go. I don't think there's any particular moral flavor to it. We can grasp after "goodness" just as much as we can grasp after "sin" and "evil." We might be the greedy "taker" who can't stop taking and using and eating everything, or the saintly "giver" so high on spiritual pride and self-righteousness that we are sated on that alone. Each is just a role. The truth isn't switching one role for another, it's dropping the roles altogether and seeing that they're just constructions of the mind, imposed on reality.
    I don't know if I'm misunderstanding this, but my understanding (even if it's a newbie one) is that although good and evil may be categorizations in our mind, there is good and evil. They are not the same, and morality is at the very heart of Buddhism. Not a simple good/evil attachment, but to me walking the path will naturally lend itself to someone leading a morally good life. I don't care how philosophical we want to get and pretend that good and evil are the same. IF that was the case, then murder, rape, child soldiers... all of it wouldn't matter because "hey it's just what it is, there's nothing wrong with those things, it's just me saying those things are wrong in my mind because I'm so attached to what I consider good."

    Bull, I don't buy it, but then again, I may have mis-read this.

  13. #13

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    I think Uchiyama makes a cool point when he says that
    our zazen is always Self doing Self. But this doesn't
    mean that it is unrelated to the rest of the world. We
    have to understand the definition of Self. There is the
    delusive "I" that will never be gotten rid of. Then there
    is zazen, which is buddha. When we sit we are buddha.
    When we rise we are still buddha, but none of our actions
    are as pure as "just sitting." Everything else seems to
    be motivated by this "I." Zazen increases wisdom. We
    "see through" our thoughts, of which "I" is just one of
    many. Thus wisdom is born. Out of wisdom comes
    right action. Right action is never just what pleases
    and protects "I." If I see myself as the self of all people,
    then how can I not act morally toward them? So,
    morality is the fruit of practice. But this tree has many
    different kinds of fruit. Unfortunately, sometimes the
    fruit is rotten. And even the best apple might have a worm. :mrgreen:

    gassho
    Greg

  14. #14
    Stephanie
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    My point in this thread wasn't to justify any particular behavior, but to question what seems to be the going definition of realization at Treeleaf.

    For the most part, religions everywhere become the conventional enforcers of morality and prosocial behavior. In my opinion, traditions based on realization or awakening go beyond that. They don't leave it behind, but it isn't the central focus. Bodhidharma didn't sit facing the wall for nine years to become a nicer person or a kinder father or a more efficient office worker. Buddha didn't sit under the Bodhi Tree in order to learn how to become a better king. Dogen didn't study Zen in China in order to teach folks back in Japan how to be quiet and peaceful householders.

    To me, to focus on "kensho" or "not kensho" is beyond the point. I don't care whether someone is more into the sudden enlightenment or the gradual realization perspective. The question is, how do we define "enlightenment" or "realization"? I disagree that "enlightenment" or "realization" is defined by the extent to which one complies with moral behavioral guidelines.

    I believe that realization is clear seeing, is totally not being confused by one's own thoughts about things, is not attaching to stories or opinions or perspectives. And just like morality, one tends to "fall and get up, fall and get up" when it comes to this. Even though I haven't had a kensho experience, I've had "moments" or "glimpses" or whatever you want to call it where I got a clear sense of this freedom that our Zen ancestors talk about. But the impact of even those few glimmers! The freedom of being able to let go of the storyline that would drown me in misery! That doesn't come from following guidelines, but from seeing very clearly the completely made-up nature of the story.

    Telling yourself "life is perfect as it is" and learning how to roll with the ups and downs is not it. Being a good neighbor or practicing kind speech is not it. These are part of the Buddhist path, but they are not full realization. And if we stay stuck in this kind of practice where we never see, it's like laboring in the shadows our whole lives thinking we're sitting in the sun. We may be doing lovely things in the shadows, but we don't even know what the sunshine is like. And suddenly you step into the sun and say, "Wow, this is how it really is..." And nothing has changed, and yet the impulse to get engaged in the same old dramas goes away.

    I don't see a Zen teacher's role in my life as being a moral guide. I don't dream about becoming one of those old church biddies who's always clucking at everyone who doesn't live their idea of a moral life. Just Not Interested. That doesn't mean I'm not interested in learning how to live a kinder life. It just means I don't see that as the reason I'm here, practicing Zen.

    Something happened to me when I started researching our lineage and reading the stories of our ancestors. It inspired me in a way I haven't been inspired in a long time. And I actually want to sit. And not because I'm trying to have a certain experience, but because their passion and curiosity has lit up my own passion and curiosity. These were people who went deeply against the grain of social convention of their time. They put everything on the line to awaken. They walked away from the comforts of society. They were willing to put everything else second to waking up.

    And for them, waking up was "clarifying the great matter," "seeing your true nature," it wasn't just sitting quietly and being polite. Some of them were rough around the edges when they entered the monastery and rough around the edges when they died. They weren't known for how kind they were or how many orphans they fed or clothed that week. They were known for the fierceness of their clarity and their capacity to wake people up.

    Even in the Caodong (Tsao-tung), even in the Soto school. The Soto school didn't use the same training methods and had a different perspective, but it was still all about awakening. Dogen's Shobogenzo is all about awakening and seeing the world through awakened eyes.

    If we forget awakening at Treeleaf, we've forgotten everything, and in my opinion, there's no point in training here. Again, to emphasize, I'm not necessarily talking about having a kensho experience. I'm talking about however it happens, however sudden or gradual, waking up and seeing it, seeing this.

    I agree with the poster (I forget who, sorry), that pointed out that realization can be expressed in selflessness. Not in a sense of putting oneself second to other people, or being courteous, but in the sense of forgetting the self altogether and seeing a situation as a whole situation without reference to the thought of "How can I make this work to bolster my advantage?" But that doesn't always come through as polite or gentle speech or behavior, at least not in my experience.

    If you're on the street and some random guy says, "Hey, fuck you!" Then, to me, expressing the moment might be saying, "Hey, fuck you!" back, in that cheerful way New Yorkers have of saying it to one another :lol: Saying something like, "I'm sorry you feel that way, sir," might actually not express the situation, might demean and patronize and place yourself out of the human exchange you're in the middle of.

  15. #15
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Is morality THE measure of wisdom? No, I can't imagine wisdom could be so limited.
    Is morality A measure of wisdom? Yes, I can't imagine immoral wisdom.
    Does practicing moral behavior cultivate wisdom? Most likely so, as I think this is called practicing the Way.
    Can you practice wisdom without moral behavior? Most likely not, as that would be falling off the Path.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, there are lots of specific exceptions to this, so knock yourself out lining them up here if you want. But in the grand scheme of things the above Q&A seems right to me.

  16. #16

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    If you're on the street and some random guy says, "Hey, fuck you!" Then, to me, expressing the moment might be saying, "Hey, fuck you!" back, in that cheerful way New Yorkers have of saying it to one another
    Or online. ops:

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I don't dream about becoming one of those old church biddies who's always clucking at everyone who doesn't live their idea of a moral life.


    gassho

    Attached files

  17. #17

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Does practicing moral behavior cultivate wisdom? Most likely so, as I think this is called practicing the Way.
    Wow - if this is true I have missed the entire point of Zen. I thought (in Soto Zen) practicing the Way was zazen. Period. What some people call moral behavior might result from this practice, but the practice of (what some people would call) moral behavior certainly will not lead to enlightenment (defined as zazen in Soto).

    If practicing the Way is no different from some preacher telling me how to behave, I could have picked a religion to follow (no, I obviously don't consider Zen a religion, although I will admit that all depends on your definition of religion).

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Telling yourself "life is perfect as it is" and learning how to roll with the ups and downs is not it. Being a good neighbor or practicing kind speech is not it. These are part of the Buddhist path, but they are not full realization. And if we stay stuck in this kind of practice where we never see, it's like laboring in the shadows our whole lives thinking we're sitting in the sun. We may be doing lovely things in the shadows, but we don't even know what the sunshine is like. And suddenly you step into the sun and say, "Wow, this is how it really is..." And nothing has changed, and yet the impulse to get engaged in the same old dramas goes away.
    Clinging to one's views is not just about being attached to what we believe to be true. It is also when we are so sure of what isn't true that we become locked into a pattern of thinking. I agree that being nice and speaking kindly are not "it", but mostly because whatever "it" is would be so far beyond that very human thinking. You so often speak with such authority about what "it" is not and then turn around and presume to tell us that certain types of practice are taking the wrong path. I mean no disrespect and mean this literally: What do you know? I honestly believe that unless you let go of what "it" is not, I don't think you are likely to have any true awakening since you put so many things into the category of certainty. Could true awakening be about letting go of those "is too" vs. "is not" arguments? I have no idea...but neither do you.

  19. #19

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Because it's terrifying to let go of the familiar things that give us comfort, like our reassuring ideas of right and wrong and what kind of people we are. But you have to go through the terror to get to the freedom on the other side.
    I agree with the first part of that statement, but couldn't disagree more with the second part. Freedom does not require terror. To think it does is clinging to a very particular worldview that I personally do not share. I've had my share of terror and I'm sure it has led to freedom for some, but it is not indispensable.
    Perhaps the a better word is stress? Even if you know the results will be better than what you have now, it seems that he devil you know is better than the devil you don't for most people. Stress is not required, but it pops up during times of change (at least for me).

    As always, disregard anything that sounds overtly crazy.

    Metta,

    Perry

  20. #20

  21. #21
    Stephanie
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Perry, I find what you say to be spot on, so please don't doubt yourself! :wink:

    Dosho, I'm not speaking from a position of authority at all. But I speak with passion and conviction about what I do know. And you are free to doubt whether I know what I think I know--you should do that, in my opinion--but that doesn't really matter. My faith and doubt are my own matter, yours are your matter.

    I have had definitive experiences and turning points in my practice-life where certain delusions were dropped completely. Moments where a new clarity has emerged that has never gone away. I haven't had any definitive experience where I saw the "whole enchilada" and Everything Became Clear, but what I say isn't based on abstract theory either. Again, I'm not offended that you don't take my word for it, but hopefully you realize that there are 'fruits' of this practice even for the scruffier sitters among us

    I believe that as a sangha we are all here to teach and learn from one another. I don't think we should have to have a special permission to speak about matters as we understand them. The teachers can correct us, we can correct one another (or just add to the mistake, in some cases :lol: ), but I don't think we need to wait until a particular time to be able to speak at all.

  22. #22

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Hi Stephanie!

    I'm happy you clearly said that it was your understanding and you got the point when you say that everyone must have is one... I like the image of the Sangha being like stones polishing each other...
    And that's what we do when exposing our little understandings to each others!Sometimes, people agree, sometimes teachers correct us... But for that we need people exposing their point of view, and bringing subjects to be discussed, and you do it soooo well!

    Thank you for that!

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I believe that as a sangha we are all here to teach and learn from one another. I don't think we should have to have a special permission to speak about matters as we understand them. The teachers can correct us, we can correct one another (or just add to the mistake, in some cases :lol: ), but I don't think we need to wait until a particular time to be able to speak at all.
    Did someone say the opposite? :wink:

    gassho,
    Luis-Jinyu

  23. #23
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Does practicing moral behavior cultivate wisdom? Most likely so, as I think this is called practicing the Way.
    Wow - if this is true I have missed the entire point of Zen. I thought (in Soto Zen) practicing the Way was zazen. Period. What some people call moral behavior might result from this practice, but the practice of (what some people would call) moral behavior certainly will not lead to enlightenment (defined as zazen in Soto).

    If practicing the Way is no different from some preacher telling me how to behave, I could have picked a religion to follow (no, I obviously don't consider Zen a religion, although I will admit that all depends on your definition of religion).
    Fair point. Substitute walking the Path, if you like. But the point I was trying to make is that I think you can gain in wisdom by practicing moral behavior. It is not a given, but I think it sure helps; moving on the Path towards moral behavior seems likely to cultivate (make more likely to grow) wisdom. On the flip side, I don't think it's possible to grow much in wisdom through taking a path towards immoral behavior. Argh, such dualities :twisted: :roll:

    Again, in the grand scheme of things, does this not sound true? Doesn't moral behavior seem to coincide better with wisdom than immoral behavior? Doesn't a tendency to move towards more compassion sound more wise than a tendency to move towards dispassion, rudeness, cruelty, etc.? Is Kannon not an aspect of ultimate wisdom? Your head might be able to trick you into thinking otherwise, but I'm betting your gut will see through that trick. Doesn't this feel right in your gut?

    And remember, nothing is perfect: no one, no voice, no choice to listen to a voice, no wisdom, no morality, no immorality. So what direction do you want to take? Who's voice out there in the wilderness seems wise to follow?

  24. #24
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luis
    Hi Stephanie!

    I'm happy you clearly said that it was your understanding and you got the point when you say that everyone must have is one... I like the image of the Sangha being like stones polishing each other...
    And that's what we do when exposing our little understandings to each others!Sometimes, people agree, sometimes teachers correct us... But for that we need people exposing their point of view, and bringing subjects to be discussed, and you do it soooo well!

    Thank you for that!
    Hi Luis! You're welcome! :wink: And thank you for your kind words, Luis. You manage to encourage me and keep me on my toes at the same time :wink: I agree completely with the metaphor of stones polishing each other (or potatoes washing each other, as Seung Sahn put it :lol: ). I need to have my own stupidities (I like using "little understandings" as a euphemism :lol: ) pointed out to me quite often :shock:

    Quote Originally Posted by Luis
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I believe that as a sangha we are all here to teach and learn from one another. I don't think we should have to have a special permission to speak about matters as we understand them. The teachers can correct us, we can correct one another (or just add to the mistake, in some cases :lol: ), but I don't think we need to wait until a particular time to be able to speak at all.
    Did someone say the opposite? :wink:

    gassho,
    Luis-Jinyu
    Well, I took Dosho's response to be indicating I was speaking with an undue tone of authority.

    I find I have this problem a lot, that the way I express myself comes across as arrogant; but the feeling behind the words is not one of superiority, but passion and fierce commitment to this path. I am but a beginner--I truly believe this--and I still get caught up in my "little understandings" far too often not to be a fool a lot of the time, but I have experienced the falling away of delusions, and it is a tremendous thing when one drops even the tiniest delusion... this is why I began this practice, because I wanted to know what was true. That was really it--not wanting not to suffer any more, but to know, and understand, this business we find ourselves in the midst of. I know a lot of what I know is still only intellectual, and yet what I do know deep in my gut and heart... it's the only thing that keeps me from falling back into despair. I hear that whiny little story starting again, and recognize it: "Oh, this stupid thing," and let go, and move on. Never used to be able to do that.

  25. #25

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    [Fair point. Substitute walking the Path, if you like. But the point I was trying to make is that I think you can gain in wisdom by practicing moral behavior. It is not a given, but I think it sure helps; moving on the Path towards moral behavior seems likely to cultivate (make more likely to grow) wisdom. On the flip side, I don't think it's possible to grow much in wisdom through taking a path towards immoral behavior. Argh, such dualities :twisted: :roll:

    Again, in the grand scheme of things, does this not sound true? Doesn't moral behavior seem to coincide better with wisdom than immoral behavior? Doesn't a tendency to move towards more compassion sound more wise than a tendency to move towards dispassion, rudeness, cruelty, etc.? Is Kannon not an aspect of ultimate wisdom? Your head might be able to trick you into thinking otherwise, but I'm betting your gut will see through that trick. Doesn't this feel right in your gut?
    I would say I'm not taking a path towards either moral or immoral behavior. I'm taking a path towards enlightenment by practicing zazen. Whether that results in greater or lesser moral behavior (in the eyes of those who wish to judge such things) is irrelevant to me or my path. It appears to my unenlightened eyes that those that claim some piece of enlightenment tend to exhibit "moral" behavior, but I believe this is a result of enlightenment, not a cause of it. So I would disagree with your statement that moral behavior leads to wisdom (when equating wisdom and enlightenment).

  26. #26

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I find I have this problem a lot, that the way I express myself comes across as arrogant; but the feeling behind the words is not one of superiority, but passion and fierce commitment to this path.
    I understand that! But maybe you are just misunderstood because you "speak" too well... I mean that you just say things in a way so personal and passionate way that from the "exterior" it can sometimes seem a bit arrogant... But I truly understand your point!

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I hear that whiny little story starting again, and recognize it: "Oh, this stupid thing," and let go, and move on. Never used to be able to do that.
    Isn't it a big part of our practice?
    It reminds me when I was training in the Theravadan tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw... always nothing the same things... but finally seeing these same things again and again make a sort of shift in the way we react to these things... but not on these things themselves :wink:

    gassho,
    Luis-Jinyu

  27. #27
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    I'm not equating wisdom with enlightenment, Craig. Morality and wisdom are a tangle enough without adding enlightenment into the mix, so forget enlightenment for a minute. Couldn't it be possible that by practicing moral behavior and seeing the results both in yourself and in others that it might lead toward wisdom (not the same as enlightenment in this sense)?

  28. #28

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    And what if enlightenment begins here and now, by dropping all ideas of going somewhere or getting something...
    Enlightenment of every moment for itself... ?
    Personally, I need to get back to the cushion and stop thinking and reading so much!

    See you on the cushion folks!

    gassho,
    Jinyu

  29. #29
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luis
    Personally, I need to get back to the cushion and stop thinking and reading so much!

    See you on the cushion folks!
    It took until 11:42pm, but that's definitely the best idea I've heard all day.

  30. #30

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    I think that this question might be putting the cart before the horse. We like to talk about morality and proper behavior, sin and the like, but I think we may be missing something. I think when Jundo was saying that a realized person would be kind, gentle, etc. etc. I think what he was saying was that a truly realized person has dropped all discriminating thoughts, and lost their attachments to things. This leaves a person in his or her Buddha-nature, which if we are to believe in the teachings, would be a state in which you are in perfect accord with all things, places, peoples etc. This would be a state in which you could not help but to act kind, gentle, etc. In a place of satori, you would be able to clearly see what actions and words would be beneficial to all. Sometimes that might mean that, in order to be kind, we must be stern, in order to be gentle we must be stoic, but I don't think that it means that we can be unkind or harsh. I think that it is important to remember that we all have Buddha-nature, but its the things in life that we attach ourselves to that hide it from sight, and sometimes we can say, "This is my nature, this is who I am. I do not feel that I should have to be more this or less that to be more in accord with this practice." And maybe that's correct. Or, and I only postulate here because only you can know this for sure about yourselves, maybe that thought is the echo of your attachment to your ego. Upaya is appropriate means, only when it's appropriate. If you have a square peg and a round hole, you take out a knife and shave the corners - that's appropriate means. If you just try to take a sledgehammer and pound it in, that's just destructive.

  31. #31

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    One of the points argued by Jundo in the recent exchange between Jundo and Chet was that true realization manifests itself in our day-to-day behavior, and that how we can judge a person's spiritual wisdom is by how he behaves. A truly realized person would be kind, humble, and gentle, of inoffensive speech and tactful manner.

    I'm not sure I agree with this.

    I don't think that personality type or conditioning has much to do with understanding or wisdom.
    I disagree, Stephanie. I think that enlightened behavior will manifest in soft, peaceful, kind speech for the simple reason that such speech is free of anger, greed, and ignorance, jealousy, resistance to life.. If one is talking rough, it usually means that the speaker is somehow driven by anger or resentment, which is never enlightened behavior. (I am not saying that there may not be times when enlightened behavior includes "tough talking" ... like the parent who must administer "tough love" out of concern, not out of anger. But that is the exception, not the rule). Morality of this sort is at the heart of Buddhism, and there are standards for right (enlightened) and wrong (harmful, delusional) behavior.

    Now, notice I said "enlightened behavior" instead of "an enlightened person". I think that there are few, if any, "fully and irrevocably enlightened people" ... in the meaning of "someone who is in such a state of enlightenment that they never fall into delusional behavior and always, whatever the case, exhibit enlightened behavior in any and all situations". Oh, sure, a "Buddha" is a symbol of such perfection ... someone who never, ever makes a mistake or violates a Precept. But that is not true for most of us who are just "Bodhisattva bozos on the bus."

    However, there is a crucial difference between folks who are angry, greedy and delusional all or much of the time ... and those who fall into those traps rarely or once in a long while. (Something I take comfort in, as I fell mightily on my butt into a great big mudhole this week while walking a road I otherwise know so well and always pass safely). We seek to be like safe drivers who drive through life without doing damage to ourself or others. Of course, even the best driver might stupidly drive through a stop sign one day while distracted ... but there is a great difference, I feel, between a driver who drives in a dangerous way day in and day out, and a driver who is safe for years yet sometimes, after thousands of miles, is distracted or makes a careless mistake.

    As far as I understand it, realization is letting go of grasping after results. It's letting go of our ideals about the saints we would like to be.
    No. "Saints and Bodhisattvas" generally do not kill puppies or steal candy from babies. They will generally seek to act in good and wholesome ways and thus, emulating such behavior, we should all seek to be peaceful and non-greedy, soft spoken and gentle people who would not be compelled to do hateful things. The Precepts define such good and wholesome behavior from a Buddhist perspective.

    Quote Originally Posted by zak
    When the self becomes the selfless/self everything is irrevocably changed. The whole has been transformed. The greatest change of all takes place within oneself without the "attachment" of approval from anyone. Gassho Shogen
    I find that a very idealistic statement if you are implying that this "irrevocably changed" person will never slip, never fall into the mud again. Buddhists say that kind of thing all the time, because the dead (and steam cleaned) ancestors are described that way in old Buddhist story books with their every blemish removed. I have met enough living Buddhists who were all too human ... myself included ... to have any faith in such an absolutist statement. I have never met a perfect driver who never, ever runs a stop sign by accident or runs over the curb once in awhile in many years of driving.

    Hopefully, nobody gets killed in the mistake, and we can get back to safe driving ... vowing to be more careful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I disagree that "enlightenment" or "realization" is defined by the extent to which one complies with moral behavioral guidelines.

    I believe that realization is clear seeing, is totally not being confused by one's own thoughts about things
    Yes, realization is "clear seeing" and "not being confused by ones thoughts" ... which is precisely why it is manifested in conduct free of greed anger and ignorance, i.e., soft and moral behavior. But even the realized person will become confused in their thoughts from time to time ... and, thus, a momentary prisoner of greed anger and ignorance (hopefully, not too often or seriously, though).

    Dogen's Shobogenzo is all about awakening and seeing the world through awakened eyes.
    If you want an example of an old cranky son-of-a-gun who demanded moral behavior from his students ... DOGEN!

    BOTTOM LINE: One cannot be ever considered a "realized" or "enlightened" or "awakened' person if one usually conducts themself like a bastard. However, even a Saint or Great Bodhisattva ... short of total Buddhahood ... is apt to trip and fall sometimes, under the right conditions. (A comfort to a not-so-great Bodhisattva such as myself who makes a mistake and misses a shot from time to time).

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Wow - if this is true I have missed the entire point of Zen. I thought (in Soto Zen) practicing the Way was zazen. Period.
    No. Living by the Precepts leads to a life of peace, non-greed and tolerance which supports our Zazen. In turn, Zazen supports our living by the Precepts in peace, non-greed and tolerance. In that way, Zazen is the Precepts, the Precepts only Zazen.

    No one is threatening "fire and brimstone" hell here (although some forms of Buddhism might do just that). Instead, it is simply that one cannot taste the fruits of Zazen if living while drowning in anger, greed etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    We fall; we get up.
    Our teacher falls; our teacher gets up.
    No one "masters" walking to the point of never falling again.
    No one masters life/wisdom/etc. to the point of never falling again either.

    We tend to think that when someone trips and falls that how he/she gets up is what is important.
    I think that never tripping and falling is impossible, and only imaginary Buddhas and Ancestors do that in story books. But I do believe that how we handle the sometime fall, and how we recover our feet is important. In this way, Buddhism is like a martial art. There is never a Judo master who will never be thrown or fall ... and how he bounces back and recovers his feet is as important as any other aspect of training.

    Gassho, Jundo

  32. #32

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Hi All,

    Let me take a moment here to comment on what stop sign I ran this week. (Since I am supposed to be one of the driving instructors around here, I need to explain why I ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle, all while playing with the radio).

    Of course, I am talking about what transpired when I responded to what, I felt, were some very untrue things about our Sangha and its teachers (mostly about me) and recent events, written on someone's blog. Maybe I should have ignored it, but I went charging in like a dumb Don Quixote to "right the wrongs" ... and set the facts straight. What started off as a "reasoned presentation of the facts" by me soon turned into my starting to argue with the guy and other very aggressive posters there. They are yelling at me ... and I found myself soon starting to yell back!

    Even more stupidly, my original intent to be critical of the use of 'bad words, pejoratives, insults and rumor making', as found in some corners of the Buddhist internet, soon turned into my using ironically "examples of bad words and insults and baseless rumors" to make that point and mock it ... which soon turned, by my own clumsiness and serious lack of taste and thoughtfulness, into the use of insults and pejoratives to "make my point" that were too aggressive and "in your face". My attempt to mock a culture of rumors, insults and anti-gay terms ended up as my telling a tasteless story involving just that to make my point! I thought I was being witty to demonstrate the point! I intended to make fun of and mock the aggressive atmosphere of cussing and insulting and rumor inventing in certain corners of the Buddha-sphere, and that was what I thought I was doing as I was doing it ... but it was so badly done that the harsh words and mocking examples I chose completely overwhelmed the point I was making, and were just the same as what I was criticizing. STUPID ME!

    As well, I did start to get angry and, well, even I can't tell where the examples of "ironic satire" end and "just cussing out the guy in anger" begins.

    I remain a critic of the culture of bad words, pejorative, insults and rumor making.in the Buddha-sphere which was my original target ... even if I fell into some of that myself in a misguided and foolish attempt to mock and criticize it. Kind of like an anti-alcohol campaigner carelessly getting drunk while demonstrating "the evils of alcohol"! I am just humbled at the stop sign I ran through my own lack of care, and hope it will make me a better driving instructor in the future.

    Gassho, Jundo

  33. #33

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I am just humbled at the stop sign I ran through my own lack of care, and hope it will make me a better driving instructor in the future.
    I think it already has.
    Welcome to the human family.
    Your humility may be your best message yet. :wink:

    deep bows
    to my teacher

    Greg

  34. #34

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    I think that one reason the nay-sayers say that an internet sangha cannot work is that, with the rare exception, forums are full of people saying things that are hurtful, ridiculous, ill-conceived, argumentative, and plain wrong. I think the challenge for the sangha members is to remember our precepts as they pertain to speech on the internet. So far I think we've done a good job of not descending into divisive speech on this forum.

    I also think there is a huge difference between "profanity" and hurtful speech. BUT most positive usage of profanity involves heavy doses of body language and/or situational awareness. These things are difficult when writing in a forum. I can call a fellow musician a motherf*&%r on a jazz gig and mean it as a complement and have it be taken as one. I don't think that would work in a written forum. So, I err on the side of avoiding nuanced speech that involves less-than-savory language. Even if it did work, there is always the possibility that portions could be copied and pasted out of context in a way to make the author seem ridiculous. As we teach in college, the written word is powerful, don't treat it like regular speech.

    As we learn to play an instrument we play a lot of bad notes. Still, we practice . . .

    Gassho,
    Eika

    PS--The precepts and shikantaza can never be separated . . . indeed, they are the same, I think.

  35. #35

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Does practicing moral behavior cultivate wisdom? Most likely so, as I think this is called practicing the Way.
    Wow - if this is true I have missed the entire point of Zen. I thought (in Soto Zen) practicing the Way was zazen. Period. What some people call moral behavior might result from this practice, but the practice of (what some people would call) moral behavior certainly will not lead to enlightenment (defined as zazen in Soto).

    If practicing the Way is no different from some preacher telling me how to behave, I could have picked a religion to follow (no, I obviously don't consider Zen a religion, although I will admit that all depends on your definition of religion).
    Zazen is not enlightenment, it is simply zazen. Zazen is the practice we undertake to help us to return to our original nature, cleaning off the gunk and schmutz of all the delusions and attachments we have from our spiritual mirror. Zazen, in and of itself, cannot be anything other than zazen. Practicing the Way is most definately different from "some preacher telling me how to behave" because there is no fire and brimstone here, no lakes of fire, and no one telling you how to behave. What is here, within the Way, is simply a path to dropping all the things that cause you to act in opposition to your Buddha-nature. On this path, there is no one telling you how to behave, in fact, you aren't even telling yourself how to behave, you simply find yourself walking the path. The behavior that you show will be a result of that. This thread asks if morality is the measure of wisdom, I think morality is the RESULT of wisdom. And as to enlightenment, what is that? If you are enlightened, how can you explain it to me, who is not enlightened so that I could understand it? If you think you have attained enlightenment, you are admitting a separation between how you are now, and how you think you are after enlightenment. We know that there are no such separations within this practice. We are all Buddha and this place here and now is Nirvana. But we are also bound by our attachments and delusions, and this place here and now is still samsara. So, if you think you've attained enlightenment, it's possible, but not probable. And if you didn't attain it, then it is something beyond our current ability to understand, so how would you know how it looks and feels, or what it was like at the moment you attained it? If you don't already know it, how could you possibly know what it might be like? For me, and if you read some of the books on our reading list here you'll see that this idea is not new in our lineage, I side with folks like Suzuki Roshi, Deshimaru Roshi, and Master Dogen.

    Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddhas.

    When you see forms or hear sounds fully engaging body-and-mind, you grasp things directly. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumined the other side is dark.

    To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
    Master Eihei Dogen, The Genjokoan

    I don't know what enlightenment would be like, but I'll settle for enlightened action.

  36. #36

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    To clarify my thoughts on this based on what everyone else said (thank you all!):

    I think you can act morally without being moral, or being wise. E.g. "some priest telling you how to behave" might result to such behavior. It is worthy in itself, but it is hardly wisdom (or enlightenment). I think such morality and kindness do have their own value, but I do not think it is probably what Jundo or Stephanie means by "wisdom", nor what most of us seek from zazen.

    But to think that since someone can act morally without being wise, it follows that you can be wise without being moral, is faulty logic.

    And I think, personally, that I do not have much use for wisdom that does not lead into increased kindness (in the sense of "trying to decrease, or at least not increase, suffering in the world"). If "true enlightenment" and "seeing it for real" can occur in a person while that person still remains a selfish jackass, I don't give a damn if they are enlightened or not.

    (This is, just to be clear, not me calling Chet a selfish jackass. Though I did not know him long enough to make that kind of judgment, I don't think he is, and even if I did I would likely not make the judgment out loud anyway. I am talking hypotheticals.)

    Stephanie: I am slightly unclear on why you equate moral behavior to social status; you seem to question the relationship of enlightenment to moral conduct, but your examples e.g. about the alcoholic were more about people might find repulsive, not about what they might find wrong. Did I miss something?

  37. #37
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eika
    I think that one reason the nay-sayers say that an internet sangha cannot work is that, with the rare exception, forums are full of people saying things that are hurtful, ridiculous, ill-conceived, argumentative, and plain wrong. I think the challenge for the sangha members is to remember our precepts as they pertain to speech on the internet. So far I think we've done a good job of not descending into divisive speech on this forum.

    I also think there is a huge difference between "profanity" and hurtful speech. BUT most positive usage of profanity involves heavy doses of body language and/or situational awareness. These things are difficult when writing in a forum. I can call a fellow musician a motherf*&%r on a jazz gig and mean it as a complement and have it be taken as one. I don't think that would work in a written forum. So, I err on the side of avoiding nuanced speech that involves less-than-savory language. Even if it did work, there is always the possibility that portions could be copied and pasted out of context in a way to make the author seem ridiculous. As we teach in college, the written word is powerful, don't treat it like regular speech.

    As we learn to play an instrument we play a lot of bad notes. Still, we practice . . .

    Gassho,
    Eika

    PS--The precepts and shikantaza can never be separated . . . indeed, they are the same, I think.

    *Gassho*

    Shohei

  38. #38

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    zak wrote:
    When the self becomes the selfless/self everything is irrevocably changed. The whole has been transformed. The greatest change of all takes place within oneself without the "attachment" of approval from anyone. Gassho Shogen

    Jundo wrote:
    I find that a very idealistic statement if you are implying that this "irrevocably changed" person will never slip, never fall into the mud again. Buddhists say that kind of thing all the time, because the dead (and steam cleaned) ancestors are described that way in old Buddhist story books with their every blemish removed. I have met enough living Buddhists who were all too human ... myself included ... to have any faith in such an absolutist statement. I have never met a perfect driver who never, ever runs a stop sign by accident or runs over the curb once in awhile in many years of driving.

    Hopefully, nobody gets killed in the mistake, and we can get back to safe driving ... vowing to be more careful.
    Jundo

    Falling off the wagon or falling in any moral way was not my interest in replying "specifically" to what Jaana said, "Why would we care if someone is awake or not (including ourselves), if it changes nothing? Stephanie replied, " exactly."
    I was saying that not only the individual (component) but the whole (dharma) was effectively changed by the individuals awakening. What opinion others have of that is irrelevant such as Stephanies exactly reply. zak

  39. #39

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by zak
    zak wrote:
    When the self becomes the selfless/self everything is irrevocably changed. The whole has been transformed. The greatest change of all takes place within oneself without the "attachment" of approval from anyone. Gassho Shogen

    Jundo wrote:
    I find that a very idealistic statement if you are implying that this "irrevocably changed" person will never slip, never fall into the mud again. Buddhists say that kind of thing all the time, because the dead (and steam cleaned) ancestors are described that way in old Buddhist story books with their every blemish removed. I have met enough living Buddhists who were all too human ... myself included ... to have any faith in such an absolutist statement. I have never met a perfect driver who never, ever runs a stop sign by accident or runs over the curb once in awhile in many years of driving.

    Hopefully, nobody gets killed in the mistake, and we can get back to safe driving ... vowing to be more careful.
    Jundo

    Falling off the wagon or falling in any moral way was not my interest in replying "specifically" to what Jaana said, "Why would we care if someone is awake or not (including ourselves), if it changes nothing? Stephanie replied, " exactly."
    I was saying that not only the individual (component) but the whole (dharma) was effectively changed by the individuals awakening. What opinion others have of that is irrelevant such as Stephanies exactly reply. zak
    I have read and reread this post. I am honestly confused about the point you are making other than what I have bolded, which seems a bit hostile in it's tone, which is fine I suppose, just wondering where it is coming from and what exactly you are trying to get across. I am sincerely interested because I think I am honestly missing something.

    Rob

  40. #40

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Hi!
    I don't like big discussions on litterature and exegesis out of context, but something just stroke me (and redefining again and again is a very good thing against our/my tendency to make statements).

    I re-read parts of the fukanzazengi (when should we stop studying it?...)and of a wonderful article on the fukanzazengi by Josho Pat Phelan recently (http://www.intrex.net/chzg/pat41.htm).

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Zazen is not enlightenment
    Euh :roll: .... Of course litteraly ... but wasn't Dogen in his fukanzazengi that claim :"The zazen I speak of is not learning meditation. It is simply the Dharma-gate of repose and bliss, the practice realization of totally culminated enlightenment"

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Zazen is the practice we undertake to help us to return to our original nature, cleaning off the gunk and schmutz of all the delusions and attachments we have from our spiritual mirror
    I understand what you mean. After all, he is very clear about what he called enlightenment in his genjokoan. But If zazen is seen as enlightenment it is also because "zazen was not merely a... device for producing a perfected state of enlightenment, but the expression of a more fundamental perfection inherent in all things. In this way, the practice of zazen itself becomes the actualization of the ultimate truth; and the practitioner, just as he is, becomes the embodiment of perfect enlightenment."

    Josho Pat Phelan also says in her article: "At any point in practice, Dogen considered a moment of true zazen to be a moment of Buddha or enlightenment. So, our moment by moment engagement with our whole body and mind, our engagement with the completeness of this present moment of experience, leaves no room to look for a result or to even judge how itís going. I think this sets zazen practice apart from most other forms of meditation."

    It is quite the same thing for Taisen Deshimaru, in his first book "vrai zazen",in the chapter "method of zazen" he speaks about Mushotoku and Hishiryo and then says (sorry for the translation): "when the posture is accomplished, the "spirit" reaches complete enlightenment, the supreme wisdom, "samyak sambodhi"... I repeat it, the posture is very important! Because to be in the Buddha posture is to be a Buddha and to be enlighten. Zazen is Satori : Hishiryo."

    Sorry, I don't wanted to be annoying or what ... but just to compare sources... maybe I like exegesis finally! :twisted:
    Anyway, all this is just words, and I should get back to cushion before I take all these silly things seriously :lol:

    humble gassho,
    Jinyu

    edit:
    But, as you quoted, Dogen also said in his genjokoan: "To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly."

    But does it means that there was no enlightenment in any way?

  41. #41

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Luis,
    Thank you, wonderful post. Everything you said, in my humble opinion was spot on, but nothing more than this...
    Anyway, all this is just words, and I should get back to cushion before I take all these silly things seriously
    I need to keep reminding myself of this over and over and over again. Thank you, again.

    Gassho,

    Rob

  42. #42

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    I have to be away for a few days for obligations and travel, and will not be able to comment as often as I wish.

    But Luis speaks my mind. Zazen is not a devise to help us return to our original nature, but is the total expression of the wholeness of all things.

    Of course, realizing sitting as "total expression of wholeness" is a return to that never left.

    The one other point I may diverge from Deshimaru Roshi and some other masters is on posture. Important, but not limited one particular posture. It is not a matter of "only the Lotus Posture", in my feeling. Rather, it is a matter of sincere, vibrant, whole, dedicated sitting in body-and-mind.

    Gassho, J

  43. #43

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I have to be away for a few days for obligations and travel, and will not be able to comment as often as I wish.

    But Luis speaks my mind. Zazen is not a devise to help us return to our original nature, but is the total expression of the wholeness of all things.

    Of course, realizing sitting as "total expression of wholeness" is a return to that never left.

    The one other point I may diverge from Deshimaru Roshi and some other masters is on posture. Important, but not limited one particular posture. It is not a matter of "only the Lotus Posture", in my feeling. Rather, it is a matter of sincere, vibrant, whole, dedicated sitting in body-and-mind.

    Gassho, J
    I may have miss-spoken, then. I didn't mean to imply that zazen is a tool like a wrench or a hammer, not a thing made for a specific purpose to accomplish something. I meant it in a way that....well.....ok let's try this another way, since I can't really explain myself that well today :shock: . Rather, when wandering in the dessert in desperate need of a drink, you go to an oasis. The oasis is there, even if you never find it, it wasn't put there just for you to get a drink, it nourishes whole animal and plant species irrespective of you. Indeed, though it can be all those things, it wasn't put there for any of them. It's just there, and by chance, a stroke of luck, or perhaps a map that was shown to you or a trail in the sands, you found it and were in need of a drink. But when you need a drink, that's where you go. There are other ways to get a drink, wait for it to rain, or dig for water, but those are not the best way to get to life saving water, you'd actually lose more that way. So, I guess what I am trying to say is that we are in the process of removing those things which keep us from true realization and harmony with all things. Zazen is how we do that. But it's also just sitting meditation. I think this is a question of verbiage. Sitting on a cushion, breathing, hands in the mudra, thinking of nothing and accepting everything, is not enlightenment; if it's missing the crucial "wholeness" factor and dedcation of true zazen, then it's just sitting on a cushion with your hands in your lap. Sitting zazen is our way to enlightenment and the experience of the "total expression of wholeness" that you are talking about. So, I didn't mean to imply it was a thing to be used for something so much as a "this is what we do because we are trying to realize enlightenment." Which, as I understand it thus far, the "total expression of wholeness" and realization that we are talking about IS our original or Buddha-nature. But, perhaps I am a little mistaken here, so, as Luis said, I'll have to get back to my cushion.

  44. #44

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by "JohnsonCM
    ...On this path, there is no one telling you how to behave, in fact, you aren't even telling yourself how to behave, you simply find yourself walking the path. The behavior that you show will be a result of that. This thread asks if morality is the measure of wisdom, I think morality is the RESULT of wisdom.
    This is what I have been trying to say (apparently rather poorly). Maybe (probably) I don't understand the precepts, but (IMO) they are "you telling yourself how to behave." My point is that I am not interested in some forced, added behavior modification that does not come from within (call it big mind, bhudda nature, whatever). If actualizing my bhudda nature makes me appear wise, kind, humble, whatever - well, that's just fine. If it doesn't do that - well that's just fine also.

    However, Iinterpret Jundo's point to be that a little forced, added behavior modification (following the precepts) will allow you to sit shikantaza with a quieter mind, which will make following the precepts more natural, etc. If I have interpreted this correctly, this seems to be a reasonable statement.

    (Sorry, screwed up the editing on the quote above)

  45. #45
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    I deeply appreciate the wonderful, lively discussion that has taken place in this thread. All of you are my teachers.

    My point was not that morality and realization are not closely connected, but rather that morality does not totally encompass realization. If I were to draw a Venn diagram of how I see it, the circle of morality would be contained within the circle of realization but the circle of realization would extend beyond the circle of morality.

    We all know people who are nice, or kind, or moral, who also labor under a lot of delusions. For some people, their moral behavior may even spring out of their delusion, such as a person who always focuses on others because he does not believe he is worthy of attention, or someone who may subscribe to a religious dogma and do "the right thing" out of fear of hell or punishment.

    What draws me to "people of the Way" and this Zen path is the expression of realization, the pointers that I'm acting out of a wildly distorted view, the hints of another way to see and experience life.

    The Soto way, as I've primarily learned through Chet, as well as from others here at Treeleaf, is a very clear and direct way to see and experience reality as it is. Dogen had a way of expressing this in words that remains unparalleled.

    There is a difference between sitting dully and experiencing "silent illumination." It is one thing to say, "Things are perfect as they are," another to see it. To see it, to see reality free from the filters of stories and thoughts and concepts, is realization.

    But this is not so easy as it sounds... and at the end of the day, most people do not realize it, no matter how many days or months or years they sit in zazen. Their zazen may be the perfect expression of it, but they don't know it!

  46. #46

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Hi everyone!
    I was reading a little text by Keizan zenji called "Three Kinds of Zen Practitioners", and I suddenly thought about this thread when I read these lines :roll:

    " The Precepts arise naturally from zazen whether they are the five, eight, the Great Bodhisattva Precepts, the monastic Precepts, the three thousand rules of deportment, the eighty thousand Teachings, or the supreme Dharma of the Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors. No practice whatsover can be measured against zazen.

    Should only one merit be gained from the practice of zazen, it is vaster than the construction of a hundred, a thousand or a limitless number of monasteries. Practice shikan-taza, just sitting ceaselessly. Doing so we are liberated from birth and death and realise our own hidden Buddhanature.
    "

    gassho,
    Jinyu

  47. #47

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    I was under the impression that morality extends naturally from enlightenment; that it is of it. That our striving to reach moral "goals" was just an inside-out or backwards way of trying to imitate the wise, who do not violate morality because it is a waste of time and energy.

    As though the moral behavior formed the base and core of the mountain, with enlightenment at the peak; we can try to walk up by using the piedmont of morals, but we are going backwards. It is the piedmont which is generated by the peak. Moral conduct for no reason and enlightenment seem to be one.

    I can understand the need to point to the emperor's new clothes of dogmatic morality "for a reason", but morality as a mark of those who do not violate it "for no reason" still seems pretty great to me.

    It seems to me that our morals are codified ways of imitating wisdom, i.e., faking it until you make it.

    It seems like the more we see the fundamental nature of things, the fewer moral guidelines we are inclined to break.

    I always see Buddhism and science together. This reminds me of sociobiology. When a lion kills an antelope, this is moral conduct. It is actually the least amount of violence necessary.

  48. #48

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    One of the points argued by Jundo in the recent exchange between Jundo and Chet was that true realization manifests itself in our day-to-day behavior, and that how we can judge a person's spiritual wisdom is by how he behaves. A truly realized person would be kind, humble, and gentle, of inoffensive speech and tactful manner.
    I have held much the same view for a long time. This reminds me of something that happened in my life a couple of years back. I've been a member of a judo mailing list for years. It's a large list, filled with many regular posters from all levels of experience--from college students who just started judo as part of a PE class, to Olympic level coaches when have been involved with international competition judo since the 1950s-1960s. I finally quit the list during the run-up to the 2008 US presidential election because politics became a major subject of discussion, and I found I simply couldn't take the level of mean-spirited, downright nasty (even racist) rhetoric that was coming across from people who I'd have otherwise held in high esteem, as examples for younger or less-experienced people to emulate. Maybe I should back up a little...

    I apologize to some of you who may be familiar with judo's history...hopefully you'll bear with me for a few lines while I explain the situation for those who don't know this sort of minutia. Judo was founded by Jigoro Kano in the closing decades of the 19th century. At the time, jujutsu had fallen out of favor with the general public in Japan--it was seen as something disreputable and a throwback to an earlier time. Many schools were famous for brawling with one another in the streets, teaching thugs and gang members how to fight, and brutalizing new students with a toss-'em-in-the-deep-end-and-see-who-can-handle-it approach. Kano had an entirely different vision: here's an art that has all the practical benefits of learning a martial art (learning to defend oneself and others, cultivating physical fitness, etc), and could be structured in such a way to teach moral/ethical lessons as well. One of the maxims everyone who trains in judo learns is "JITA-KYOEI" or "mutual welfare and benefit" (though I've also seen it translated as "you and I shining together," which I think carries the message better). In short, the very way you practice judo teaches the student to care about his partners (and then the rest of society in general), to internally realize that without you trying to help me train and watching out for me when performing techniques on me or competing against me in a match, I can't improve, and vice-versa. There's an unbreakable bond between uke and tori--in fact, they're two sides of the same coin, the one defines the other. I see many parallels with what (little) I understand about zen and buddhism here.

    ...and then I see people who have been living this practice for decades behave in the most juvenile, hateful, and UN-enlightened way it seems possible for them to do. Disillusioned? Ready to throw up my hands and quit the whole lot of them? You betcha. I've never gone back to that mailing list, and I doubt I ever will, even if I return to judo someday and really dive into the practice. CAN the training instill this sort of moral behavior by itsef? I have to say, I still think so. I think, though, that there are far too many people out there who look at one very narrow aspect of what they're doing and let the rest just fly over their heads (or go in one ear and out the other). I think this is where the roles of the teacher come into play. I dunno... the rest of your post gave me a lot of food for thought (as did the many replies following it). I imagine I'll still be pondering the question even after many more decades roll around for me.

    gassho,
    Kevin

  49. #49

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    In our group here we bow together, sit together, walk together at the same speed, then sit and bow some more.
    This "together action" is for harmony and reflects the unity of realisation. It is training in itself.
    It is morality also.
    Too many Zennists IMO follow their own thoughts and ideas and create conflict here and there.
    The eightfold path is as vital today, in its more literal forms, as are the oft quoted other interpretations

    While writing this I found the following link, which I have only cursorily looked at but seems to be appropriate here.

    http://www.buddhistethics.org/7/zelinski001.html

  50. #50

    Re: Is morality the measure of wisdom?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly
    In our group here we bow together, sit together, walk together at the same speed, then sit and bow some more.
    This "together action" is for harmony and reflects the unity of realisation. It is training in itself.
    It is morality also.
    Too many Zennists IMO follow their own thoughts and ideas and create conflict here and there.
    The eightfold path is as vital today, in its more literal forms, as are the oft quoted other interpretations

    While writing this I found the following link, which I have only cursorily looked at but seems to be appropriate here.

    http://www.buddhistethics.org/7/zelinski001.html
    I really, really like that Ceaseless Practice article. Thanks for posting the link!

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