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Thread: The Precepts and The Sangha

  1. #1

    The Precepts and The Sangha

    came across this excerpt on Tumblr from Reb Anderson. Seems appropriate to share during this Ango period and time of precept study

    the book where this came from is here: http://rodmellpress.com/beingupright.html

    Anyone who is committed to practicing the precepts is in danger of becoming self-righteous or puritanical. When youíre a beginner, youíre more likely to become fanatical about them, because youíre afraid that if youíre not absolutely strict, then youíll lose sight of your commitment. If youíre in this initial, self-righteous phase, then itís important to remember that by taking refuge in the sangha youíre practicing as part of a community.

    As part of a sangha you expose your fanaticism to more mature practitioners, who, having worked through their own self-righteousness, can help you to open up to other possible meanings of the precepts. They can show you that although your understanding is valid as one particular aspect of the truth of the precepts, there are other possibilities, including some of the thoughts of people who disagree with you. Listening to the experience of other practitioners, both senior and junior to you, will naturally soften your vantage point and help you to relax your understanding.
    At the other end of the spectrum, you may fall into complacency and avoid examining your life for fear of arousing anxiety. You donít usually emerge from complacency unless some crisis presents itself. If youíre complacent, then something has to wake you up, either from the inside or the outside.

    Most often, you wait until an experience of pain and suffering breaks through your denial system, but a kind and generous person can also open your eyes to your life and help you to notice your pain. Then you realize that you donít want to be complacent, because life is really wonderful. This generous being makes you feel, I want to do more than just get by. I want to be generous, too. Or you might see something beautiful, and that beauty opens you to both the beauty and the pain of your life.

    In a sangha, the complacent people have to bump up against the fanatics, and the fanatics have to run up against the complacent people. Each group can learn from the other. The fanatics need to relax more, and the complacent people need to open up to the anxiety of the self-righteous fanatics. The more mature and balanced people in the community can help those who are leaning to either of the extremes.

    If you are committed to the precepts, you need to be in dialogue with other practitioners in order to remain honest about your practice. Otherwise, you can get caught up in your own fixed ideas of what the precepts are. The precepts are never what you think they are or what I think they are. They are something that all of us arrive at together.

    When you begin to take other peopleís views into account, you move from a self-centered interpretation of the precepts to a more compassionate understanding.

    óReb Anderson, Being Upright (pp. 84-86)



    When I was a zen n00b, I was fairly strict , but not fanatical. Well, I at least I hoped to be strict, because without a sangha (well, I had a houseplant and a few dharma books), I had no source of outside observations to keep me perhaps more balanced. In my mind, the precepts were commandments and breaking from them was, at least by a western definition, a "sin". Breaking them meant I was a bad Buddhist...or not even a Buddhist at all.

    Sharing my experiences with other practitioners (and especially here) did allow for that relaxation that did not fall into complacency. I still "struggle" with things, as we all seems to at times; but come back to that "compassionate understanding" of the Precepts that Anderson speaks about.

  2. #2

    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    This is wonderful... thank you for sharing. I think it adds a different angle to the other texts we've been reading.

    We've certainly got a mix of fanatics and complacents here :mrgreen:

  3. #3

    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    Well you've just broken the 2nd precept by stealing my time. :mrgreen: I'm kidding of course. That was very, very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  4. #4

    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    We've certainly got a mix of fanatics and complacents here :mrgreen:
    I like to consider myself fanatically complacent...or maybe it's complacently fanatical...can't remember which.


    s

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    Thanks for that. A great excerpt and a great reading. A good reminder.

    Reb Anderson is worth a read, I agree. And, to echo another thread, as a teacher he is far from perfect himself ... As he outlines in Being Upright ... A mad story about him going after a robber with a gun! I guess even the Dalai Lama has to keep up right effort when it comes to the precepts.

    Gassho

  6. #6
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    The precepts are never what you think they are...
    Ever since I took Jukai going on three years ago, every single time I recite the the 16 vows and precepts (which is darn near every day) I examine them as they apply to my life. I explore different ways of viewing them. I look at how I kept them and didn't keep them, often in relation to the same event. I struggle with them daily. And it's all good. Really good. I have found more dimensions in just the bodhisattva vows alone than I can ever possibly count. So I keep looking, keep searching, knowing there is no one answer. Amazing, truly, is the search for transcending all those answers.

    Jukai is just a step, a small first step. Safe travels on the journey, folks.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    Though it's hard to say for sure from just this one exerpt, but I agree with Matt that it does seem to add a different angle to what we have been reading. This book is also available through Kindle http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B003VTZXE ... 991&sr=1-1

    Gassho,
    John

  8. #8

    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    I most definitely am a Zen "noob", as you called it, haha. I think that is a healthy outlook (I may have to pick up that book). It takes humility to want to learn from other people.

  9. #9

    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    The precepts are never what you think they are...
    Ever since I took Jukai going on three years ago, every single time I recite the the 16 vows and precepts (which is darn near every day) I examine them as they apply to my life. I explore different ways of viewing them. I look at how I kept them and didn't keep them, often in relation to the same event. I struggle with them daily. And it's all good. Really good. I have found more dimensions in just the bodhisattva vows alone than I can ever possibly count. So I keep looking, keep searching, knowing there is no one answer. Amazing, truly, is the search for transcending all those answers.
    Alan, what role do the precepts play in your (daily?) liturgy? Is that a correct assumption, that it's part of your liturgy?

  10. #10
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    I say them every day before zazen. But it's not recitation, it's more like repetition and examination. Repetition to bring them to the forefront of my mind, and examination to find all the various ways they apply in my life.

  11. #11
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    Oh, I should add that I don't just say the precepts, what not to do, but I also pair each precept with what to do instead. Each precept thus becomes two sides of a coin, a daily duality to transcend. Where did I learn this? Jukai, of course.

  12. #12

    Re: The Precepts and The Sangha

    Thank you for posting, there was I thinking I was alone in my self-righteousness.
    Gladly emerged out the other side and fighting complacency.
    Gassho
    Gary

  13. #13

    RE: The Precepts and The Sangha

    I ended up getting this book to read. Highly recommended and a nice complement to the Aitken text.

    Sent from my SGH-i917 using Board Express

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