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    For Justice & Peace

    There is rioting today in many American cities, and other places in the world as well. I cry for all victims of violence.

    Someone said that the Buddha and Dogen had nothing to say about such things, but that is far from true. Yes, they both taught that we should know a reality beyond me vs. you, right and wrong, justice and injustice, peace and war, thus to encounter a Just Peace of the universe at the heart of all division. This is true. However, both men also taught that, here in our ordinary world, we should maintain a certain decorum, rightness and peace in our behavior too.

    I saw a sign today carried by some Buddhists protesting. It read,"Buddhists FOR Justice AND Peace," a twist on the famous "No Justice, No Peace" which threatens anger and violent response in the face of injustice. The Buddhist attitude is something different, that we should have justice AND peace too, a two way street of reciprocity.

    In Shobogenzo Bodaisatta-shishōbō ("The Four Embracing Actions of a Bodhisattva"), Master Dogen seems to have been speaking to some leader, likely a samurai and someone in the government, about the attitudes of a wise and just ruler in enforcing the laws. As with the Buddha, who often spoke to kings among his followers, Dogen counsels mutual respect and obligation of leaders to their subjects in order to maintain peace and harmony in the realm. This was Master Dogen's vision too, especially when we remember that he was probably preaching to a samurai leader carrying a sword:

    "Even if one is so powerful as to rule the four continents, if one wants to bestow teachings of the true Way, simply one must not be greedy. ... A Chinese Emperor gave his beard as medicine to treat his retainer's illness. ... To build a bridge or launch a boat can be an act of generous giving. ...

    Kind speech”means that when meeting living beings, you arouse a heart of compassion for them and offer caring and loving words. It is contrary to cruel, violent and harmful words. ... It is kind speech to speak to living beings with a mind of compassionate caring as one would to one's own baby. ... Even in reconciling enemies, and promoting harmony and peace among people, kind speech is fundamental. ... Remember that kind speech arises from a loving mind, and a loving mind arises from the seed of a compassionate heart. You should know that kind speech has the power to transform the world. ...

    “Beneficial Action” is employing skillful means to benefit sentient beings of all classes, humble or noble, caring about their near and distant futures, using skillful means to help them. ... In an old story, a king wishing to greet urgent petitioners, three times stopped [] his dinner table to hear them out. He did this solely with the intention of helping others. There was never a thought in his mind that they were foreigners from other lands, not people of his kingdom, and so not truly his concern. ... So, we should seek to benefit friends and foes alike, and we should seek to benefit our own self and others alike. ... Working together in “Cooperation” means not to engage in differences. It is not to be contrary to oneself nor contrary toward others. For example, the Buddha when alive in this human world in human form identified with other human beings. ... There is the principle that after letting others identify and harmonize with us, we then cause ourself to identify and harmonize with others. Self and others, depending on the occasion, become boundless without border. ...

    Wise rulers do not weary of people; therefore they might unite a large following. A "large following” means a nation, and a “wise ruler” means the leader of the nation. Leaders do not weary of the people. On the other hand, “not to weary of the people” does not mean that there are no rewards or punishments to be sometimes handed out. However, even when there is reward and punishment, there is never hatred of the people. ... Because wise rulers understand all this, they do not weary of people. Although people form into a nation, however, and seek a wise ruler, few always completely understand the truth of the wise ruler having to act as a wise ruler. Therefore, they simply hope to be supported by the wise ruler. They do not realize that they are the ones to support the wise ruler too.
    Dogen also spoke of poverty, in Zuimonki 2-2 for example, about a story in which a Buddhist teacher gave away a statue of Buddha to feed the poor: "The Buddha cut off his flesh and limbs and offered them to living beings. Even if we gave the whole body of the Buddha to people who are actually about to die of starvation, such an action would certainly be in accordance with the Buddha’s will. Even if I fall into hell because of this sin, I have just saved living beings from starvation.”

    It is also said that Dogen structured his monastery, not merely as a religious establishment, but as a kind of ideal vision of social harmony. I believe he would have like to if he could, but he could not change the chaotic world outside the temple gates, so he built an ideal world inside. There, all residents were entitled to mutual respect in an atmosphere without hate, killing and violence. There were ranks, but not great disparity in treatment, and all were entitled to a safe place to sleep, food, learning and medical care (at least, as it existed in the 13th century). In turn, however, recipients were expected to do their work, their duties as citizens of the community, and to be respectful toward the others. What is vital to note about Dogen's ideal world is that rights and obligations run in ALL directions.

    Today, people are angry. They have much to be angry about. (This is one of the times when the Precepts on Preserving Life and the Vow to Aid Sentient Beings calls for some Buddhists to choose to speak out). People are angry because the people dying of Covid-19 are disproportionately members of economic minorities who have been denied access to good healthcare in the past in many cases, or are otherwise suffering the effects of poverty, including a high incidence of diabetes, heart disease, the effects of drug use, alcoholism and the like. Many also feel singled out by police. If we are inspired by Dogen's vision, nobody should be denied basic access to resources, healthy food, good housing and health care, nor subject to excess violence at the hands of the authorities.

    On the other hand, the police deserve respect from the citizens too, just as Dogen's people of the nation must support the ruler who keeps the law. No, there should never be violence by police which employs excess force. It is wrong, and should be both prevented and punished. On the other hand, the police in doing their jobs are often under tremendous threat, cursed and abused, resulting in a high prevalence of PTSD and the like. Simply put ... everyone should respect everyone, it runs both ways. The police should not employ excess violence, but they should also not be the targets of violence. The police should respect and speak gently with the citizens, the citizens should respect and speak gently with the police.

    Furthermore, violence is wrong in the Buddhist vision, especially when done in anger. It is understandable that people are upset at perceived injustice, and they have reason to protest and make their outrage be heard. However, anger leads to anger, violence to violence. There are ways of civil disobedience that would do better, and be more effective to actually solve the problem: Have a sit down protest in front of the police station, occupy a building (do not burn it down), block a road (but let the ambulances through). Like that. As Dogen said, "kind speech has the power to transform the world."

    Also, in Dogen's view, while everyone in the monastery had to be provided with basic resources and opportunities, there was also great self-responsibility to take care of oneself. Yes, some live in poverty and that should not be. Resources should be available to all, and ideally, equal opportunity. But on the other side, people must take care of themselves, stay clean, off alcohol and drugs, be civil, work hard to improve oneself too. The idea of Karma, that we each personally act for good and bad, is a system of personal self-responsibility too.

    Alas, I fear that what I write above will satisfy nobody, and upset people on all sides. Some will think the Buddhist folks like me should keep out of it. Well, it is all our society and world to share. We have mutual responsibility for each other. We have self responsibility too. We must treat each other with kindness and respect.

    Let us sit for a time in Zazen, beyond me and you, rioters and police, justice and injustice, food and water and any mouth to eat. Then, rising from the cushion, let us work for peace, justice, food and water for all the hungry children, peace between me and you.

    Gassho, Jundo

    Last edited by Jundo; 05-31-2020 at 01:23 AM.

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