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Thread: The precept and life's great compromises

  1. #1

    The precept and life's great compromises

    Hi, sorry this might be a bit long winded, it's being brewing for several years if not longer :lol:

    Recently with the precepts and jukai in mind, reading 'The mind of clover' , 'kyojukaimon' , amongst other things it's resurfaced with me how complicated these things are in life, particularly this modern globalised life.

    There's one thing for certain the koan of life seems very evident at the moment from going to bed to getting up, in what I eat, drink, wear, travel in; the list of compromises I have to make seems endless if I want to feel I am doing right action, thought, speach, lively hood etc. etc......

    One Roshi didn't like cut flowers on the altar, synthetic ones were better, the flowers aren't killed, but what about the whole industry and polution that is involved in sythetic/plastic products? I used to be vegan, had plastic boots, the same issue applied along with a whole many more.

    Don't support China, don't watch the Olympics but how do I have the things I need in a modern life when they all come from there, from clothes, to toilets? And if I do find a way to avoid their products how to the millions of everyday people over there now make a living if we cut them off.

    I don't smoke, hate it, and it's been banned over here in the UK, hooray! Don't drink either. But now pubs over here are closing left right and centre because of drink driving issues, not being able to smoke. They by cheap booze and fags at the supermarket and sit in with their big plasma screen at home. So now there's no village meeting place, no part-time bar jobs, darts teams etc....

    I try to shop locally, to avoid the big supermarkets, by fresh local produce. But I'm on a very restricted income, so I find I have to use the supermarkets or pay way over the odds for my food. So local shops close, or put there prices up even more.

    I have enormous issues(understatement) with American foreign policy and the actions of the US forces in various places, but I know that is not the sum total of America or Americans. Should I then boycot this forum? Not use my computer? Not use any American goods? Have no conversation with some one who happens to be in the US forces? Same can be said for China and Chinese, my sister in law is Chinese, her family are over there and used to be goverment officials, where do I stand in my relations to them?

    Best stop wittering eh?

    Anyway, I guess this is why the precepts are guidlines, not commandments, and the compromises are the skifull means we use to work our way through this koan. At the end of the day we do what we feel is the best we can given our personal circumstances at the time and have to sit with the un-easy feeling that may be could eek the balance a bit more in the 'right' direction, doing good and ceasing to do evil.

    Is it impossible to truly fullfill all the precepts? At the moment I'd have to say yes. What do you think?

    In gassho, Kev

    P.S> Jundo I'm sure there'll be some great discussion comes out of that book, but blimey it's not one I would have bought for any other reason :lol:

  2. #2

    Re: The precept and life's great compromises


    Great post. You have brought up some importrant issues, and some can really bother me, as well. You hit the nail on the head about the Precepts being guidlines and not commandments. I think the best way that they can serve us, is to consider our choices as we make them. "Considering the Precepts, my intentions, and what I need to do, what is the best, most healthful and helpful option that I can take?" After that, try to be as comfortable as possible with the choices. Otherwise, we can drive ourselves batty!


  3. #3

    Re: The precept and life's great compromises

    there is a saying

    you cant make an omelet without breaking a few eggs

    for a long time i tried to be perfect, i tried to live my life as not to hurt any living being.
    i found that quite impossible, i would always end up hurting someone.
    and that brought me lots of heart ache, no matter how much i tried i could not elevate or even prevent the suffering of others ( even so far as being the cause of suffering for others ).
    in time i came to see that it takes 2 people to hurt, one to do something and the other to perceive it as suffering. it really made me realize you cant prevent all suffering and help all living beings ( although that doesnt mean you shouldnt try ), you should just live your life as best you can and do your best not to hurt anyone. it is the intention that counts i think, beyond that... just accept that things are as they are.

    Daniel, trying to figure out what perfection really means

  4. #4

    Re: The precept and life's great compromises

    HI Kevin,

    Thanks for the interesting post!

    I recognise a lot of what you write: I don't eat meat and now cannot give blood as a result of this -too little iron in the blood- which makes me sad, but still eat eggs and fish sometimes and am being questioned by others (why do you eat this and not that so I reply either that I eat things that didn't have eyelashes or that because fish doesn't scream as loud etc :roll: ) but I have to decide myself and that is not easy;

    I work for raising awareness of the public about Fair-trade products volunteering in the local supermarket with emphasis on ecologically produced products but when I have to choose between Fair-trade honey from Nicaragua and the ecological honey from Sweden I buy the latter;

    I love travelling and have most of my friends and family living in Europe or Africa and now instead of going to Paris for Christmas or Amsterdam for Easter I stay here, mostly alone, because going by train would take the whole vacation and I do not want to take planes even if flying now is very cheap (which I think is wrong)...So I decided to cut down on flying and discover more of Sweden.

    Compromising... Kevin, I think the best we can do is to follow what we believe in, wholeheartedly. As long as do it with the whole heart, it is worth a lot already. Good luck!



  5. #5

    Re: The precept and life's great compromises

    I think you have to be careful with idealism. How much of it is simply self-justified ego-invested preference? You shouldn't harm sentient beings, but what if avoiding meat harms you (very definitely a sentient being yourself)?

    Far more important is seeing through the dualistic mind that causes these conflicts, IMHO.

  6. #6

    Re: The precept and life's great compromises

    but what if avoiding meat harms you (very definitely a sentient being yourself)?
    Good point, distastermouse! :-)

    It is not avoiding meat per se that harmed my body but ignorance about some aspects of the diet as I female vegetarian (we need more iron than males). When in Africa I was paying attention to eating enough protein but completely forgot the iron intake (we had a very poor diet, no greens at all) but through this experience I learnt more about the diet and the body and still did not have to return to meat eating.

    So after this summer I hope to be able to donate blood again. Lesson learned!



  7. #7

    Re: The precept and life's great compromises

    Hi all, Great thread

    I think Kev is right.
    Anyway, I guess this is why the precepts are guidlines, not commandments, and the compromises are the skifull means we use to work our way through this koan. At the end of the day we do what we feel is the best we can given our personal circumstances at the time and have to sit with the un-easy feeling that may be could eek the balance a bit more in the 'right' direction, doing good and ceasing to do evil.
    In trying to follow many of the precepts, especially if taken to their logical conclusions, we are bound to fail. Even if you are a vegan, the very act of gardening or farming results in killing (I'm still feeling remorseful for all the worms I've chopped in half with my spade). But I think the usefulness of the Precepts is that they can remind us, moment to moment, that we have a choice in how to live our lives. Sometimes we make the wrong choice, but the choice is there. I think great evil can come from feeling and acting as if there is no choice. (I have to drive an SUV. What can I do about US foreign policy--I'm just one person? Everyone gossips, I won't be part of the group if I don't.) But just knowing that we have the power to choose can bring some level of enlightenment and the possibility of doing good.



  8. #8

    Re: The precept and life's great compromises

    Hi Kev,

    Thank you for your post. And thank you for mentioning U.S. foreign policy. I look wistfully towards Canada and think how nice it would be to live somewhere that my taxes weren't supporting actions of which I am both horrified and ashamed. And don't even get me started on the Guantanamo Bay. Can I say "No Justice is No Justice" loud enough?! (thank you for your patience at my rant)

    For me, I try to remember that the ethical actions that I can/do make do matter. Eido Shimano Roshi, speaking on the first vow says "you can save electricity, you can save one drop of water". My community samu at this time is teaching one person to do bookkeeping so she can get a better job. Only ONE person, but she does matter. Sometimes on the local tube system I help people get to their destination, it's a small thing but it does matter to that person. And so, for me it is important to rejoice in the things I CAN do rather than despair about the things I can't do.

    And all you people from Britain remind me how much I miss it. Hey Martin, (if you like theatre) go to the National for me ! (But how stupid of me to forget that theatre outside London is wonderful - so anybody over there - go for me!)

    thank you for your time,
    with palms together,
    whose antibiotics seem to be working!
    and still has BBC radio everyday

  9. #9

    Re: The precept and life's great compromises


    It's weird, I consider myself to be quite focused on not causing harm to others but do nothing of what you say. I'm not politically-minded or environmentally-minded, eat meat, drink, and smoke!
    Having said that, I try not to gossip, I try to listen to people, not speak ill of others, help people around me the best I can, and generally not get angry with people because I'm in a bad mood...I dunno, seems quite small when I type it...
    And I'm pretty sure that if everyone was like me we'd have a pretty boring world where other kinds of suffering would be rife.

    So, as most have said in this thread - we just do the things we can do and our nature is made for: I'd make a pretty bad environmentalist but I consider myself to be quite good at helping old ladies with their shopping!

    There is no perfect, after all. I used to have similar issues with regards to getting angry. I never get angry with people, and I always thought this was a good trait of mine. And then my wife tells me I should get angry with people - how are they going to change if you don't get angry with them?
    Although the logic of that statement is a little off, it makes sense in a way...

    I always think of Zen as being about the people around me. Start with them and all else follows like a ripple of good will...

    It's great to know so many people are so concerned with helping others though

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