This is November 27 2021. And this teisho is going to be a look at the precepts. And, of course, we have today at five o'clock in the Buddha Hall we'll be having the ceremony of Jukai. That is the taking of the precepts.
So I want to say a little bit about that, and then I'm going to try somehow or other to get my get this talk wrapped around what's really a very, very big topic. And I know, I don't have the experience of Roshi has of having done it about 40 or 50 times. So I'm prepared to screw up manfully here
The taking of the precepts is really the only formal step to becoming a follower of the Buddha's way, Buddhist, and just want to say a little bit about that
makes me a little uncomfortable to make too much out of a label. I think all of us as as practitioners as followers of the way as people who are endeavoring to live in service of life, to work to mitigate the damage done by our attachment to our small self, and to live more in harmony with our true nature. think all of us feel have an affinity with anyone who's on a similar path, whether they identify as a Buddhist or not. And there are many people who are members of the center who may not want to say I'm a Buddhist. As Roshi is pointed out that word, Buddhist and the word Buddhism didn't even exist until the West met the yeast sometime in the 1800s. That was used as a way of describing this religion that was encountered when Western missionaries and explorers went to India, Japan and all these Asian countries. Until then, it was just the Dharma, the way.
The Buddha himself said, Don't believe anything just because I say it or because a wise man says it. You need to test it for yourself. Use the image of someone checking out a gold coin by biting it. Seeing if it's softer or harder. I guess was a way you identified counterfeit coins back in olden days. The Dalai Lama said at one point, if we find that some teaching of Buddhism is not in agreement with the findings of science, we must abandon that teaching. What we're all interested in is the truth. There's no council of elders that determines what the truth is. The truth is things as they are in our effort are lifelong. Our lives along effort is to come into harmony with the way things are.
There are three foundations of Buddhist practice of Zen practice. Course in Roshi capitalist book, the three pillars of Zen, believe the formulation is teaching practice enlightenment, but more traditionally, using they're using Sanskrit terminology. It's Sheila, Si, la Samadhi and prajna. So Sheila, is sometimes translated as discipline. or ethics or virtue, or morality. And it encompasses three aspects of the Eightfold Path. That is right speech, right action, and right livelihood. It's the ground, it's the, it's the foundation of everything else that follows. Living ethically and purely. It's not only the ground of Buddhist practice of the Buddhist path, it's also the result. As we follow this path as we learn more in an experiential way, as we come to see how limited our previous views were, we begin to align ourselves with life, the needs of others. We begin to live more ethically, not even thinking about it. Nonetheless, as a foundation starting out by thinking about how do I serve others, and how much do I give some sort of preference to myself. That's, that's, that's where we need to start.
Just to lightly touch on the other two foundations Samadhi usually means concentration, absorption, sometimes, mindfulness. So another word that we use more often in Zen, which is then the word itself, because Zen is a transliteration of the Chinese word Chan, and that is a trend transliteration of the Sanskrit word Yana, which is meditative absorption, or we could say Samadhi. Then the third foundation is prajna. Which can mean wisdom insight. Enlightenment. With a foundation of morality, with experience in absorption concentration, we can come to see things as they are. As Sheng yen would say we come to see the nature
and that can help to free ourselves from our fundamental ignorance, the causes of suffering.
In one of the Buddha's first guests, he called the sutra talking about the Dhammapada. He talks about the effort of working on ourselves. The ability to change the way we relate to the world and to our lives. Says as irrigators lead water where they want is archers make their arrows straight. As carpenters carve wood, the wise shape their minds. All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It's founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.
In in ancient China, one of the main schools of Buddhism what was what was what was known as the vinyasa school. This was the mastery of all the precepts that applied to monks and nuns was possibly a bigger school even though Zen and a lot of the Chinese masters began in the video. And it was only later that they came to practice that And it's a, it's the foundation that we need dedication to living ethically and in the service of others. Now you can practice then without even thinking about morality, it's been it's been done. And you can develop powers of concentration. You can get your Reiki, meditative energy, you find, especially in sesshin you can become quite an impressive person. But there is this danger of becoming what we could call a spiritual athlete. And there are many, many, way too many sad stories of what I'd like to call a Zen sociopath teachers who take advantage of their students
it's always a danger. First is the danger of a one sided emphasis on an insight into emptiness. No one there no one to be hurt. sort of reached its peak in Japan, in the samurai period, when the Zen and the samurai way were sort of combined. And you see passages about striking down someone with a sword. The head is empty.
So nature, ancient tradition actually in eastern teachings, not just in Buddhism or in Zen. I know way back when when I was first reading books about Eastern religion. I read the Bhagavad Gita. Yeah. Which is
deals with Arjuna a warrior. And it's the same sort of advice to just become one with the battle. Not to see any opposition. But the reality is people are getting killed. Even during World War Two, harder Roshi. One of our predecessors in this line, gave advice to Japanese soldiers, tramp tramp tramp, bang, bang, bang. It's disturbing, understandable, but disturbing. It's another danger in spiritual practice. And that's the power imbalance. There's a student and there's a teacher. And, of course, we all have heard the term power corrupts. And it's been studied. It's been studied. And we know so many examples. people in positions of power, tend to lose empathy. Even people who feel virtuous, tend to lose apathy. They did a study once where they sent graduate students or maybe undergraduates out to crosswalk. And they just recorded what happened as people are walking across the street on the crosswalk walk, which cars stopped in which cars didn't. And it was pretty decisively found that the more and more expensive the car was, the more effect the more power the driver had, the less likely it was to stop. And someone commenting on that study said, Well, surely though, if somebody was driving a Prius, they would stop and he said, Well, actually, they were the worst. So why is that? I imagine that it's because of that feeling of virtue.
There's a phrase the irritability of saints. All of us probably have experienced this when you're trying really hard to be good. It's annoying when other people don't fit into your plans. It this whole practice of morality requires
requires that we be realistic about just how good we are. We're all imperfect. We're all working at this project. The more we focus on our superiority, and the faults of others, the more we violate the precepts. It's ironic. I want to dip into please bear with me, dip into this guy Anthony de Mello that I keep reading from. I have an addiction, I think. But I have to read from here because he's just really on the nose, talking about this whole question of being good. He's terming it selfless charity. He says here, let me summarize what I was saying about selfless charity. I have said that there are two types of selfishness. Maybe I should have said three. First, when I do something, or rather when I give myself the pleasure of pleasing myself, that is doing whatever you want. Second, when I give myself the pleasure of pleasing others, don't take pride in that. Don't think you're a great person. You're a very ordinary person. But you've got refined tastes. Your taste is good, not the quality of your spirituality. When you were a child, you liked Coca Cola. Now you've grown older, and you appreciate chilled beer on a hot day. You've got better taste now. When you were a child, you love chocolates. Now you're older, you enjoy a symphony, you enjoy a poem. Actually, I still like chocolates. You've got better tastes, but you're getting your pleasure all the same, except now it's in the pleasure of pleasing others. And then you've got the third type, which is the worst. When you do something good, so that you won't get a bad feeling. It doesn't give you a good feeling to do. It gives you a bad feeling to do it. You hate it. You're making loving sacrifices, but you're grumbling, how little you know of yourself. If you think you don't do things that way.
If I had $1, for every time I did things that gave me a bad feeling I'd be a millionaire by now. You know how it goes? Could I meet you tonight? Father? Yes, come in. I don't want to meet him. And I hate meeting him. I want to watch that TV show tonight. But how do I say no to him? I don't have the guts to say no. Come on in. And I'm thinking, oh god, I've got to put up with this pain. It doesn't give me a good feeling to meet with him. And it doesn't give me a good feeling to say no to him. So I choose the lesser of the two evils. And I say okay, come on in. I'm going to be happy when this thing is over. I'll be able to take my smile off. But I start the session with him. How are you? Wonderful, he says. And he goes on and on about how he loves that workshop. And I'm thinking, Oh God, what is he going to come to the point? Finally, he comes to the point that I metaphorically slam him against the wall and say, well, any fool can solve that kind of problem. And I send him out who got rid of him. And the next morning at breakfast because I'm feeling I was so rude. I go up to him and I say how's life? And the answer is pretty good. And the ads you know, what you said to me last night was a real help. Can I beat you today after?
We're all of us, tainted with our selfish desire. It's just the nature of the beast. It's it's it's how we are and we want to improve and we do improve. People do become more open and more. They carry themselves more lightly. And they're quicker to see when there are needs and they're quicker to actually act on what they see. But it's slow going process. And the minute you start thinking that You're standing somewhere along that road, you're fooling yourself. Please don't take this to mean I'm saying you shouldn't take the precepts. guess one way of putting it is this, this journey that we're going going on is a long, long journey, but it's called a journey of 10,000 miles. And someone who's made a little bit of progress. Maybe they're a step or two farther down the path than someone else that they may compare themselves with. Or maybe they're a step or two behind. But what's important is not the few steps any of us may have taken. It's the direction that we're going in. It's seeing the precepts and Zen practice itself, the entire thing, the whole enchilada, as an aspiration. And a there's the phrase, progress, not perfection.
There's a story, which I heard once tried to find it on the internet and came up empty. But it's the story of someone like maybe in ancient India, who finds out somehow that there is this amazing treasure hidden under the sea. And he decides he's going to get that treasure. And so he goes to the sea and brings a bucket, and he starts emptying it. Day after day, I don't know where he's putting the water that doesn't go back into the sea. For the sake of the story, let's say he's able to just operate it. So the gods finally notice him, they're working away, and one of them comes down to earth and speaks to him and says, you know, why are you doing this and explains, you know, I know this treasure that you've hidden under the sea, and I'm going to empty it and get it and take care of my family and take care of everyone. And the God says, You can do this day after day for the rest of your life. And you'll never finish. The man turns back to him and says, Yes, but when I die, go to come back and continue. And as many lifetimes as it takes. And the God realizes, Oh my god. Eventually he will empty the sea. And in the story, he's presented with the treasure it's another story guy walking along the seashore, and there's been a storm and all these starfish have washed up onto the beach. And you know, they're too far to get back into the water and so they're all in the process of dying. And he begins picking them up and one by one throwing them back in and somebody asks him his whole beach for miles in every direction is littered with starfish. How can you possibly save them all but differences are going to make man picks up a starfish and says it makes a difference to this one and throws it back in the sea
it's so sad to see people who suddenly have gotten a sense of how difficult it is to achieve perfection measure up to whatever standard they have to see those people fall off in practice because they say they feel they're not good enough. So many of us struggle with that idea of how do I measure up
we have to we have to recognize we're always going to fall short. Things Zen master Dogan said Zen is a practice of continuous failure it's important is the direction taking the next step
read a little something from my latest go to person. Joko back
tells it as it is. She does people often say to me Joko, why do you make practice so hard? Why don't you hold out any cookies at all. But from the point of view of the small self practice can only be hard. Practice annihilates, the small self, and the small self isn't interested in that one bit. It can't be expected to greet this annihilation with joy. So there's no cookie that can be held out for the small self, unless we want to be dishonest. And then she holds out a cookie. There is another side to practice. However, as our small self dies are angry, demanding, complaining, maneuvering, manipulating self, a real cookie appears, joy and genuine self confidence, we begin to taste what it feels like to care about someone else, without expecting anything in return. And this is true compassion. How much we have it depends on the rate at which the small self dies, as a dice here and there. We have moments when we see what life is. Sometimes we can spontaneously act and serve others. With this growth always comes repentance. When we realize that we have almost constantly hurt ourselves and others, we repent. In this repentance itself is pure joy.
The joy of knowing the way seeing how things are progress not perfection. So in the ceremony of taking the precepts, one of the first things we do is a repentance gotta
ceremony begins with all of us reciting all harmful actions committed by me since time immemorial, stemming from greed, anger and delusion, arising from body speech and mind. I now repent having committed
in a formal repentance ceremony, we go on to make a commitment to end whatever behavior we're repenting. It's not enough just to be sorry, we need to take action. Best Action we can take is not to do it again. We've hurt someone, how can we make it up to them by our commitment, not to do it again.
I'd like what Jobo says, repentance itself is joy. The joy of pointing ourselves in the right direction. Having the courage to recognize what we're doing wrong, having the courage to commit ourselves to overcoming.
Having gone through that reef repentance ceremony, we then launch into the 16 precepts there are the three refuges are considered three of the precepts. Then there's what's called sometimes the three pure precepts. And finally the 10 Cardinal precepts that we do in Zen. In other in other forms of Buddhism, the number of precepts may vary. There's there's variations. The first five of the cardinal precepts that we do are pretty much common to all schools of Buddhism. But the three refuges is where we start. We say I take refuge in Buddha, and resolve that with all beings, I will understand the great way whereby the Buddha's seed may forever thrive. I take refuge in Dharma, and resolve that with all beings I will enter deeply into the sutra treasure, whereby my wisdom they grow as vast as the ocean. I take refuge in Sangha and in its wisdom example, and never failing Help and resolve to live in harmony with all sentient beings. So it's the three refuges, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, which we could call maybe realization, truth and harmony. There's a tendency when we take refuge in Buddha to think of Shakyamuni, Buddha, think of the finger on the altar. But really, it's, we're taking refuge in our true nature, in who we really are. Taking refuge in awareness, and awakening. And then dharma. People often think of it as well, that's the Sutras, the teachings of the Buddha. But really by Dharma, I think a more profound way to see it is the way things are.
When this happens, then that happens. It's, it's it encompasses the three characteristics of existence. impermanence, that nothing lasts forever. Suffering, because of our clinging because of our desire for things to last core for things not to last, we suffer when we're not in tune with the way things are. And then finally, the truth of no self. There is no person, no thing, it's just a process.
So having taken three times through the three refuges, we move on to the three what we call the three resolutions are elsewhere they're called the Three Pure precepts. And in our formulation, it's I resolve to avoid wrong I resolve to do good resolve to liberate all living beings. Pretty good summation. Of course, liberating all living beings is like emptying the sea.
Go through that three times running. And then once through the 10 Cardinal precepts, I'd like to say a little bit about those. Probably not time to go into as much depth as we'd like. So the first of the precepts is I resolved not to kill, but to cherish all life. And we can take that literally don't kill other people. And we can also take it and don't kill animals. And you know, just everything we can do to preserve life. It's difficult to make an absolute out of it is the example of a rabid dog in order to protect others, it might be necessary to kill the dog
so we're all forced in some way or another to kill. We can't. We can't live without killing, you know, it's only microorganisms and vegetables. Some people see this precept and they think this means I need to become a vegetarian. And we've never taught that at the center. The center itself obviously serves only vegetarian food and many of our members are not eat meat. But Roshi Kapleau who was probably one of the most strict people about that in his own personal life. He wouldn't even wear leather shoes or a leather belt. advised he said don't give up meet that meet give you up. If you if you continue On this path, you may find no guarantee, you may find that it just comes naturally to give up meet
it if you don't want it to turn into should, this is how I should be, I'll be a bad person. If I don't then you're back into Anthony de mellows doing it so you won't have a bad feeling all the precepts work when they come out of love for life. They come out of joy
Chris Criss killing also has a figurative meaning meaning. So for instance, when you label someone when you write them off, you're killing them in a way when you interrupt someone, you're killing what they're seeing can kill time. When you when we allow ourselves to lapse into automatic pilot, just sort of going through our day with with little or no awareness. We're killing our life
I'd like the positive side of this. To cherish all life means to truly see others. When we do they come alive. Everything comes alive when we see it. If the world seems gray and undistinguished it's because we're asleep. Really see this after sesshin everything is shiny, new brought the world back to life.
The second precept is resolved not to take what is not given, but to respect the things of others. This can mean simply not wasting someone else's time. It means not getting caught up in gaining and grasping. It means being okay with what we have be able to rest in this moment, which is what is given. We have this right now. The good and the bad story about Joseph Heller, the author who wrote catch 22. At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, not sure Shelter Island is. Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal Joseph Heller that their host, a hedge fund manager had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly wildly popular novel catch 22 over its whole history. And Joseph Heller responded yes, but I have something he will never have enough.
Spending the things of others means taking care of things not wasting. It's always hard to do this in a community. Lots of different people driving the cars. Going through the rooms
means taking care of people.
The third precept is I resolved not to misuse sexuality, but to be caring and responsible. Again, what's important is not to be selfish. Our sexual drive is a natural part of our being. Even someone who's celibate has a sexual drive. But if we use that to objectify others to cause harm to others, take advantage of them to manipulate them to lose our connection same thing again we need to see the other CV other as ourself.
Fourth preceptive result resolved not to cause others to abuse alcohol or drugs, or to do so myself. But to keep the mind clear when I went into treatment for alcohol abuse I found out later from my counselor that she was somewhat intimidated because I was a Zen student and her brother and she said, told her, just ask him about how he's doing with the fourth precept
which hopefully gave her the confidence to help me quite a bit. I owe a debt to her.
Of course, by the way, we skipped a precept, this copy I've got the libretto for the ceremony is missing the precepts. A good good thing we have this teisho We'll get back to that one. That's it's not to lie, but to speak the truth but we're we're we're doing drugs right now. So obviously, drinking, or using drugs can be a gateway for breaking every other one of the precepts. fact there's a Tibetan story about that guy gets drunk and ends up slaughtering his animal and basically one by one manages to break each of the precepts. Nevertheless, people drink and it's not necessarily a problem. It is for some some of us and you know, there's a good solution, which is not to drink. But it's okay for some people. Carl Jung famously said an honest drink with no man forbid, that was my favorite Carl Jung quote for many, many years. A friend of mine pointed out Yeah, but I don't think it's an honest. John. It's funny when I when I did stop drinking, I was speaking with my mother by the phone. And I told her, and she's a bit of she was a bit of a drinker. And she said, Well, surely you could have a glass of Christmas cheer. I said, No, actually not. But it does point out one of the dangers of drinking under control. You know, there are people who don't get into big problems with their drinking, and yet it kind of saps part of their life. So it's something to look at even if you're not, you know, getting a DWI or getting into some sort of a fight or a jam. Is it an honest drink? A lot of people end up with sort of a habitual cocktail hour, every day of their life. And you know, once they've had two or three, they're not really all they're kind of losing something, aren't they? And of course, this precepts makes clear that it also we also have a responsibility for others. And so we can easily by our example, or by our encouragement, lead others into something that maybe we can handle but they can't
I'm gonna jump back to the third
not to lie, but to speak the truth. I remember when I was first in a, I was going off to these meetings, and I was also in treatment. And during one of our treatment session sessions, this counselor I mentioned earlier confronted somebody else in the group, who apparently was not being honest about his relapses. And she gave him the task of that the next day, a meeting to bring up the topic of telling the truth, that line. And it was, it was a very one of the very first meetings I went to. And I had noticed somebody in the room who looked to me like he wasn't really with it, kind of slouching in his chair, and didn't seem to be really paying close attention. But when the topic got brought up, he he spoke. And it was pretty amazing. And what he said was, I'm honest, because I like to travel light.
Life becomes so much simpler and direct, when we commit ourselves to being truthful. When we stop finding shortcuts that are based on letting other people have a misunderstanding that's convenient for us. When we're willing to share what's really going on with us. It's another saying, Oh, what a one a what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. And then I think I've done Nash added on two lines, that when we've practiced for a bit, annoyingly, when we've practiced for a while, have vastly improve our style, I
think we all have a certain amount of skill at letting other people believe what we want them to believe.
So those are the first five of the precepts. And I have time to just lightly tap on each of the next five, six and seven. This is one that a lot of people struggle with this, you can work on this for a long, long time, and work on them all for a long time. But six goes like this. I resolved not to speak of the faults of others, but to be understanding and sympathetic. That seven is I resolved not to praise myself and disparage others, but to overcome my own shortcomings. Anybody who even thinks about those two for a minute, realizes how hard that is going to be to do. It's so tempting to praise oneself, and point out the shortcomings of others, usually not directly to them. But you know, to among friends, we just reinforce our small self, our self bias. If we're truly in the service of life, when others are wrong, we want to help you don't want to gloat over it. We don't want to make needless comparisons
really comes down to right speech. How is it helpful? Zen master muon said if you argue right and wrong, you're a person of right and wrong. It is a person who dwells in criticism. It's one thing to see we definitely see the faults of others. So just the way things are we see if someone has brown hair or red hair. We also see if someone's irritable or not generous or lazy. But if that then leads us into this comparison between ourselves and them. We've dropped into the service of the small self
Not many of us prided ourselves overtly. But some of us, especially me, have a tendency to sort of bring out for the view of others something wonderful that we think we've done. I have some friends who pat me on the back, literally, when I do that. The irony is not lost on me. These are things we just have to work on to notice first, it's one of the things that people often do in a term intensive is take one or two of the precepts and just try to see how they play out in their lives. And you can learn a lot by doing that. It's not a reason again, to feel bad about yourself. It's just to see and as we see, as our awareness grows, a lot of this just naturally drops away without our needing to beat ourselves up about it. Just a question of being clear eyed and awake. The eighth is I resolved not to withhold spiritual or material aid, but to give them freely where needed.
We have to balance it against taking care of our own needs and taking care of the needs of our family and others, but this, this is the one of the paramitas one of the perfections is giving. We can give things we can give our attention. We can give advice we can give help. And that tendency to withhold it is always self protection. The more we can open up open our hearts open our chest, the more able we are to give without thinking about what we get in return.
The ninth is resolved not to indulge in anger, but to practice forbearance. Again, Swan starts with awareness to see when we're angry, to feel it in the body. The minute we move our attention to what's going on. In reality in ourselves, the more we slip away from focusing on whatever it is that we're furious about. I always like to say that the hardest anger to manage is Justified Anger. When we truly have been wronged. It's very hard not to just focus on the wrong and and it'll come up. But then if we stay there if we nurse, our grudge. I use that term all my life nursing a grudge and never occurred to me. That's a that's a metaphor that's a mother nursing a child. It's my little pet grudge, I'm holding to my teat keeping it alive
we can use our anger, the fact that we're angry if we can just acknowledge it without going overboard which speaks the truth. We don't focus on what kind of a person would do such a thing, but just on the act itself, that our anger can be clean and helpful.
For some people, that's a bigger struggle than for others. Some people have an angry nature. Both harder Roshi and Yasutani. Roshi had a tendency towards anger with Harada. He taught someone wants that even after coming to awakening. It took him 10 years before he felt he had control of his anger. He was from a samurai family, of course, no samurai in these days, but that was the family heritage. And he had a ferocious temper as a young man and felt that if he hadn't gotten into Zen, he would have probably ended up killing someone
Then the final precept number 10. I resolved not to reveal the three treasures, but to cherish and uphold them. Sort of suns the whole thing up three treasures again, our Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The more we value them, the more we can see how meaningful they are for us, the more we will uphold them, and the more progress we'll make on this on this endless path. Then once everybody's done that, whoever is officiating says, we have all now been confirmed as members of the Buddhist family. And our time is up. Stop now and recite the four vows