2022-11-26-JP The Precepts, Part 2: The Ten Cardinal Precepts
2:34PM Nov 29, 2022
Today is Saturday, November 26. This is our day of Jukai, the taking of the precepts. And the ceremony will be this afternoon at five o'clock. And maybe I'll go over one more time, the structure of the ceremony. People are welcome to come and sit early. Earlier in the afternoon, I think the Zendo is open by three o'clock. Well, Zen is always open. So if you want to sneak in early, you know, I think that'll be overlooked. And then, just before five, Truman will start sending people out to the to the Buddha Hall. And you'll have instructions of what to do there and whatnot. Once we're all in place, we go through a little repentance ceremony. We went through this about two weeks ago and teisho, the beginnings of the ceremony, we have the repentance, gotta go through that three times. And then the the three refuges, the three pure precepts or general resolutions are sometimes called and then the 10 Cardinal precepts and those 10 Cardinal precepts is what we haven't talked about yet this year. So that's the subject matter. That's my talk this morning. You know, I was banding that word about Cardinal Cardinal precepts, and I realized, I don't really know what that means. So I looked it up. Probably most people do know, but it just means fundamental essential. It's also sometimes trans translated as the 10 grave precepts. But that puts a kind of a bummer spin on it. And it's really good to understand, I love the way in Buddhism, the precepts are presented, both with a negative side and a positive side. It's a little different from the 10 commandments in Christianity, which is all Thou shalt not. So for instance, for the first precept we say, I resolve not to kill, but to cherish all life.
It's it's kind of interesting just to run through the positive side of those. Resolve to cherish all life, are resolved to respect the things of others. I resolved to be caring and responsible with sexuality. Resolved to speak the truth. It's all to keep the mind clear. Resolve to be understanding and sympathetic. resolve to overcome my own shortcomings. I resolved to give aid freely where needed. I resolved to practice forbearance, let's almost negative, but we'll go with it. I resolved to cherish and uphold Three Treasures Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
The precepts describe a life that's in service of life. It's gone beyond self protection, self serving. It's a life that benefits ourselves and others and minimizes the harm we do. The inevitable harm that we do. Say inevitable because there's no way we can keep the precepts perfectly.
Short of full enlightenment. Everyone is subject to delusive thinking. teachers, students, young old
subject to the lucid thinking and elusive actions, harmful actions based on self and other that's that's the Dharma. That's That's how things are. It's what we work with. So let's take these up. I'm going to start at the beginning. Chris suggested on the way here, maybe I should do it backwards. Start with 10 and run through one I've got a habit traditionalist right. So the first is, I resolve not to kill, but to cherish all life. Obviously, there may be times when we do need to kill. I remember Roshi Kapleau used to bring out the example of a mad dog, dog with rabies. Dog has to be put down, otherwise more damage will be done. There are situations but we work to minimize it, to do it in service of the greater good not in service of the self and our preferences and our prejudices. The most important thing is what is our mind state coming out of separation, not a fear of greed out of anger
remember hearing a story about Tongan Roshi, there was some creature in the Zendo maybe it was a scorpion, I don't know.
In nobody was sure what to do. How do you kill it, you're violating the first precept. Of course, the key is to do what you need to do with an empty mind without dividing. Is he swept up, bowed and smashed.
There's beyond beyond literal killing. There's there's all kinds of other killing that we do. And so this precept really has a wide application, you can be killing time. You can be killing people, by labeling them, putting them in a box, or by ignoring them. Oh, he's not worth my time. She's just that way, never going to change. We always knew that the boy would come to no good. We kill through our callousness to the suffering of others. And then there is shortchanging ourselves kill our own potential. live our life on automatic pilot. Working with this precept, all these precepts to work with them is to just bring our awareness to how we think and what we do. In the light of whatever precept it is we're working on. Here we see our murderous thoughts. See when we cut people off, and it gives us some distance gives us a little leeway someplace to get a pry bar in and make a change. By seeing what's going on in the mind, it's easier not to act in a diluted in a harmful way.
Remember, the Auckland Zen Center made some shirts. I think on the back they said Never underestimate the power of Zen. could put another another way. Never underestimate the power of awareness. Any change begins with awareness. You can get in sort of a dog got to do it kind of stayed and think about oh practice I got to do my practice. It's awareness. It's living fully It's waking up.
To cherish all life means to care for the natural world. For everything around us. In the meal chance we say with all the lives Let us equally share. We're embedded in this world and our care extends to everything, living and inanimate. Care for our shoes. Set them To neatly buy the shoe cubbies not just toss them about take care of the things that are entrusted to us. And how much more so animals people the environment planet
the second precept is I've resolved not to take what is not given. But to respect the things of others. means asking permission for we take something means returning what we've borrowed. I've have a few books sitting in my bookshelf that I never managed to give back. We all do. Easy to forget not to take what is not given means to share fairly at a meal, communal meal, if you're the first in line, don't take too much. Make sure there's something there for everybody be sensitive to how much there is. It means not wasting, not wasting time, especially others time.
And really, you can extend it and say not hogging the spotlight, not eating up all the attention in the room. Not dominating every conversation. Not spending every conversation thinking about the next bright thing you're going to say, but listening
do take what is given.
The whole spirit of this precept comes from realizing that we have everything we're whole and complete. We act out of a spirit of contentment, confidence. Seeing that our needs are met. It's much easier to to stay with the Spirit, respecting the things of others.
And the third precept, resolved not to misuse sexuality, but to be caring and responsible. can address this from a male point of view, I guess. And first thing that stands out for me is not to manipulate and not to objectify. Think of adolescent boys, men who've never grown up, obsessed with scoring with cajoling, getting others to do what they may not want to do. Pushing others to do what they'll regret. So much tremendous damage is done. Especially early in life. children, teenagers, young adults manipulated into doing what they don't want to do. Then dealing with the fallout from that
it's a misuse of power. And anytime there's a power differential, student teacher relationship, for instance. Then sexuality becomes extremely problematic. It's why at the center, we have a code of conduct which basically puts students off limits to the teacher. So much damage has been done at so many Zen centers and then beyond the world of Zen, so many churches, so many ashrams. So many gatherings, so many institutions, businesses
And it's best sexuality leads to intimacy.
To love so easy to misuse. Of course, one way the problem has been solved in the past is through celibacy, which is a valid choice. But if that celibacy precludes openness and intimacy, and maybe it's not quite right. There's a koan, most many people have heard of, about a monk who is living in a hut provided by a wealthy woman and old woman brought him his meals and allowed them to practice they're pretty experienced, adept. And one day, the old woman got a little curious about where his practice was at how much he had her generosity to him and helped him. And so she had a 16 year old daughter, or maybe granddaughter, not sure how old this woman was. And she said, why don't you go in and, you know, sort of see how interested he is in UCSC. If you can get him to transgress, the girl went in and laid her head in his lap and said, How does this make you feel? And I can't remember exactly what he said. But like, the old, withered tree clings to the ancient rock, drew himself up. And the girl went back and reported. And the old woman came and tore down the hut and drove him out with a broom. What's missing there, and that response is even seeing the girl
want we want with with, with morality, we want not only morality, but we want humility, openness, you really want joy. You want the ability to delight sparks with others. Ability to see
the fourth precept is I resolved not to lie, but to speak the truth. And this commitment to truth changes our whole relationship to the world. Once we can rely on ourselves, I remember for many years, I would notice that whenever I was I had done something wrong. Maybe I was late. Late to the Senator for instance, as I would drive there, if I got caught by a red light, I would think yeah, that's why I'm late. I got caught in traffic. You know, all these excuses would just float where did they come from? flow into my mind. I think I was aware enough not to actually deploy them. But it was just so interesting that they came obviously, that was the way I'd lived for years is try to find an excuse. So mentioned the fellow I heard in a said I'm honest, because I like to travel light. Get out of the business of trying to make everything put ourselves in the best possible light. Because whenever we traffic and deception, and deception doesn't have to be an outright lie. It can just be omitting something can be noticing that people have the wrong idea. Maybe a somewhat too favorable idea of something we've done or said and allowing them to, to hold that not not setting the record straight. When that's our agenda when that's our direction, we separated ourselves have to mention the other side of this one and that's the dangers of brutal honesty. Some people can become a little too enthusiastic about their truth telling.
Some times the answer to us does this make me look fat? Is not the truth. The question itself is problematic. Makes you look beautiful
sometimes just silence. There There are any number of stories about the Buddha were asked a question. He just remained silent. Because saying yes and saying no would both do damage
the fifth precept is I resolved not to cause others to abuse alcohol or drugs, or to do so myself. But to keep the mind clear. Usually often taking up alcohol taking up drinking or taking up using drugs, is a form of self medication doesn't happen simply because people are bad people are idiots. They may be idiots, but it's not the only reason. Because in the beginning, especially with drinking, probably with with drugs as well, in the beginning, and sometimes for quite a while, it seems to fix what's wrong, says what it was like for me, I first stumbled into drinking around the age of 15 or 16. Every all the anxiety and awkwardness that I felt just sloughed off, dropped away. Everything was wonderful. I remember thinking about how the state of Ohio was full of liquor stores, endless supply.
But drugs kind of work bluntly, you know that that relief we feel is the suppression of the frontal cortex that's cutting off our inhibitions. And some of those inhibitions are important. The damage that drinking and using can cause is devastating. Just just think about all the deaths from Oxycontin, and from heroin and from drinking all the ruined families all the ruined lives. Then there's the subtle side that people who are able to use in quote, or quote, moderation. And yet somehow their lives end up end up being limited prescribed. Every night, getting a buzz on getting up in the morning, going to work. Doing it day after day after day, never really connecting. Sometimes it's better to go down the drain and find some sort of resurrection
Carl Jung felt there was a spiritual aspect to drinking. That's why they're called spirits. That openness and freedom. It's an echo of our true freedom. That somewhere we know is our birthright.
And then beyond actual substances drinking or snorting or injecting, we make our own drugs. Seriously, it's a it's a biological fact. We make we make opiates in the brain. They're called endorphins. And a lot of times that's triggered by habitual actions. So this this precept to avoid alcohol or drugs but to keep the mind clear, really can apply to any of the habits we use to get relief.
All the ways we find to close off the parts of life we don't want to look at all the ways we're unwilling to open up no matter what it is, when we do become addicted when it becomes the goat To escape, we stopped growing. Now they used to say in AAA, people would say, when I got sober at the age of 50, or 60, or whatever, I was still a teenager, emotionally, all those things I'd never learned to deal with. Because I had a way of blending them.
One of the inevitable things that goes along with opening up is suffering, feeling pain, we open up to the pain of the world, bring it into our own heart. That's the price to actually be alive
it's the price of joy.
We could go beyond saying keep the mind clear and say keep it alert, flexible, responsive, sympathetic, alive. Those five those first five precepts are, I think, common to all different schools of Buddhism. In the Mahayana, so called Mahayana, Division of Buddhism, two basic is my Jana. And then there's Tara vada, used to be called me used to be taught that it was henna, yada. So that would mean literally the greater vehicle and the lesser vehicle. I think that's fallen out of favor now. And we use the term Tera Vaada. And this school doesn't matter. What matters is the person matters is the mind. Anyway, we have these other five precepts, which are probably even more bedeviling than the first five. And I especially am thinking about the next two, which I'm going to take together. So that's number six. And number 7/6 precept is I resolved not to speak of the faults of others, but to be understanding and sympathetic. And the seventh is I resolved not to praise myself and disparage others, but to overcome my own shortcomings.
Think of all the precepts during the term intensives I think these two get taken up by people who want to look into how they relate to their desire to follow the precepts. Look into how that works out for them and have some insight into what they're doing and not doing thinking and not thinking it's just so natural, to try to be self preferential to try to make ourselves look good. Who hasn't seen a group photo and immediately gone to look at your own face? I don't know maybe I'm the only one that does that. But it's it's just so automatic. Really built in Yeah, thanks, Evolution
The Sixth Patriarch, said, I see, yet I do not see. He was asked What do you mean by see but not see. And he said seeing I constantly see the errors and faults of my own mind not seeing I do not see other people's rights and wrongs, goodness and evil.
Such a good practice. vigilant about our own motivations. So the only motivations we can really know and don't cause harm by presuming that we understand the motivations of others by putting a value judgment or a label on what they do. We're taught in Buddhism, everything is the result of causes and conditions. It's how everybody comes to be how they are. We see it of course, we see when someone's rigid or we notice when someone's boasting boastful or when they're lazy, but it's just things as they are There's no need to apply that judgment. Find ways of bringing it up. Find ways of comparing it to our superior behavior.
When we flare up with righteousness, we lose our connection, reduce others to a caricature, and we lose our intimacy.
There's a teacher in the Thai Forest Tradition and John who says his mantra is right now it's like this
right now it's like this. It's our life. Now, this semester move on said, when you argue right and wrong, you are a person of right and wrong. Of course, sometimes we may have a role. A job to do that requires we point out what's wrong, or maybe better way to put it as point out unskillful behavior. But we fail in that role. If we lose our sympathy, if we lose our understanding. We can help other people by pointing out their faults. But you need to find a skillful way of doing it. Sarcasm is usually not the best way.
We all have our, our default ways of cutting off others, and I think mine is probably sarcasm. It's painful.
It's hard to be sarcastic and be sympathetic.
We know from paying attention, we know that we ourselves are riddled with errors and faults. We know because I read from Anthony de Mello 25 times that I'm an ass urine s.
Robert Aiken, in his book, The mind of clover, which is mainly about the precepts. Pretty good book, I think, says it is not easy, just as when we practice with Mu, and it's not clear. So we practice intimacy when we do not feel it. Just as we return again and again to Mu after drifting into remembering and planning. So we return again and again to intimacy when we drift into discussing the faults of others. What this is all about noticing and responding.
And what do we mean by intimacy? The easy way to say it is just to drop the delusion of the small separate self, the self that we cherish and protect and opening up to things as they are. On a read a little bit from Robert Aiken, for people who don't know he was for many years, a teacher of the diamond Sangha in Hawaii, contemporary of Roshi Kapleau think they were sort of frenemies.
He says when we find trust and intimacy, then there are no outsiders to put into boxes. We include people, animals, trees, stones and clouds, by our realization of Buddha nature, the other is no other than myself. In Mahayana terms, when I forget the self I find that the other is nurture nurturing me
give the other a chance. Do you say this is naive? Maybe so, but look where sophistication has brought us here. The problem is that we get hooked by appearances and are no longer standing on our own feet. With trust, however, we can pay attention to the innate person out there, if someone is aloof, perhaps a smile and a friendly question or perhaps simply respectful Silence may be appropriate. The question is who is boss here? Are you blown about by the words and actions of others? Or do you sit firmly in your own Dojo that is practice hall of intimacy. When something happens, do you use that chance? Or are you used by it? Do you bright blindly react?
Later on, he says, actually, a so called fault is a weak place where a character can change your quality of stubbornness, your quality of passivity, your quality of anger. These are the sensitive places in your personality where your individual talent can emerge. It is your anger that will enable you to correct evil in the world is your stubbornness, that will enable you to realize Mu get through your koan. It is your passivity that will enable you to endure hardship on the path. When you truly see how much change can occur in yourself, and how you can use your qualities of character, then you will appreciate how others may do so also.
The real damage, one of the real forms of damage that we do by focusing on what's wrong with others, is we develop this brutal, disparaging mind, and then it gets turned on ourselves. Inevitably. If you bash others, you're going to bash yourself. If you bash yourself, you're probably going to bash others.
Give the last word here on these two precepts to the Buddha, who said, Do not give your attention to what others do? Give it to what you do, or fail to do.
Number eight, is I resolved not to withhold spiritual or material aid, but to give them freely where needed. So that's spiritual or material. It's effort, time, attention, listening, helping with the dishes. Surely, it's also making donations. But basically, it's the spirit of giving means not being too stingy with praise, or too fearful to give feedback when it would help. things sometimes there's a tendency to be really, really stingy with praise. We maybe have inherited from the Japanese think I think it's there's a cultural difference, where the praise that rarely comes is really prized when it does. But in our culture, the praise that rarely comes off and the reaction is, well, they don't see it very often because they don't really believe it. So it's really it's a question of skillful means. But my own observation is I don't praise people enough, or thank people enough
the difficulty with this precept is our fixation on the on the self on self protection. Just a simple example of giving. always afraid if I give too much what if I go hungry? I don't have enough. Clearly we need to be judicious. But so often we're too we're too risk averse. giving aid freely means taking a risk. I really get into this conversation with him or her. Them it'll take all afternoon. Let me just cut it short. Well, sometimes you may need to do that. But so often we do it just because we're risk averse. We're afraid.
Whole thing of plunging ahead Ah, you know, giving can be giving yourself to your practice, to really working wholeheartedly. There's a fear in that too. If I try hard and I fail, it's gonna feel horrible. But when we make up our mind, things open up
let me read something that was written by a guy named William Hutchinson Murray. I think back in the 1800s says until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative, and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves to all sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, and meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I've learned a deep respect for one of greatest couplets. Whatever you can do, or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Think of when Roshi Kapleau went to Japan, someone told them bodhisattva as will spring up to help you. And they did. Now we're here in the sendo. Quote from Shantideva, Indian Buddhist. Before Zen even existed, he said all the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come through wanting pleasure for oneself. To drop the small self brings joy as much as we can do it. The ninth precept our resolve not to indulge in anger, but to practice forbearance. Thing about anger is we just get swept up. It's an emotion that moves us lose ourselves in our anger. The word forbearance is better than suppression. Sometimes we do have to hold back. But I suppose suppression is better than just blasting everybody in sight. But we need to know that we're angry. Sometimes that suppression means we don't really look at it. We need to listen to the body. If you're anger, if you're angry, there is something going on physically. Something you can tune into, that will actually guide you. You have a little distance. The great damage from anger comes with people just completely go into a blind state blind anger the more we're able to catch ourselves to know that we're angry. The more we grow, the more we find some freedom. It takes a while. I've recounted before the time that I was in the middle of a fight with my wife and realized oh, I'm angry and thought about you know, admitting my side of things, my faults as well. And just said no, not gonna do that. I wanted to win that argument. Can't remember whether I did. But it was a start. You know, it was like, I look back on that. And I think I was waking up. Didn't really cover myself with glory that day. But that's the beginning just to know. We need to trust the process. Trust the fact that seeing what's going on is going to change things. Or anger evaporates if we don't feed it. And you see that in people They've been working on themselves. Their anger may come up suddenly, but it doesn't linger. A moment later, it's gone.
Nevertheless, even a short blast of anger can do a lot of damage. Because it may not linger for you in your exalted state. But for someone else it can last for days. Actually, the effects of anger are biological stress hormones, cortisol neurotransmitters, changes in the sizes of the amygdala. Just new structural patterns, these get laid down. It's a real thing. It's a real, not only mental phenomenon, but mental and physical phenomenon. And there are lifelong effects from someone who lives with angry abuse, any kind of abuse, I think everyone on the planet carries a little bit of damage. Our parents do the best they can. Sometimes, we hurt our children
be especially vigilant about Justified Anger. When you're completely in the right. You're really in danger. And remember that we see our own motivations so unjustified anger, we know we're doing right and we just assume that the other person is morally deficient. bad intentions. But what Longfellow said, if we could read The Secret History of our enemies, we should find in each man's life enough sorrow and suffering defuse all hostility.
Everybody is doing the best they can. Right now it's like this.
Okay, I'm running dangerously close to 1030 Got one more. The 10th precept that resolved not to reveal the three treasures Buddha Dharma and Sangha, but to cherish and uphold them. So I did talk about these in the teisho two weeks ago. Just want to add that to uphold the three treasures means to respect and honor our own nature and our own practice. And to uphold this precept means to drop our obsession with accomplishment. And just give thanks for this path. It's been opened up to all of us.
way not to do harm, to do good, and to liberate all sentient beings. Well will stop now and recite the four vows