Grass Hut - 10 - Ethics and Meditation

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  • Jika
    • Jun 2014
    • 1337

    I was wondering about this two-eyed precepts approach Ben mentions.
    Has this been done in such a structured form on Treeleaf before?
    Would anyone be interested??
    I thought, this structure might help me not to be as confused next autumn as I was last.
    But then, maybe confusion is good for me?
    Maybe we could ask Ben to talk about that highly structured approach to the precepts in Ango??
    Just ideas.

    治 Ji
    花 Ka


    • GAP
      • May 2015
      • 7

      Originally posted by Joyo
      I can't say zazen has changed my ethics. But it most definitely has helped me manage anger, resentment, frustration etc. etc.

      What I found so profound about this part of the book is how it woke me up to realize that I am too much in my head. I'm always lost in thoughts, stories, daydreaming. It makes it hard to be mindful of what is going on in the external world, just little things like the beautiful sky while walking for example. So part of my practice is learning to change this, and not get so lost in the mental/internal thinking world I live in.

      sat today
      Well said Joyo, This is exactly what I have been experiencing. I have a newfound appreciating for the normal everyday things. I'm still working on the compassion part.



      • GAP
        • May 2015
        • 7


        Forgot to sign my post,


        Sat today



        • ForestDweller
          • Mar 2015
          • 39

          One danger within zazen that Master Eihei Dogen pointed out repeatedly was getting stuck on the inside, particularly, seeking some defining, terminal point of enlightenment. His teaching pointed to the importance of the interface and flow between zazen and a practice grounded in the world. Granted, his life’s work was teaching his monks in Kyoto and in the mountainous monastery of Echizen, but this was his path of connectedness. (Not to forget that he also taught lay people and made at least one months-long journey to Kamakura to carry his message.) He often told his monks, on the other hand, that eventually, they must return to the world and contribute to others. In fact, it would be zazen, itself, that engenders this moving back and forth. After all, how can one sincerely sit zazen and not discover the ethical foundation that the practice is meant to foster? A possible useful metaphor is the rivers that flow into the ocean – We being the rivers and the ocean being the world and its need for ethical activity. When does the ocean know it is full? Dogen asks. If the ocean could become full, wouldn’t the rivers flow back into themselves? The relationships between the two are more fundamental and predictable than that.

          As for me, personally, zazen has been a support to ethical activity rather than a cause of it. If anything, sitting zazen in this forest home has made me more self-concerned than other-concerned because it is a time to discover my own mind and my self. Master Dogen opens Genjokoan with,“To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self.” It is this original self that zazen helps to blossom and that can then move out into the world of ethical activity.
          ^^Forest Sat Today^^ CatherineS
          Last edited by ForestDweller; 05-13-2015, 05:37 PM.


          • michaeljc
            • May 2011
            • 148

            It is rather difficult to judge one's own ethics comparatively speaking. One does not go around thinking about such things too much right? I do wonder if there is any merit in natural ethics over which there is no uncertainty e.g we see a lovely coat left in a park and don't steal it. It is only when we are confronted with a difficult decision where there is a 'cost' involved that it becomes an issue. Over later years I find myself reminding my self, "I am a Buddhist" when such issues arise. I often fall back on that wonderful Buddhist guideline. "leave no ripples" - not saying that I abide with it at all times.

            It is true that contentious issues with others become a lot less so when I am engaged in steady daily Zazen. At times they dissolve completely - a reminder that these things are only in the mind.




            • Meishin
              • May 2014
              • 805


              I seem to be more aware when I'm not generous towards others. Have no idea whether I actually am or am not more compassionate, don't really think about that much. But I definitely get a strong feeling when I act selfishly. I require fewer prompts by my wife that I'm being a jerk.

              Sat today


              • Daijo
                • Feb 2012
                • 530

                I'm not sure if my practice has helped to make me more of an ethical person. I do consider myself to be pretty ethical anyway. however, through this practice find that I can more honestly acknowledge when I may have acted unethically. The same goes with all of my "faults". And at the same time I think I am able to accept them for what they are without beating myself up over them as much.

                Does that make sense?

                sat today,



                • Risho
                  • May 2010
                  • 3179

                  Yes it absolutely has, but in ways that I hadn't realized it would or in ways that I hadn't thought about ethics.

                  Today is my wife's birthday. My wife is truly my best friend and the love of my life. We see each other every day, and she has to be special to put up with me. lol Her birthday is one of my favorite days of the year. I know stuff isn't important, but I still like getting her some things to evoke a smile or two One of the items I got her this year was a portrait of one of our dogs; it was the first of our dogs to pass, back in 2010. You can see the painting here -->

                  Lexy was a wonderful dog, who had too short of a life. Don't we all?

                  So this is a day of celebration of life, love and of death. That's something I've realized about Zen. To steal a Jundo analogy, this practice lets us realize how much we keep on pushing that max blend button on the "blender" of our thoughts. It helps us to stop it. And when we stop it the thoughts settle, we settle, and we realize that those stories aren't so real, that maybe we don't know who we are like we thought we did.

                  Life settles.

                  In that setting, certain things tend to surface, things that I was distracting myself from.. like death. And I think about death, not obsessively, but I don't avoid it. We all grow old and die. We all suffer. We all will feel pain.

                  So this settling has helped center my life and make me (as Jundo says) not grasp so much, to stop this constant striving for "me-myself-and-I". Then a new feeling comes about and is nurtured by zazen. It's the Bodhi mind, which to me means an aspiration to practice not just for myself but to practice for others as well because we are all one big family in this crazy, beautiful and painful life.

                  And then someone cuts me off in traffic, and I go bat-shit crazy. lol But seriously sometimes I do, but this practice brings me back.

                  Zazen is like this compass that brings me back to the immediacy of life and death, here and now. It makes me realize when I'm going a little too intense and need to remember that I'm a Bodhisattva driving among a sea of other Bodhisattvas who are all just trying to do their best. Sometimes our boats bump into each other, but i think zazen helps us re-allign and support each other.

                  Zazen has helped me realize that I'm living my dream life. This is paradise. I have so many things that I take for granted.

                  Zazen has also helped me realize that not everyone has what I have, and that is utter bullshit, so to me it provides a framework of how to engage with the world. How to help people, how to realize that we need to help in ways that may not seem like help at all.

                  For example, it's easy to look at the world and just balk at how crazy it is and how it's hopeless that anything could change, bla la bla. But to me, Zen isn't about looking out there - it's about looking in each of us, which is not two (again to copy Jundo ) and do what we can with our gifts. Sharing a joke, listening to someone without waiting to talk, holding a door, saying thank you, not losing it on the phone with a billing rep, being patient in traffic. But it's also about boots on the ground, giving time to a charity you are passionate about.

                  So the ethics that this practice has shown me is quite wonderful. It's about opening over and over again. It's about giving. It's about not taking our daily stuff for granted... any of it: the commute, brushing our teeth, the wonder of plumbing. A kiss from our loved one, posting on a forum with our Sangha, sitting.

                  That's the final piece that this has given me. Practice has opened up a crack that sometimes lets in this unbearable joy. And I wonder if the distraction that I crave, which pushes away what "I" don't want.. also ends up filtering out the wonderful joy that this life contains.

                  But again-- there are those that don't have it anywhere so wonderful, and the Zen way is about not leaving anyone out. What fun is heaven if you are alone? Anyway, I'm sorry about getting so drippy.




                  • Mp

                    Risho ... that was beautiful, thank you for sharing in this moment ... a truly wonderful expression. And a Happy Birthday to your wife from the gang at Treeleaf. =)




                    • Byokan
                      Treeleaf Unsui
                      • Apr 2014
                      • 4288

                      Hi All,

                      Risho, I was just writing my response to this weeks reading, and I was thinking about a compass too. I came on to post my response and saw what you wrote -- wow! Your words are golden, they ring so true, so eloquently. If that’s drippy, then drip on, brother, may you flood the world.

                      Jundo’s question this week is a really interesting one. My experience of zazen, so far, is one of wholeness. It confirms to me how delusional, and really ridiculous, are all perceived boundaries between things.

                      I see ethical questions now less in terms of figuring out what is right or wrong, and more about responding appropriately. How do I respond in accordance with the wholeness that I experience on the cushion, how do I flow with the changing, act in a way that lessens suffering? There is less wrestling now with “what is the right thing to do, and how do I avoid doing the wrong thing?” Now it’s more like, “Knowing there is no separation, how does that apply here, and how do I express it in my action?” This compass seems to point always in the right direction. I do dumb things all the time, of course, stumble, fall, get lost, usually when I am blundering along without checking the compass. Mindfulness, paying attention, slowing down, helps. With time the realization comes that the compass is part of us all along. This bearing, this direction -- realize wholeness, lessen suffering -- is the natural one, like birds flying south for the winter.

                      As far as “others” are concerned, to me it isn’t so much a question of self-concern vs. other-concern. Myosha has it in 4 words: “who are these others?” Really, I think what matters is to respond to what comes in front of you. Whether it’s seeing a little old lady struggle with a heavy bag of groceries, or a village on the other side of the world destroyed by an earthquake... you see the need, feel compassion, do what you can to reduce suffering. And helping yourself, giving yourself compassion, is just as necessary as helping others. Maybe today the “crisis” is that you have been pushing yourself so hard all week, you feel like you’ve got nothing left. Maybe you just need to let yourself get some sleep, or sit shikantaza for a while, or watch Star Wars again and push the reset button for yourself. Now you feel human again and you don’t act like a jerk with your loved ones. You act compassionately toward yourself, and that enables you to act compassionately toward others. I truly believe that any positive, compassionate thing you do, no matter how small, benefits us all. It’s not about self or others -- that will all work itself out in time. The ripples of compassion, right intention, right action, etc., naturally spread out and return, spread out and return. What matters is the movement to make things better, to reduce suffering.

                      sat today
                      Last edited by Byokan; 05-16-2015, 09:30 PM.
                      展道 渺寛 Tendō Byōkan
                      Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.


                      • Joyo

                        Lisa, did you read my post via Zazenkai this week? lol!! Pushing myself, needing some sleep. I even drank some of this at work yesterday morning at work to get me through the day. ( I am not a coffee drinker at all)

                        Anyways, thank you both Risho and Lisa for what you said here

                        sat today


                        • RichardH
                          • Nov 2011
                          • 2800

                          Yesterday there were some work related interactions and pleasant surprises that brought up the issue of ethical speech and conduct. It was clear that one reason, a big reason, for behaving ethically is because it keeps life simple and does not create tangles. It opens doors and makes trust a non-issue. Sometimes doing the ethical thing might be the steeper path or the less profitable, but it is far outweighed by the clear and simple living situation created. I'm not talking about being a saint or being moralistic, but just being transparent and upfront, and giving others the opportunity to be transparent and upfront. By not being territorial or fearful, or cynical, good things are allowed to happen.

                          Just a ramble...


                          sat today...dozed a bit


                          • Theophan
                            • Nov 2014
                            • 146

                            I do think my practice has made me more aware of my shortcomings as well as my strengths. I know I am being more ethical and other concerned. I am aware of all the suffering going on around me.
                            I regret I can't do more to address all the suffering. My comfort is The Buddha's Way is where we are. No striving, just letting go, being who we are.
                            Sat Today


                            • Ansan

                              Very definitely. Zazen has opened the fog of awareness that I had before but I did not respond to it in the same way.

                              Two days ago, we went into Phoenix for our usual weekly supply replenishment. Phoenix has many homeless who hold up crayoned signs on cardboard indicating "No food. Children needy. No job. No home." They are not in rags as expected, just plain clothing and thrift-store shoes. Like mine. They could be me at a different time. This is usually on busy thoroughfares. Cars drive by these seemingly invisible people. It is difficult to stop because of constant oncoming traffic. We drove off the busy street to stop at the PO which incidentally was closed but have machines for stamps. There were no other cars in the lot. Outside, a man sat on the stoop. He was very brown from the sun, with many scabs on his nose. His hair and clothing were dusty. His age might have been 50 or 60. He had a row of quarters, dimes and nickles short stacked neatly next to him. And nothing else. Keith and I do not carry cash, only credit cards. As Keith went inside the PO, I checked my wallet for some loose forgotten change and only had a quarter and some pennies. I went over to him and told him that I had no money as I held out what I did have. I asked him if he would like some of the food we had just purchased and he said "No, it would probably be spoiled by the time I got home". He stood up and smiled broadly and said "thank you". He saw that I was willing to listen and he began to talk about his situation. He was a Vet and had applied for assistance, which was not yet forthcoming. By this time my husband, also a Vet, returned and joined the conversation. The man, obviously toxic, not intoxicated, spoke with intelligence and clarity. He said he had been told by the VA that he was dying from three diseases and had only a short time to live. He was not looking for pity but understanding. He seemed very depressed but resolute. He said that he was grateful to just talk to someone who was sincerely interested. We talked for a little while longer and we watched as he walked away with nothing. And we had nothing to give him to help.

                              So many big cities like Phoenix are filled with expensive cars, lovely huge homes, landscapes of inedible grasses. And a lot of the visible invisibles. I have nothing to offer but my compassion which is becoming stronger. What do I do to help? A few quarters is nothing. I cannot offer a home or a car or a ride to anywhere they really want or need to go, unless it is to a hospital, if they need it. Money? We don't have any money except enough to cover our basic needs. We offer assistance when we can and volunteer our services. And a vow to carry some cash next time.

                              I do not feel desperate with this knowledge. But maybe desperation would drive me to an answer I cannot find in our situation. How can we/I assist in helping those in need with compassion and wisdom. The compassion is there as though I were out on a ledge with no voice. "Do you feel that being more "ethical" and "other concerned" has helped support your Zazen? " Jundo asked. Yes. But what do I do now? Perhaps I know.




                              • Myosha
                                • Mar 2013
                                • 2974


                                "How can we/I assist in helping those in need with compassion and wisdom?"

                                Bearing witness to a situation, all becomes each and every aspect of that situation. Bearing witness to Auschwitz, there is no separation between us and the people who died. No separation between us and the people who killed. We ourselves, as individuals, with our identities and ego structure, disappear, and we become the terrified people getting off the trains, the indifferent or brutal guards, the snarling dogs, the doctor who points right or left, the smoke and ash belching from the chimneys. When we bear witness to Auschwitz, we are nothing but all the elements of Auschwitz.

                                Bernie Glassman - Zen Peacekeepers.

                                Myosha sat today
                                "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"