More about Zen and morality..

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  • disastermouse

    More about Zen and morality..

    Hey guys,

    I wanted to elaborate a bit more about Zen morality...

    In my experience, the perfection of each moment is unconditioned. A realization of this is fundamental to Zen practice, IMHO. As the Heart Sutra proclaims, 'Form is emptiness'. A realization of the true emptiness of self and objects, that one does not directly experience them - this is the essence of 'Right View' - the starting point of awakening. Many, many things about Zen will make no sense whatsoever without an experiential understanding of this. Grappling with Buddhist morality without this realization may only allow you to 'unhook' from non-subtle, ego-reinforcing views (consumerism, petty grudges, blatantly harmful pursuits) in favor of more and more subtle and yet equally ego-reinforcing views (anti-isms, dietary and sexuality based restrictions, 'Spiritual Athleticism', and other apparently 'Buddhism-approved' means of ego-reinforcement). That is, the ego attempts to become a 'Good Buddhist' - and one tends to judge the rest of the world according to these ideas of what a 'Good Buddhist' is. This is subject/object morality and compassion. It is only as good as these preformed ideas about being a 'Good Buddhist' pertain to actual reality - but it is very limited and frequently causes as many problems as it solves. Rationalizations of one's behavior are not hard to find, and there's a sort of 'violence' behind the energy that is entirely indicative of its roots in ego-identification. This is obviously not the path prescribed by the Buddha or the long line of ancestors through which these teachings have come to us.

    Paradoxically, a realization of emptiness can also itself be a means of ego-identification. There are pitfalls involved with Kensho! Nonetheless, without a true realization of emptiness (not necessarily in one grand 'event') true morality will not be possible, as all attempts will be beset with attachment, clinging, aversion, and just generally taking your thoughts, beliefs, and 'positions' very, very seriously. Good outcomes from deluded views come only by luck or grace.

    Then we come to the next barrier to Buddhist morality - namely, nihilism or 'emptiness poisoning'. Seeing the ultimate perfection in this moment, one can delude oneself into taking a position that since all expressions of the moment are none other than perfection, that all expressions are equal in their communication of Wisdom. Wisdom is a conditioned arising that comes about from Right View - and Right View arises from moment-to-moment freedom from delusion, not a simple one-time awakening. A kensho is an expression of wisdom if it's happening right now. A non-immediate kensho, besides being an oxymoron, can actually become a burden - one will confuse its expression and the thoughts formed around it as being something special or real. Essentially, a remembered awakening is a 'dream of awakening'. Actual awakening is immediate.

    This is 'Emptiness is form'. Form is an expression of emptiness, emptiness is the essence of form. Although all expressions of emptiness are equally imbued with perfection, Wisdom/Virtue is, as said before, a conditioned arising. It is, namely, the expression of that perfection with 'nothing added on'. Wisdom/Virtue is then, nothing but the most complete expression of this perfection - unhindered by clinging, aversion, or ignorance. Unhindered by clinging, aversion, or ignorance, compassion naturally arises.

    What causes unskillful action? The three poisons of clinging (wanting something you don't think you have), aversion (reverse-clinging - not wanting what you do have), and ignorance (not being aware of the perfection of the present moment, not being engaged with the present moment).

    If one tries to enforce morality upon oneself, there is internal conflict - there is then dualism and the casting of shadows. This will never work, because creating allies and enemies within oneself is inherently self-defeating.

    Zen and shikantaza 'short-circuit' this cycle by invalidating the content of mind and emphasizing substance of mind. Ignorance is usually presented as the last of the three poisons, but it is actually the only ever-present condition of the deluded state. Clinging and aversion only come about via ignorance.

    Something interesting about this practice is that this 'unhooking' that is taught here can be applied on or off the cushion. The internal delusion of the mind that is confronted in zazen is not much different than the projected delusion of one's life 'off the cushion'. The relaxed vigilance that causes one to realize he or she has been 'hooked' in zazen is not much different than the same sort of vigilance that can cause one to realize he or she is 'hooked' by 'off the cushion' events or ideas related to them. Through this continued 'unhooking', compassion and virtue naturally arise. Until you unhook whatever clinging, aversion, or ignorance is causing the unskillful action or behavior, enforced morality from 'outside' will only cause further ignorance and fractured unconsciousness.

    This is why zazen is primary in the Zen tradition. Zazen is the practice of 'unhooking' that resolves internal and external conflicts and allows the 'clear blue sky' of virtue/wisdom/compassion to be expressed unimpeded.

    IMHO.

    (I realize that was a long and rambling ride to the final conclusion, but I felt like some things needed to be shown in considerable detail.)

    Chet
  • Taigu
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
    • Aug 2008
    • 2710

    #2
    Re: More about Zen and morality..

    I think we have found our Nagarjuna...

    Yes Chet, I quite relate to what you write... But sometimes I need to take the child by the hand, to calm the fool, to shout at the deluded guy (the child, the fool, the deluded guy being mine, faces and masks). I may just witness them, and they generally fade away. But, in essence, morality arises as prajna arises, not because we rehearse it or enforce it upon ourselves, it is the scent that comes with the flower being turned and toyed with. Self arising wisdom.

    Now, we also may learn to communicate with the energy behind delusion, the hub of light that sleeps under the darkness, this is also opening the treasure box. In the famous Koan of the young monk being tempted by a gorgeous looking girl and being kicked out of the hermitage by the old lady, the foolishness is to act upon the urge or to repress the urge. Sex or no sex, this is not the right question. Behind the urge is the face of Kannon, that 's what we are invited to meet.

    And it is true that this is ok as it is too...

    Thank you to play so nicely under the dancing snake of speech.

    gassho


    Taigu

    Comment

    • Shogen
      Member
      • Dec 2008
      • 301

      #3
      Re: More about Zen and morality..

      Form is emptiness, emptiness form
      Emptiness is morality, morality emptiness

      As we grow in prajna our understanding of emptiness progresses and our actions display it. The absolute expression of morality is emptiness and awareness is a total imersion in THIS! When realization from the myriad things melds us with them, self-other dies, and morality becomes as natural as our breath.

      Chet,
      Thank you for your profound questioning and gifted expression. What a gem to have at Treeleaf.

      Taigu,
      Thank you for your teachings. They inspire great growth.

      Gassho Gassho

      Comment

      • disastermouse

        #4
        Re: More about Zen and morality..

        Originally posted by Taigu
        But, in essence, morality arises as prajna arises, not because we rehearse it or enforce it upon ourselves, it is the scent that comes with the flower being turned and toyed with. Self arising wisdom
        This. It distills the multiple paragraphs I wrote into two simple sentences. *gassho*

        I guess there's just a lot of 'if people are practicing zazen and not becoming better people, why sit zazen?' type questioning in Western Zen. There's a lot of confusion between the 'let it be' of shikantaza and 'work on yourself' of Buddhist morality in general and I wanted to point out how they are linked.

        Chet

        Comment

        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39075

          #5
          Re: More about Zen and morality..

          Hey Guys,

          I am going to dissent on some of this ...

          My subject today on the 'Sit-a-Long', by the way, happened to be the Precepts, which support our Zazen, are supported by our Zazen, and our one with Zazen ...

          http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=16388

          Originally posted by zak
          As we grow in prajna our understanding of emptiness progresses and our actions display it. The absolute expression of morality is emptiness and awareness is a total imersion in THIS! When realization from the myriad things melds us with them, self-other dies, and morality becomes as natural as our breath.
          I do not think so, as I do not think it anywhere near so automatic and "natural as our breath" ... because I have seen enough cases of folks who have Zazen'ed for years, including some great and gifted teachers, who then crawl off the Zafu and sometimes act all too weak and human. Some folks, for example, who I would consider quite "realized" in their higher nature, still get dragged around by their lizard brains from time to time, or by the "little buddha" in their pants.

          Human moral conduct is more complicated than just seeing into, and being intimate with, "emptiness" or that "self and other" are not separate.

          I once wrote this about teachers who have "fallen down" ...

          In our Zen practice we taste a realm beyond all desire ... beyond "we" ... a view by which there is nothing lacking, so no base or object for greed ... where all hate, longing and despair evaporate, all swept away in peace and wholeness. There is such Liberation, and it can be known by anyone who follows this Way of Zen.

          But so long as we are human beings ... whether an 80 year old man or a child of age 3 ... we must also live in this ordinary realm of flesh and blood, its sometime desire ... a world where "you" and "me" are separate too, where we may feel lack and greed ... subject to anger, longing and times of despair. So long as we are in this world ... so-called "Zen Master" or not ... we cannot escape fully the realm of Samsara (even if, ultimately, there is no other to stumble into, no place we can fall).
          viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2074

          This practice may tend to tilt us in the direction of gentleness, generosity, non-violence, etc ... but no guarantees. Dropping "right and wrong" on the Zafu, realizing that "in emptiness, there is nobody who gets killed even when we kill", and thinking that "I am the universe" is playing with dynamite for some ...

          Also, I am not sure of some of Chet's points (if I understood correctly) ... Chet wrote:

          Grappling with Buddhist morality without this realization may only allow you to 'unhook' from non-subtle, ego-reinforcing views (consumerism, petty grudges, blatantly harmful pursuits) in favor of more and more subtle and yet equally ego-reinforcing views (anti-isms, dietary and sexuality based restrictions, 'Spiritual Athleticism', and other apparently 'Buddhism-approved' means of ego-reinforcement). That is, the ego attempts to become a 'Good Buddhist' - and one tends to judge the rest of the world according to these ideas of what a 'Good Buddhist' is.
          I agree with the first part ... that this Practice and realization will help us "unhook" from excess consumerism, petty grudges, harmful pursuits. I also agree that people can be "attached" to Kensho, wear their Buddhism (or vegetarianism, or liberal politics, or "anti-speciesism", etc.) on their sleeve. Each can be an object of excess, imbalance, abuse and attachment. However, I am not so sure of the second part.

          There are people in this world who function better, and are free, within a very detailed and circumscribed morality (many ... certainly not all though ... Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians, Pennsylvania Dutch, Wahabi Muslims and Theravadan monks). People who choose to live that way are often happy, generous, self-less, gentle and feel "free" amid the seeming "restrictions". Others do better with more flexible, case-by-case morality, and Precepts which are more "general guidelines" than "rules with penalties" (although some folks freak out amid the chaos of that open freedom). Shakyamuni Buddha, Dogen Zenji and most monastics were certainly in the former group ... most (not all, by any means) modern, liberal Western Zen Buddhists tend toward the latter. Rigid dietary restrictions, "spiritual athleticism", black/white morality are not all "ego reinforcement" and can often be, quite the contrary, a path to dropping the ego aside. "Judging the world" by one's moral standards may seem harsh (if one is on the receiving end of the judgment), but the person doing the pointing may be acting out of a sincere concern for the world ... a self-less concern. Again ... Master Dogen and many other teachers of the past were usually very rigid moralists and very judgmental fellows on issues of Buddhist behavior. Zen practice has been filled with "rules imposed from outside" that one was expected to abide by ... whether internalized or not (read Eihei Shingi) ...

          http://books.google.com/books?id=XJHAOI ... &q&f=false

          I agree that a true insight into "emptiness" is one point of this Practice (at least, in its Mahayana version). But I think that both kinds of Buddhists ... the moralists and the liberals ... can have deep insights into "emptiness" and all of it.

          Gassho, Jundo
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

          Comment

          • Shohei
            Member
            • Oct 2007
            • 2854

            #6
            Re: More about Zen and morality..

            Wow... Thank you(s)

            Gassho

            Comment

            • monkton
              Member
              • Feb 2009
              • 111

              #7
              Re: More about Zen and morality..

              I'd like to thank those great guys at Industrial Light and Magic who have been working to express all this in a couple of diagrams.

              1. Zen and Morality - via the Right View


              2. Zen and Morality - via the Wrong View


              Of course, as reverend Taigu points out, both conditions can occur in the same being, and the one with 'Right View' can come to the aid of the 'Wrong view', either by intervening or observing.

              (For better or worse - usually worse - I really do have to make diagrams to understand quite a few treeleaf posts. My brain is not good at holding on to concepts over more than three paragraphs. )

              I am getting a lot from everyone's comments though,

              gassho,
              Michael

              Attached files

              Comment

              • JohnsonCM
                Member
                • Jan 2010
                • 549

                #8
                Re: More about Zen and morality..

                Jundo said,

                There are people in this world who function better, and are free, within a very detailed and circumscribed morality (Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians, Pennsylvania Dutch, Wahabi Muslims and Theravadan monks). People who choose to live that way are often happy, generous, self-less, gentle and feel "free" amid the seeming "restrictions". Others do better with more flexible, case-by-case morality, and Precepts which are more "general guidelines" than "rules with penalties".
                I would tend to agree with this interpretation, sort of in combination with Chet's. The way I see Zen morality, or Buddhist Morality, or perhaps best: Morality from one Buddhist's point of view, is that if you truly reach realization, then you can't help but act in a way that is morally sound. Maybe, like we said in other posts, kensho isn't a sudden "Aha!" moment, but several little, "Oh...." moments, so maybe we realize different aspects or parts of the Dharma at different times. So you could be a great, and realized Zen master on many levels, but not all levels (then you'd be a Buddha). So Right View would lead to moral action, if you realize that part. If not, and you need the structure that Jundo was talking about, that could be called Right Practice or Right Effort. I think the Eight Fold Noble Path, is Eight Fold, because each part not only builds upon the others, but also helps support them. Perhaps, enough Right Effort, and enough Right Concentration can lead to Right Mindfulness and so on. I think that the Eight Fold Path is like Indra's Net, each piece a jewel in itself but reflecting all the others at the same time. This way, Right View, Right Practice, and Right Action are not separate things but just different reflections of the same "kensho (s)"
                Gassho,
                "Heitetsu"
                Christopher
                Sat today

                Comment

                • JohnsonCM
                  Member
                  • Jan 2010
                  • 549

                  #9
                  Re: More about Zen and morality..

                  I wonder what Bird's Nest Roshi would have to say about this thread........ :wink:
                  Gassho,
                  "Heitetsu"
                  Christopher
                  Sat today

                  Comment

                  • Rich
                    Member
                    • Apr 2009
                    • 2587

                    #10
                    Re: More about Zen and morality..

                    It's funny how what I think and feel about things is often so different than what I actually do about things. Wisdom may be a function of time and being present for the right time. If all this describing it helps someone practice it then I'm all for it.
                    /Rich
                    _/_
                    Rich
                    MUHYO
                    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                    Comment

                    • disastermouse

                      #11
                      Re: More about Zen and morality..

                      Originally posted by Jundo
                      I do not think so, as I do not think it anywhere near so automatic and "natural as our breath" ... because I have seen enough cases of folks who have Zazen'ed for years, including some great and gifted teachers, who then crawl off the Zafu and sometimes act all too weak and human. Some folks, for example, who I would consider quite "realized" in their higher nature, still get dragged around by their lizard brains from time to time, or by the "little buddha" in their pants.
                      Isn't this really covered by 'ignorance' though? Whole aspects of my dysfunction were released through therapy - but we reached into aspects of my identity that I'd absorbed as a kid that I didn't even know weren't me.

                      The other thing, the way you (You personally, Jundo) approach shikantaza - with no 'concentration aspect' of the practice, really does allow one to take the 'unhooking' of shikantaza back out into the world away from the cushion.

                      Those deep hooks and mistaken identity issues are very difficult to uncover - and that's why I agree with you that therapy and other means of identifying them and 'dis-identifying with them' is very helpful...but the general practice of 'unhooking' works with the uncovering of deeper issues in ways that pure discovery does not.

                      Chet

                      Comment

                      • Jinyu
                        Member
                        • May 2009
                        • 768

                        #12
                        Re: More about Zen and morality..

                        Wow guys! :shock:
                        Thank you for all this... honestly I can't add anything to what is being said but I'm learning a lot!

                        Gassho,
                        Luis/Jinyu
                        Jinyu aka Luis aka Silly guy from Brussels

                        Comment

                        • disastermouse

                          #13
                          Re: More about Zen and morality..

                          Jundo,

                          What do you think about what I see to be the Buddha's basic admission near the end of his life that all the rules he'd set up would not be necessary after his passing? Think what you want about Genpo Roshi, but he detailed in a talk that when he accepted the rule of celibacy, he went to unusual lengths to try to break his vows, at one point driving several hundred miles to hook up with am old girlfriend and upon finding that she was in a relationship, driving ANOTHER several hundred miles to contact ANOTHER ex-girlfriend?

                          Self-repression for short lengths of time can indeed teach us about the unquestioned needs and preferences we have, but ultimately, we lose that fight. Not only that, but the communities you've mentioned are notorious for passing on a tradition of guilt that can only be considered a hindrance to happiness. Lastly, it is just these communities that, given sufficient power, seek to enforce their restrictions on others or become offended easily and ferociously in ways that cause them to cause untold amounts of suffering - even glorifying killing in the defense of these restrictions.

                          From my own experience, lengthy attempts at self-repression simply do not last long and they do not lead to the passing of suffering and dissatisfaction.

                          Chet

                          Comment

                          • Govert
                            Member
                            • Aug 2009
                            • 95

                            #14
                            Re: More about Zen and morality..

                            I would like to add some issues with regard to this topic, on morality I have read that people who are strict in religious perspective, being too much fanatic or having the moral guidelines as a kind of heavy cloth, have more tendancy to depression then people who take it a bit looser. I can derive from that study that the moral restrictions can drive people to a situation where even the guidelines or morality is in conflict with what the person ( or the ego) thinks is the right thing to do, and because there is such a clinging to morality issues, and the rules are supposed to be the "only" reference point, a depression is the ( possible) consequence. During the last 25 years ( at the time when I started to be interested in more spiritual things), I can see a tendancy in what new agers would describe as a more "consciousness" oriented part of the population on the globe, but on the other hand a larger growing number of people hardening their points of views and stricter moralism. At the end of the story, there is no "guarantee" if you take the vows, rules or guidelines too strict or too softly that one is becoming a human being with compassion or not. It is for each person different, I think and clinging to the guidelines or trying to be loose just for the sake of the proof that your ego is taking care of it all, is not going to help you in any way.

                            Just some thoughts,

                            Gassho

                            Ensho

                            Comment

                            • will
                              Member
                              • Jun 2007
                              • 2331

                              #15
                              Re: More about Zen and morality..

                              Sex or no sex, this is not the right question. Behind the urge is the face of Kannon, that 's what we are invited to meet.
                              Nice. Gassho

                              Hey guys,

                              I wanted to elaborate a bit more about Zen morality...

                              In my experience, the perfection of each moment is unconditioned. A realization of this is fundamental to Zen practice, IMHO. As the Heart Sutra proclaims, 'Form is emptiness'. A realization of the true emptiness of self and objects, that one does not directly experience them - this is the essence of 'Right View' - the starting point of awakening. Many, many things about Zen will make no sense whatsoever without an experiential understanding of this. Grappling with Buddhist morality without this realization may only allow you to 'unhook' from non-subtle, ego-reinforcing views (consumerism, petty grudges, blatantly harmful pursuits) in favor of more and more subtle and yet equally ego-reinforcing views (anti-isms, dietary and sexuality based restrictions, 'Spiritual Athleticism', and other apparently 'Buddhism-approved' means of ego-reinforcement). That is, the ego attempts to become a 'Good Buddhist' - and one tends to judge the rest of the world according to these ideas of what a 'Good Buddhist' is. This is subject/object morality and compassion. It is only as good as these preformed ideas about being a 'Good Buddhist' pertain to actual reality - but it is very limited and frequently causes as many problems as it solves. Rationalizations of one's behavior are not hard to find, and there's a sort of 'violence' behind the energy that is entirely indicative of its roots in ego-identification. This is obviously not the path prescribed by the Buddha or the long line of ancestors through which these teachings have come to us.

                              Paradoxically, a realization of emptiness can also itself be a means of ego-identification. There are pitfalls involved with Kensho! Nonetheless, without a true realization of emptiness (not necessarily in one grand 'event') true morality will not be possible, as all attempts will be beset with attachment, clinging, aversion, and just generally taking your thoughts, beliefs, and 'positions' very, very seriously. Good outcomes from deluded views come only by luck or grace.

                              Then we come to the next barrier to Buddhist morality - namely, nihilism or 'emptiness poisoning'. Seeing the ultimate perfection in this moment, one can delude oneself into taking a position that since all expressions of the moment are none other than perfection, that all expressions are equal in their communication of Wisdom. Wisdom is a conditioned arising that comes about from Right View - and Right View arises from moment-to-moment freedom from delusion, not a simple one-time awakening. A kensho is an expression of wisdom if it's happening right now. A non-immediate kensho, besides being an oxymoron, can actually become a burden - one will confuse its expression and the thoughts formed around it as being something special or real. Essentially, a remembered awakening is a 'dream of awakening'. Actual awakening is immediate.

                              This is 'Emptiness is form'. Form is an expression of emptiness, emptiness is the essence of form. Although all expressions of emptiness are equally imbued with perfection, Wisdom/Virtue is, as said before, a conditioned arising. It is, namely, the expression of that perfection with 'nothing added on'. Wisdom/Virtue is then, nothing but the most complete expression of this perfection - unhindered by clinging, aversion, or ignorance. Unhindered by clinging, aversion, or ignorance, compassion naturally arises.

                              What causes unskillful action? The three poisons of clinging (wanting something you don't think you have), aversion (reverse-clinging - not wanting what you do have), and ignorance (not being aware of the perfection of the present moment, not being engaged with the present moment).

                              If one tries to enforce morality upon oneself, there is internal conflict - there is then dualism and the casting of shadows. This will never work, because creating allies and enemies within oneself is inherently self-defeating.

                              Zen and shikantaza 'short-circuit' this cycle by invalidating the content of mind and emphasizing substance of mind. Ignorance is usually presented as the last of the three poisons, but it is actually the only ever-present condition of the deluded state. Clinging and aversion only come about via ignorance.

                              Something interesting about this practice is that this 'unhooking' that is taught here can be applied on or off the cushion. The internal delusion of the mind that is confronted in zazen is not much different than the projected delusion of one's life 'off the cushion'. The relaxed vigilance that causes one to realize he or she has been 'hooked' in zazen is not much different than the same sort of vigilance that can cause one to realize he or she is 'hooked' by 'off the cushion' events or ideas related to them. Through this continued 'unhooking', compassion and virtue naturally arise. Until you unhook whatever clinging, aversion, or ignorance is causing the unskillful action or behavior, enforced morality from 'outside' will only cause further ignorance and fractured unconsciousness.

                              This is why zazen is primary in the Zen tradition. Zazen is the practice of 'unhooking' that resolves internal and external conflicts and allows the 'clear blue sky' of virtue/wisdom/compassion to be expressed unimpeded.

                              IMHO.

                              (I realize that was a long and rambling ride to the final conclusion, but I felt like some things needed to be shown in considerable detail.)

                              Chet
                              And it's always nice to bow and recite stuff.

                              Gassho
                              [size=85:z6oilzbt]
                              To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
                              To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
                              To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
                              To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
                              [/size:z6oilzbt]

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