evil passions are themselves enlightenment

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  • Jun
    Member
    • Jun 2007
    • 236

    evil passions are themselves enlightenment

    Jundo,

    I was wondering if you have anything to offer on the principle of 煩惱即菩提 "evil passions are themselves enlightenment?"

    I am interested to hear your take on reconciling this principle with the teaching of "not to do (or think) evil" and the teachings of right thought and right action.
    Gassho
    Jun
    The life and teachings of Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi - http://kongoshin.blogspot.com/
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39419

    #2
    Hi Jun,

    It is a very interesting question. First, the doctrine of "bonno-soku-bodai" (Earthly desires/evil passions are enlightenment) is found in most schools of Mahayana Buddhism in one way or another.

    I take it this way: There is a perspective on reality by which all thoughts of good/evil and right/wrong are dropped. Reality is just what it is, beyond human ideas of "good" or "bad". Weeds are not even "weeds" if we don't judge them so.

    As well, everything is just what it is. Even the evil passions are just what they are, perfectly what they are. Weeds are just weeds.

    Hand in hand with this, we realize a tremendous freedom as humans ... a freedom right this moment to murder, pillage and plunder should we choose. We are that free. (The "Dark Side" !)

    It is because of the foregoing freedom that the Precepts guide us to take the road that avoids harm, and to seek a way which is beneficial. In other words, we realize that we are so free as human beings that we are free to jump off a cliff or not jump off a cliff, to do damage or not do damage. The Precepts guide us not to jump off the cliff, not to do damage. It makes for a better Practice, a better life, a better world.

    Also, in Mahayana Buddhism, there is the view that the evil passions are not to be extinquished, so much as transformed or guided into healthy avenues. This might involve, for example, taking our greed, anger and ignorance, sexual passions, and channeling them into our Practice and into healthy avenues in life.

    An interesting comment I found on "bonno-soku-bodai" from the Soka Gakkai ...

    This contrasts with the Hinayana view that extinguishing earthly desires is a prerequisite for enlightenment.

    According to the Hinayana teachings, earthly desires and enlightenment are two independent and opposing factors, and the two cannot coexist; while the Mahayana teachings reveal that earthly desires are one with and inseparable from enlightenment. This is because all things, even earthly desires and enlightenment, are manifestations of the unchanging reality or truth-and thus are non-dual at their source.
    I might diverge from Harry slightly on one comment ...

    It would follow that a person who had realised the mind of shikantaza could commit no evil, or good, because they would be beyond such discrimination and affliction; they would just act perfectly and intuitively in accordance with the situation.

    I agree with the sentence up to the word "intuitively". I may misunderstand Harry, but I think that the whole idea of "Zen" being about "intuitive action" is overstated. Yes, it is in some cases ... swinging a sword, answering a koan with spontaneity, writing a poem, for example. I also think that Zen practice makes us more sensitive to circumstances, maybe better able to "read" people and situations. However, I do not think that it gives us some all purpose intuition about how to act in most situations. I don't think Harry meant that though.

    Also, I do think that military service is within the Precepts if needed to save life. However, in Homeless Kodo's case, he seems to have just gotten caught up in the militarism of 1930's and 40's Japan (a lot of Japanese Buddhists did, from Zen and all other schools). They tended to stretch the Precepts in any way necessary to justify Japan's military efforts, and I do not think it can be so easily explained away as just "supporting the troops".

    I am still a little sick and not at fill speed in thinking clearly. Please excuse if my writing is a little off.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39419

      #3
      Originally posted by HezB
      Hi Jundo,

      If I can call on playing music to explain "theory"/action:

      Musicians spend many hours of practice where they think about scales, they focus on certain areas of technique and the mechanics of technique, they weigh up the merits of various aspects of technique and where they should occur in a piece etc. etc... when the practice is over and it comes to playing that attitude of theory and critique is best dropped. .
      Hi Harry,

      I am still not thinking clearly myself.

      But, what you describe for a music gig, I think is only part of "Zen Life". Most of life is not like that. I think that it is a bit of a stereotype (from those Koan stories in the D.T.Suzuki books mayber) that "Zen Masters" are always running around giving brilliant Koan retorts perfectly appropriate for every situation, knowing (like Yoda in Star Wars) the right thing to say and do for every situation. Forget the stereotype of Kane from Kung Fu, with the right kick and punch for whatever is thrown at him.

      Zen folks, even the famous ones from 1000 years ago, were likely just people. Their thinking about daily life was probably about like the thinking of everyone else, like you and me. For example, today I spent 20 minutes thinking deeply about whether I wanted to take a mattress with me back to Japan ... To heck with intuition, I felt driven to weigh the fact that I think it is a comfortable mattress, and not a cheap mattress, against the fact that, according to my wife, my son has peed on it once too often. A silly waste of 20 minutes' mental time and energy perhaps, but that is what it means to be human ... and I bet the Buddha himself spent a good bit of time on silly mental activities that never made it into the Buddhist story books. Intuition helps on the bandstand, not with mattresses.

      Most Zen teachers I have met in my life are about the same. If they are "intuitive" in any way, I have seen more than a few examples of their intuition being wrong as right.

      That being said ... "Zen folk" do not think like other people. I spoke about this yesterday on the blog, with the "sky and clouds". We are not trapped by our thoughts, we do not think that whatever emotion we are feeling is necessarily the only way we can feel, we taste non-thinking, we drop a lot of questions that bother the rest of the world (like that whole life/death thing), we are pretty balanced at whatever life throws at us ... we may even have a couple of insights on human psychology (of greed anger and ignorance) that the rest of the world misses. But I think that "intuitive action" is a tool limited to certain specific situations, like a flute solo.

      Gassho, J
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Jun
        Member
        • Jun 2007
        • 236

        #4
        As well, everything is just what it is. Even the evil passions are just what they are, perfectly what they are. Weeds are just weeds.
        Nice!

        If a person acts without guilt, or anger, or anything else but just acts be it a venerative bow, falling on their ass, playing a masterpiece perfectly, or a bum note, or killing someone/thing then that is a 'perfect action' as I'm calling it. I don't mean to say that it is right, wrong, better, worse, indifferent, wonderful or terrible etc. etc. etc... in that scheme of things. Maybe there is a universe endorsed method of making a pigs ass of things?
        Something I've been contemplating recently.

        Also, in Mahayana Buddhism, there is the view that the evil passions are not to be extinguished, so much as transformed or guided into healthy avenues. This might involve, for example, taking our greed, anger and ignorance, sexual passions, and channelling them into our Practice and into healthy avenues in life.
        I am very big on this which is emphasised strongly in our traditions teachings.

        Thank you both for your input.
        Gassho
        Jun
        The life and teachings of Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi - http://kongoshin.blogspot.com/

        Comment

        • Keishin
          Member
          • Jun 2007
          • 471

          #5
          evil passions and enlightenment

          Hello Jun:
          I saw this thread you started and really liked it. I didn't have time to post then, and now I have time to post, but not enough to read what others have said, so I hope I'm not being redundantly redundant in my remarks.

          My take on this is: consider the context in which each set of words is stated, consider the author and the context in which these phrases/concepts are used.
          There is a sign with the instruction 'in case of fire, break glass,' when that moment arises, maybe it makes perfect sense. Then there is the sign FIRE EXIT. Which do you do, break the glass, or exit? Perhaps it requires that moment for it to be perfectly clear.
          Evil passions as enllightenment itself is a 'fire exit' and not doing/not thinking evil is 'in case of fire, break glass,' or so it seems to me.

          keishin

          Comment

          • Jun
            Member
            • Jun 2007
            • 236

            #6
            Re: evil passions and enlightenment

            Originally posted by Keishin
            Hello Jun:
            I saw this thread you started and really liked it. I didn't have time to post then, and now I have time to post, but not enough to read what others have said, so I hope I'm not being redundantly redundant in my remarks.

            My take on this is: consider the context in which each set of words is stated, consider the author and the context in which these phrases/concepts are used.
            There is a sign with the instruction 'in case of fire, break glass,' when that moment arises, maybe it makes perfect sense. Then there is the sign FIRE EXIT. Which do you do, break the glass, or exit? Perhaps it requires that moment for it to be perfectly clear.
            Evil passions as enlightenment itself is a 'fire exit' and not doing/not thinking evil is 'in case of fire, break glass,' or so it seems to me.

            keishin
            Keishin, that was most eloquently put. Very nice.

            I came across the statement bonnõ soku bodai (煩惱即菩提), and was perplexed as to what it could ultimately mean. That according to the non-duality of Buddhism (Mahayana at least), the essence of one's passions are exactly the same as enlightenment? There are numerous and conflicting analogies to the term.

            The statement, "bonnõ honkũ" (煩惱本空) "evil passions are essentially empty" makes things clearer as a statement to the insight of Buddhist practice, in my mind anyhow.

            Apparently bonnõ soku bodai was the idea put forth by Hua-yen in the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra where it is mentioned together with the idea of "birth and death are themselves enlightenment" (生死即涅槃). It was Hua-yen who posited the idea that "Sentient beings are originally Buddha," (Buddha-nature) an idea that doesn't appear prior to the writing of this sutra which dates to around the 720s C.E.
            Gassho
            Jun
            The life and teachings of Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi - http://kongoshin.blogspot.com/

            Comment

            • Gregor
              Member
              • Apr 2007
              • 638

              #7
              Originally posted by Jundo
              Hi Jun,

              evil passions are not to be extinquished, so much as transformed or guided into healthy avenues. This might involve, for example, taking our greed, anger and ignorance, sexual passions, and channeling them into our Practice and into healthy avenues in life.
              How does one exactly do that?

              How do we take a hindrance and simply move it in another direction? Doesn't the simple act of noticing the hindrance, and acting mindfully realizing that urge for what it is transform it into something else? By transforming it, we do extinguish that original "evil passion". This is the process as described in the Theravada/Insight tradition, is what Mahayana offers fundamentally different than this?

              Theravada specifically does make a big effort in describing the "Purification of Virtue" but when Zen practitioners realize the role of the precepts in practice isn't this too the same function.
              Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

              Comment

              • Gregor
                Member
                • Apr 2007
                • 638

                #8
                But, then again . . . I need only to look to the Heart Sutra for some clarification on this.

                "With nothing to attain, a bodhisattva relies on prajna paramita,and thus the mind is without hindrance. Without hindrance, there is no fear. Far beyond all inverted views, one realizes nirvana."
                Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

                Comment

                • will
                  Member
                  • Jun 2007
                  • 2331

                  #9
                  I prefer: "Far beyond all delusions, one realizes Nirvana is already here."

                  potato, potato??

                  G,W
                  [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]

                  Comment

                  • Rev R
                    Member
                    • Jul 2007
                    • 457

                    #10
                    Hey Gregor,
                    Originally posted by Gregor
                    How do we take a hindrance and simply move it in another direction?
                    Perhaps the "evil passion" itself is not redirected or transformed at all but rather the effort we put into clinging to this "evil passion" is redirected.

                    Like a light bulb. You flick the switch and the bulb goes out, the electricity that powered the bulb remains in the circuit to be used for something else.

                    Comment

                    • Stephanie

                      #11
                      This is a wonderful teaching expressive of the Tantric view.

                      The simple answer is, "It's all energy, right?"

                      An emotion is just an emotion, a natural biological and mental phenomenon. Ain't nothin' "evil" about it in and of itself. It is our actions, and only our actions, that are "evil" or "good." So the matter is not the presence or absence of one of the passions, but how we respond to it. That's where wisdom and equanimity come in. To the enlightened mind, anger is the energy of freedom, exploding all false dualistic boundaries, and greed is the expansive energy of delight and generosity, that never has enough of the happiness of others. All that it takes is the awareness that the self-centered view is a misery-making delusion for a destructive passion to become a delightful, prosocial surge of positive creative energy.

                      Comment

                      • Stephanie

                        #12
                        "Love is an angel disguised as lust, here in our bed till the morning comes."
                        -Patti Smith

                        Comment

                        • Fuken
                          Member
                          • Sep 2006
                          • 435

                          #13
                          Stephanie

                          It is our actions, and only our actions, that are "evil" or "good."
                          I do not think this is accurate.
                          I think that good and evil are only mental constructs.
                          A matter of perception, perhaps.

                          Gassho,
                          Jordan
                          Yours in practice,
                          Jordan ("Fu Ken" translates to "Wind Sword", Dharma name givin to me by Jundo, I am so glad he did not name me Wind bag.)

                          Comment

                          • will
                            Member
                            • Jun 2007
                            • 2331

                            #14
                            Stephanie

                            An emotion is just an emotion, a natural biological and mental phenomenon. Ain't nothin' "evil" about it in and of itself. It is our actions, and only our actions, that are "evil" or "good." So the matter is not the presence or absence of one of the passions, but how we respond to it. That's where wisdom and equanimity come in. To the enlightened mind, anger is the energy of freedom, exploding all false dualistic boundaries, and greed is the expansive energy of delight and generosity, that never has enough of the happiness of others. All that it takes is the awareness that the self-centered view is a misery-making delusion for a destructive passion to become a delightful, prosocial surge of positive creative energy.
                            Hi Stephanie. I'd like to know where you have gained this insight from and the conclusions that you have come to? Is it through your sitting practice?

                            In Gassho Will
                            [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]

                            Comment

                            • Eika
                              Member
                              • Sep 2007
                              • 806

                              #15
                              [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

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