Bodhisattva Precepts

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It's been a lovely day. Thanks to everyone for coming. From the seat where I'm sitting knowing that I'm going to be leading the class tonight, I took a look down and I


saw a little pixelated picture and Sojin was looking at me and I thought for a second how nice for Sojin to be here. He's kind of here, Andrea. I'm sorry? He's kind of here. He is definitely here. I don't normally think of looking up and seeing him looking back at me. Did anyone have a chance to look at the email that I sent out finally yesterday?


And I don't know if you had enough time to reflect on it a little bit. I had thought maybe we would do breakout groups. It just depends on how this all goes. It's never clear to me ahead of time how a lecture, how a class will go, so we'll see what we feel like. And I'm just waiting another minute, I guess. Do we normally start pretty on time? I think so. Great. Well, we're almost there. Unless the instructor is late, like last time. Is that why that happened that way? Well, maybe I'll just give everyone else another minute to settle by suggesting


that we all just settle together for a minute and sit a moment of zazen and then we'll get started. So good evening, everyone. Thank you again for coming. I know it's been a little bit I think the third of our four classes that will be held as part of our practice


period on the fundamentals. And this will be on one of eight different topics that Hozon has chosen for us to touch in on as part of the fundamentals class. I should stop just by saying that Gary Artem is our tech host and he will be monitoring for hands and calling on people and doing all that. And also you can communicate with him in the chat if you have any technological problems that go on or can't hear me loud enough or whatever. So this is the third of our classes, and I think you're already beginning to get a sense of how all the different themes that we're talking about, all the different fundamentals are related to each other. I feel like we pick up one piece of the three refuges and we see how that's related to how we practice


throughout our practice, how we practice the Eightfold Noble Path and how we approach the Paramitas. And you'll certainly see them reflected in tonight's talk on the precepts. It's like you pick up one and you get all the rest of them are related. And this talk has a natural relationship to the Triple Treasure and to the Eightfold Path also. So usually we don't spend a lot of time in the Zen Do talking about precepts. Have you thought about that as I was doing this? I'm one of several people who've taught precepts a lot over the years at Berkeley Zen Center, and there's a certain way in which most of us do that. And we don't really talk about the precepts a lot on Saturday lectures or otherwise. We usually come and we sit Zazen and we learn how to sit and get used to the posture.


We learn the forms and when to bow and how to chant and we memorize the chants. We learn how to sit Sashin and we begin to eat meals in the Zen Do and learn how to do the daunting task of Oryoki. And then after a while when we've been practicing, usually for a couple of years, Mao used to say, Sojin used to say that people need to come and sit for two or three years and really get settled in practice. And then we study the precepts and we receive the precepts. And that's usually how we've done. And I think that's usually how it's taught. I think the idea of precepts, too, to many of us who have come from a Christian background or a Jewish background, we relate to them as being something really serious and something that we only do when we get really serious because we want to learn right from wrong


and how we're supposed to conduct ourselves as Buddhists. But I want to turn that upside down a little bit tonight. As I was kind of reading from different perspectives and thinking about some of the Pali teachings this week, the last two weeks Gil Fronsdale has done a wonderful series on basically wholesomeness and unwholesomeness in practice. And it just got clear to me that precepts is really what practice is all about. And one way we know that. But Sojin used to say there was a time in the Zen Do when someone said to him, why don't we ever talk about love? And he said, all we ever do is talk about love. I'd say we don't talk about precepts so much in the Zen Do, or you might say that. You know, we don't really talk about this so much.


We wait for precepts class before we do Jukai. But actually, everything we talk about is precepts. Everything we talk about is how we conduct ourselves in the world. The expression of our sincere wholehearted wish to live in harmony and be of help, which is what a bodhisattva wants to do, what you want to do, what I want to do, is how we live our lives is the precepts. So I thought it would be interesting. It's so funny to talk to you like this and talk on like this. I want you to think for a minute about your first recognitions of right and wrong, kind of understanding what that was like for you, where that came from, and how it landed on you. Somehow that seems very important to part of how the Buddha taught what precepts is about.


And for myself, I can think of two fundamental. So I'm just throwing these out to have you sit back for a minute and think for yourself. What's good? My grandmother, who grew up poor and was a sharecropper's daughter, gave anything she had to anyone in the neighborhood who needed it. That's how she was. That was my idea of what it meant to do good. I remember when I was somewhere, whenever kids do these things, somewhere maybe in third grade, I went and shoplifted. I went with two other people, and we went to the Woolworths a few blocks away, and I picked out a little blue bottle of fake French perfume. I don't know why. I didn't like the stuff particularly. And I knew it was the wrong thing to do, and I went immediately to my parents and showed them what I did,


and we walked back to the Woolworths, and I presented it back. And that feeling, you can tell I still remember the story, was really seminal for me in some understanding of how I wanted to be in the world and what was important to me. So I'm saying this because we have this innate sense of how to relate to each other in the world, what feels good to us and what doesn't feel good to us. That is, I think, how the Buddha was orienting how he taught about precepts. We'll get there in a minute. So just take a moment. It's also really interesting, I think, to think about where you bump up against the place in what you think is a good thing to do that you can't go. Some years ago, I was in a base group with one of them.


We were talking about wanting to do good things but having a limit to where we could do them. He was talking about being in a meditation retreat and walking back and forth. It had been raining out, and he walked along a concrete path. And on that concrete path that was his walking place for this retreat, there were a bunch of earthworms. And every little quarter step he took, he picked up the earthworm and moved it out of the way, picked up the earthworm and moved it out of the way, picked up the earthworm. And at some point after he had done that, I don't know how many dozens or scores of time, he just walked and he brought the question of what was that? How did I reach my limit and how do I relate to the fact that I have a limit? This is one of the challenges of our precept practice are those edges. And it's really, really good to know what these edges are.


We talk about right speech, but the most important place where we speak the truth is to ourselves. What was I doing there? What was that about? Dogen says that when we are sitting Zazen, all the precepts are kept. In Vendawa, he says, even though it may be merely for a moment, when someone while sitting upright in meditation puts the mark of the Buddha seal upon his three volitional actions or her three volitional actions, namely those of body, speech and thought, the whole physical universe and everything in it becomes and is the Buddha seal. All the space throughout becomes and is enlightenment. So that enlightenment is our activity that we touch when we sit Zazen.


And you may have noticed if you'd had the opportunity after you sit or after you've had a chance to sit for several periods like on Sunday's Beginner Sashin upcoming or especially if you ever sit a longer Sashin, it's so much easier to be in harmony with things. Maybe not during Sashin, but when you get up, when you go home, it's so much easier not to react, to see beyond our usual ways of sitting. We touch precept practice when we sit. Of the rewards of precept practice or moral conduct, the Buddha and Ananda had a conversation. Ananda, who was the chief disciple, let's say Ananda was the attendant for Buddha, his cousin who attended him for 20 years. Ananda says, what's the reward and blessing of wholesome morality?


And the Buddha says freedom from remorse. And what about freedom from remorse? Buddha says it's joy, Ananda. And freedom of joy is rapture. And freedom of rapture is tranquility. Freedom of tranquility results in happiness. Freedom of happiness results in concentration. Envisioning knowledge and freedom of tranquility results in the vision and knowledge according to reality and turning away and detachment. And from that, enlightenment. So complete freedom begins with moral behavior. Now to talk about morality in Buddhism.


So I'm going to give you some of the history and background about sila or moral practice. Our precepts in Soto Zen are just one particular expression of that, one way of doing it. But I hope that tonight, if nothing else, you come with some kind of sense of grounding or appreciation of the importance of morality or sila in practice. Because we don't really talk about it so explicitly. It's embedded in everything. It's kind of like figuring out for yourself. You have to see how your conduct emerges out of an understanding of practice. So in Buddhism, there are three different teachings or three different areas of teaching called the Tripitaka. Tripitaka is, I think, the Sanskrit word for trip, for basket or volume.


And those three divisions are the suttas or the discourses that Buddha taught. Traditionally, it's what we read in the Pali Canon or the Nikayas. The Abhidharma, which is the philosophical teachings of the Buddha that explain the mental and physical workings of our experience. Not just of our own minds, but of our entire experience, which, of course, is a manifestation of our minds to a Buddhist way of thinking. And the Vinaya. The Vinaya is the moral teachings, including the monastic code. So when you think about it, the teachings of the Buddha is one third or one big piece of all of... Actually, the teachings of the morality are one big piece of three pieces of all the teachings. Morality has two different definitions, and I thought this was interesting.


Sometimes we think about it or get caught up in it or quiver a little bit when we think about precept practice. When we think about it as the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. I think that's kind of the traditional way that we think about precepts. And that may be one of the reasons that it feels not so interesting or not so appealing. Another definition is the values and principles of conduct. Well, that seems more intuitive, doesn't it? It just seems more like what we're here for. It's interesting to think about why you came to practice, too. I think maybe we all have different reasons. Oftentimes there's some way in which we want to feel better or suffer less.


And I know sometimes it's because we're making lots of messes in the world and in our lives and creating problems. And we want somehow to unknot that for ourselves. So these principles or distinctions between right and wrong, we might say it's really distinctions between wholesome or unwholesome behavior or beneficial and non-beneficial behavior. And again, if you remember one thing about what we're talking about tonight, my hope is that you will see how we think about the precepts, how we think about the kind of lists of how we want to be in the world and the vows that we take to follow them as a request for us to examine our activity in terms of whether what we're doing is wholesome or unwholesome or beneficial or non-beneficial.


Of course, that's always hard to sort out in the moment, too. But let's just raise that as kind of our gold standard instead of getting it right or not. Sila or morality is fundamental. It's in a lot of the different lists of Buddhist qualities and factors. It's one of the three pillars of the Dharma for gaining merit, along with generosity and meditation. It's one of the six paramitas or perfections of our actions, which Peter Overton will be talking about in an upcoming Saturday lecture. And it's one of the seven factors of enlightenment. As we said last week, virtue or moral conduct is the cornerstone of the Eightfold Noble Path. The practice of Sila is defined by the middle three of the Eightfold Noble Path, right speech, right action, and right livelihood.


And you see how the other factors complement that. Right intention and right attitude or vow is how we orient ourselves towards the wholesome. It's how we express our desire, our intention to live in a way of moral conduct. And we help cultivate the focus and the awareness or mindfulness with right concentration and right meditation. So taking what Dogen said another way, it's our zazen, manifest in activity. From a place where our activity is not obstructed by our thoughts or ourselves as separate, spacious and open, we move in the world. In a very real sense, the purpose of the Vinaya or the moral code is for an individual to actualize the Buddha's teaching in daily life through proper conduct.


Study of the sutras helps with the signposts on the map of the way. Oh, I'm on target. Oh, I understand how this is working in my life. Sitting reveals the Dharma and the precepts guide us in our everyday activity. So just to say that again, study helps like signposts on the map of the way. Sitting reveals the Dharma and the precepts help guide us in our daily activity. So that may be a natural just break for a moment to see if there are any comments that you have, anything that you want to relate. Anything that's come up for you in this little introduction. And I don't think I can see the hands and all but you can type it in the chat if you want.


Hit your reaction button in the lower right hand corner and put your hand up that way. Or go into the participants list and raise your hand that way if you have anything that you want to add or seem pretty obvious to everyone what I'm saying, everyone's experience. Yeah. I see Ron and from Leslie. Yeah, Leslie just raised their hand. So please go ahead, Leslie. Well, it's actually Jake on my computer. Well, thank you. When I was small, living in a remote area on a ranger station, the summer between my second and third grade, I had very few playmates on the ranger station.


There was a 10 year old, there was a 12 year old, there was a four year old, and I was seven and a half. And Denny, the 10 year old, said he was invited to an experiment. And the experiment was to put a scorpion in a jar filled with red ants, fire ants, and see who would come out as the survivor. And I was intrigued. I did not like scorpions. And I didn't particularly like ants. But I watched. And I felt. I didn't know the word sadist. But it was sadistic. And I felt that in my heart as I saw the scorpion succumb to multiple attacks by the ants.


And I was sickened. And I never played with them again, basically, I was revolted. And I didn't know how to explain it to myself. I didn't tell my parents. But from that moment on, I knew that I couldn't kill things. I didn't want to kill anything. Any bugs? Although, you know, it was just, it was a turning point in my life at seven and a half to experience that. To see life taken needlessly, just as an amusement, as an entertainment, which it was for them. So. That's all I want to say. Thank you. Always stuck with me. Thank you. Was there someone else who had had a hand up? And Gary, I'm wondering if when someone speaks, if you wouldn't mind, can you spotlight them also so everyone can see?


Yes, I could do that. Sure. Thank you. So, Ron, I think you're next. I was just going to ask exactly what Jake went to, which is I'd like to hear a couple more examples of people's experience. The first experience they can remember of just what Jake mentioned. And I think you mentioned as well that your first experience where you remember that this is wrong or this is right either way. But, you know, what's your first experience of that? Because it seems to me, I have something like that, but it's very vivid. And I'd just like to hear a couple more examples. So I see Heiko's been gesturing and. Yes. And Ellen Webb, too. Yeah. Yes. I couldn't raise my hand, but thank you. I recall not so much.


I had plenty of times to realize with my friend who was kind of a sadist with bugs and birds. But when I was just a tiny tot, I remember hearing that right and wrong was measured by God and that he would keep track of it until the end of your life and you would pay for your sins. Right. And I contemplated that deeply. And I thought, well, if I buried myself in a hole, how would he know? You know, and I finally realized I came to it at about six or seven. I was the reporter and the decider of the right and wrong that would be reported. And so the precepts and the guides are what I report from, perhaps, but I know it's me. And that's what I took at a very young age. And I've worked with that in all kinds of ways.


And it's got all kinds of detail. But that was my earliest real tipping point, right and wrong. Thank you very much, Heiko. Ellen, do you want to go next and Sue and maybe we'll move on after that? And Ellen, you need to unmute if you would. I think my parents were extremely permissive. And my first sort of memory of this was when I was spending time with a cousin of mine. And we had done something and I'm not sure what it was. I think we raided somebody's orchard or something. And we brought this fruit back to the family. And my cousin said, what are we going to say that we got it from? And I said, well, we'll just lie.


And my cousin said, wait, we can't lie. And I remember very clearly saying, why not? That's my memory. It wasn't so uplifting. I had a very strong memory while Jake was talking of I'm an older sister. And Marta had a friend over running around in the backyard with a little Easter chick that my parents had got us. And she's four and a half years younger. And I can't imagine I was more than eight or nine maybe. And Leslie, the friend, stepped on the chick and the guts came out the back. And this creature was in pain and suffering.


And I went in the basement and got a hammer out of Dad's workbench. And I killed the chick because I wanted it to stop suffering. And I don't know if that's right or wrong. Thank you so much, Sue. Clay, I see your hand up. I'm wondering, though, if you would mind if we went on. That's fine. Okay. We'll have another pause point in a moment if you're still. So I want to talk a little bit about the history and the evolution of our Buddhist precepts. So the way the Buddha taught, as most of us know, was from experiences or questions that people brought to them from the problems of their everyday life.


And he would have some insight. His responses were really about how to live life and to get along with each other. He was a meditation master in terms of observing the workings of a mind in meditation, an astute psychologist and sociologist and a wise man. He was a doctor of human distresses and disease. And in one of these conversations, he was roaming the countryside and teaching, as he did. And he came upon or he was approached by the Kamala people. Kamala people were in some kind of argument with others about how to decide what was wholesome and what was unwholesome. And they went. There were traveling monks and aesthetics and the Kamalas were there, and they were having their disagreements.


And so they went to the Buddha, and they asked the Buddha how to know what is true. How do you know what is true and what is virtuous? Do you look to your teacher? Do you look to the authorities? Do you look to your own ideas about things and your own opinions about things? And the Buddha said no. What you do is you look at its effect. You look at the effect of your activity. And you ask, did this have some good? Did it lead to something beneficial? Or did it lead to something not beneficial? Is it something that the wise would say is harmful or beneficial? Did it have that impact? And would the wise endure it or reprove it? That's the gold standard. That's what the Buddha taught basically about morality.


For the first 12 years of the 45 that he taught, there were no precepts. There was no code of conduct. Maybe that's because the early students were such adepts. Maybe it's because they practiced around him, and he was so actualized. It kind of rubbed off on him. Good teachers can have that impact. Maybe the community was small enough, and people could model after each other. The potatoes could shake clean that much faster. But over time in the monastery, there were problems. And so the Buddha made rules for the behavior for the monks to follow the teachings and to stay on the path for generating wisdom and kindness. And in those 45 years that the Buddha taught, there wound up being 250 precepts for the monks and 348 precepts for the nuns. Those all taken together are considered the Vinaya or the rule of conduct


specifically for monastics. As the Buddha was dying, he told Ananda that some of the precepts needed to be preserved and passed along, but the minor ones weren't so important. So you didn't need to keep the mindfulness of the minor ones. But Ananda was so distressed at Buddha's dying that he didn't ask which was which. So not long afterwards when all the disciples got together, all the major disciples got together, Pali, who was the disciple who was considered a foremost in moral contact, recited all the precepts. And then there was an argument between the originalists that didn't want to set aside anything and the pragmatic or the contemporary ones who said, no, I think we can tell the difference here. And so the originalists won and the Vinaya is still considered that large


number or mainly that large number of precepts. And in some monastic practices, most of those are still kept today. Though in lay practices around the world, it's usually five, the five basic precepts not to kill, not to steal, not to misuse sexuality, not to cloud the mind with intoxicants, not to speak falsely. Or eight, there are three others that get added on for retreat practice that encourage one not to indulge oneself or to raise the sense desires. And so then we have 16 all totaled. In China, in Dogen's day and before that, practitioners generally received the Vinaya and the Bodhisattva precepts both. And I'm about to get to the Bodhisattva precepts, but I'll just give you some background first.


Bodhisattva precepts probably originated in China. And Dogen brought these along and then made the addition of three others, the refuges, which altogether make our 16 precepts. Seichao, who is the founder of Japanese Tendai, decided that it was necessary only to confer the Mahayana precepts, so primarily those 13 and not the Vinaya. Dogen only received the 13 precepts as a Tendai monk at age 12. And so when he went to China, he wasn't allowed to sit in the Chinese monasteries as a full priest, even though he had been ordained as a Tendai monk because he hadn't received the full Vinaya. That's an interesting little side fact. Dogen gave only the 16 precepts,


which are called the Bushu Soden Osatsu Kai, the Bodhisattva precepts that have been currently transmitted by Buddhas and ancestors. The nature of these precepts is very different from that of Vinaya. They're not meant to be rules as the Vinaya was. They're meant to be the essence of the precepts. The precepts are the same as the true Dharma that was transmitted by Buddhas and ancestors. And as Hosan mentioned last week, at the very bottom of our lineage papers, there's a little story that gets written out that basically says, you're a preceptor who is a true preceptor. So whether it was Sojin for some of us or Meili for some of us or Hosan for some of us, your precept had rightfully received the precepts. So they really understood it. They were empowered to pass them along to you. And that that is the true Dharma.


It's all of the true Dharma because it's all of how we conduct ourselves in life. So that's what's meant by the line on the end of the lineage papers for those who have received lay or priest ordination. It's the one great cause, the one great manifestation of your life. That causes the marks of existence, of egolessness and impermanence, that we live as a part of inner being. As our experiential understanding ripens, we cannot help but live like the welfare of each being is our own. And so express the true meaning of the Bodhisattva precepts. And I think that's in Heart of Being and Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings overall, that's really what he's pointing at is our deep interrelationship


and relatedness. And the more intimate we become with that, the more that we really experience that out of our Zazen and understand our life as being deeply connected, the more naturally we react. Like one way of saying it is that when your right hand touches a flame, the left hand doesn't stand back and say, oh, what's that all about? The left hand grabs it to take care of it because it recognizes it's part of itself. Precept practice is like that. And as Foo Schrader says, the precepts are how I promise to take care of you, how I promise to take care of you. And so we see precepts in everything we do as a way of ordering and taking care of our life and all of our activities, and so in avoiding evil.


That's the precept of fulfilling the rules and laws. Suzuki Roshi wrote about this in a wonderful lecture that was a link I sent on, if you saw it, called How to Observe Precepts. And I just want to read the very first part of that to you. As you know, the real meaning of precepts is not just rules, but rather our way of life. When we organize our life, you see something like rules, even though you're not intending to observe a particular rule. The rules are always there. As soon as you get up, in order to wake up completely, you wash your face. That's a precept, one of the precepts. Then at a certain time, you eat breakfast, when you're hungry, that is. You're observing some rules when you eat breakfast at a certain time. It is actually the way of life you follow naturally. When you're hungry, you eat. It's time to do that. When you finish eating, you wash your face, brush your teeth,


and gather up your things to head to work or move out to the next thing that you have to do. So if you practice zazen, there will be rules in your practice. So at the same time, zazen practice is precepts, one of the precepts and all of the precepts. If you really understand how Buddhists come to the idea of precepts, you'll understand the relationship between zen and precepts. Precepts are just our way of life. So I think I'm saying the same thing over and over again here, so maybe I'll skip on here. I'm just going to scroll down a little bit. So I'm about to launch into talking about the 16 precepts, and I'm wondering if before I do that if anyone has any comments or thoughts about their experience of practicing zen


and the relationship to precepts. Are there stories that they want to share? So the 16 precepts, I'll move on. The 16 precepts are a part of every ceremony that we do, whether it's marriage or funerals, a baby's birth, a baby christening ceremony, when we receive our lay rakusus, when we receive our priest rakusus, when every month we do the bodhisattva ceremony together. It's all about this particular ceremony of preparing to receive the precepts and receiving the precepts and then reaffirming our bodhisattva vow.


The very first part of this is atonement. We really don't talk about that or consider it part of the 16 precepts, but it really is like washing the cloth clean, washing the stains out of the cloth and making it pure again before you make the ground of receiving the precepts. So the very first part of all of these ceremonies is to atone, to say all our ancient twisted karma from beginningless greed, hate and delusion, I now clearly avow. It makes it personal because we all know, we've heard with some of the stories here, we all know in our life even though we try hard and we intend well, we fall short. And even sometimes when we think we're doing good or we intend good,


we can create harm. Okamura Roshi tells a story about working to start a new practice center in western Massachusetts. These young monks from Japan worked so hard to break the ground and to build the zendo. He spent a particular time digging a well. And one morning he came out after a rain to work on the well. He was so happy that he was able to bring water to this new practice community and the bottom of the well was a dead raccoon that had fallen in overnight and drowned. So even though we intend good, bad things happen for our actions. So it becomes very personal. We touch our humanity and the fact that we're continually making inevitable mistakes and we start all over. I find this really encouraging. I don't know if you do too.


It's like I'm never going to get it right. It's kind of like the Bodhisattva vows. You know that you're never going to be able to save all beings. I'm never not going to mess up and create karma that I wish I didn't even though I'm going to try really hard not to. And so I have a way of expressing that and forgiving myself for it and offering it up as an expression of my humanity. We have an opportunity to offer it up as an expression of our humanity, not because we're so unique but because it's really part of the human existence. It's part of the nature of our lives to have shortcomings or to mess up or to step on an earthworm because you just can't pick up one more or whatever it is that seems trivial or not so trivial.


So here we find the beginning of our right view, including the causes and conditions of our lives that lead to this moment in our volitional action. That which creates karma is our volitional action. It's our one pervading possession. That is the fabric of the next moment of our lives. What do we want it to be? By avowing our ancient karma, we acknowledge the unknowable extent of those influences on us and the impact of our influences on the next moment. And we commit to the impossible task of seeing through it and acting free from its unwholesome influences. So you know it's impossible, but we commit to that action by avowing our karma. And there's something that's very heartening about recognizing all of that and diving in.


As Blanche Hartman said, you just throw yourself into the house of Buddha. You just throw yourself into this impossible activity. It acknowledges the three marks of existence, and the first is impermanence. That is everything changes, including our karma based on our intention and effort, our karma changes. And as I remember Hosan saying one time years ago in the Zen Dojo, he says, karma can change on a dime. When you feel like you've had a history of karma that's gone a certain way for a long time, it's hard to imagine yourself as any different. But karma really can change on a dime. The second is the unfathomableness of our interconnected life of being, that there is no separate self. And the third is that samsara and nirvana are both parts of the human condition, and at any time we can experience one or the other of them.


That's what I think it means to atone to our ancient twisted karma, to be open to that reality, to permit our lives to manifest in that reality, to not hold on to any ideas of what they might be or not, to give ourselves full permission to meet this moment in the very best way, the most wholesome, most aware way that we can, and of the possibility to move freely within these truths, that is nirvana. And despite our humanity, that is the mammalian or human condition that pre-disposes us to suffering, this is the repentance and renewal of the recommitment to the bodhisattva ceremony. Like taking all beings constantly across, we are constantly taking ourselves across. The precepts are our boat and oars to keep paddling. We connect with all beings, all humanity,


our desire to be free by the ways in which we are bound. So we've washed the cloth clean with our pure intention, and then we're ready to take refuge. So this was Dogen's addition to the standard precepts. He added the refuges. I think it was one of the early talks that Hosan did to talk about refuge, so I'll talk on them a little bit, and then maybe I'll pause at that point to see if there are other comments or insights or other ways of looking at this that you all have had. So for Dogen, I think the most important teaching was taking refuge, taking refuge or having complete trust in Buddha nature, complete trust in our inherent wholeness, our inherent light,


our inherent goodness is not quite the right word, but I like the word wholeness. To take refuge in Dharma, which is the truth, which is things as it is. To see things as it is and to have, as Meili Scott said, deep understanding that nothing is ever out of place the way it is. That's taking refuge in Dharma. You can completely trust this moment as it arises for what it is. In taking refuge in Sangha, as I'm so grateful to be practicing with all of you, I'm so grateful that we walk this path together, that we have the support of each other, to help each other see each other and to support each other in realizing the way. As the Buddha said to Ananda, Dharma friendship is all of the holy life and Sangha practice together.


How does this line go? There's one way of saying the refuge is three times, where a recognition that Sangha life is the best life possible. There is no better life than Sangha life is taking refuge in Sangha. So, Daito-Lori, there's a very wonderful book that I didn't know about. Maybe some of you have called, I think it's Investigating Reality by Daito-Lori. Does anyone know that? I'm so grateful to have run across it up at Shasta Abbey recently, but I just find his insights really deep and simple. So these are his ways of talking about refuges. Taking refuge is the essence of the transmission of Bodhisattva precepts. Taking refuge in Buddha is the other name for intimacy with all things that we seem to be,


another name for turning towards the world, recognizing our inter-being, interdependence, and it plows the field for experiencing our actions as with and for everyone. Taking refuge in Dharma is the manifested treasure or teachings of the truth, of the insight of the three marks of existence in our interdependent nature. Taking refuge in Sangha is the maintained treasure, the way in which the Dharma is maintained over time, the Dharma friendship of all of the holy life. We live our lives in community and rely on the support of community in order to live and to practice. So maybe I'll just stop here for a bit to see if there are any reactions or thoughts or experiences that you've had. And for those of you who have the opportunity to do a Bodhisattva ceremony


in which we take the precepts and go through the vows, all the vows that we do and the avowing of karma, I'm wondering if anything's coming up for you in your experience of this portion of the ceremony. I see Mary Beth's hand. Please go ahead and unmute yourself. I remember the first time I participated in a Bodhisattva ceremony and I recognized the ceremony in which I had received my Rakshasa and I hadn't known that there was anything more. And it felt so good to be able to feel like I was starting over again. That's the feeling that I had that I could take a step forward once again and be renewed. So to me, I love doing the Bodhisattva ceremony because of that.


Thank you, Mary Beth. You're a wonderful Kokyo for it also. Anyone else, any other experiences or reactions, what it's like to do the Bodhisattva ceremony or particularly the first part? Sue, go ahead. I don't want to hog the time here, but that was a really important experience for me. It's the way I learned the precepts. And I also decided I was supposed to do it without using my hands to get up and down, so it got pretty aerobic. And I don't think that's what you're supposed to do, but I had that exercise part of it in there. But I found it fascinating. It was totally new in my life, and it's how I knew the precepts.


So I really appreciated when I took lay ordination that I got to study those a little more deeply and get that I could never actually keep the precepts, but that it was a practice and an effort that was continual. Karen or Nancy? Hi. I really love the Bodhisattva ceremony, and one thing about it that I love is the very beginning where we chant, all my ancient tangled karma from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion. It's the word beginningless that I appreciate so much because I feel that I'm not blamed for all my mistakes. Yes, I've made mistakes, and I'm going to start over.


But just the word beginningless, that this has gone on before I was born, in my life, just that it's not all just me. Thanks very much, Karen. Anyone else? All right, let's move on to the three pure precepts. These are the next part. The next precepts that we take, and they really lay the groundwork or set the attitude. I wasn't going to do this for this particular presentation,


but oftentimes the way the clear-minded or grave precepts, the list of the ten precepts that we focus a lot on when we study them for late ordination, we talk about them from the prohibitory standpoint or the negative standpoint, the way in which you kind of see the limits, you explore the limits of what's not good about the behavior or the admonition, the behavior you're supposed to not go by. And then we have the other side, which is to look at the way in which the opposite of that actually creates possibility. So it's the affirming or clear-minded side. And then the third side is considered the bodhisattva side, and that is the point of view of how do I act in the way, how do I actualize this good and bad,


this avoiding good and avoiding bad and doing good, how do I actualize that in activity in any given situation, in a way that doesn't know a strict right or wrong and isn't bound by particular rules but takes into account the moment, the situation of what's happening in our response. The three pure precepts really set that ground for studying the rest of the bodhisattva precepts. So they're called the three pure precepts. Pure refers to untainted by self-consciousness or self-centeredness. It's a definition Sojin used often, and I found it's really helpful. It also means supported by the boundless nature of things. So untainted by the ordinary aspect of things


but supported by the boundless nature of all things. Describes the right view and right intention of precept practice. These pure precepts are originally from the Dhammapada, so they're the very, very early teachings of the Buddhas. And they're the foundations of all 16 bodhisattva precepts. Once again, pure because they encompass everything and they hold no point of view. We think, you know, we usually start out by saying, avoid all that's evil, do all that's good. And so that sounds like a really strong point of view, doesn't it? There's the right and the wrong. But actually the pure means they encompass everything. They hold no point of view. Good and bad are relative to the moment. That's really hard not to have strict rules. They're dependent on perspectives, on culture, on historical circumstances.


Pure means no idea of good or bad. It's not nihilistic. It's deeply relational. It's deeply relational, as we've been saying throughout our study together here. The key is that it's not self-centered, but beyond our ideas of what I think or you think is good or bad, beyond what we know to be the best or the right way, and is responsive for our implicit intention to avoid harm and to respond in a wholesome or solitary way. That's what pure precept practice means. Pure means that we don't really know what the impact is, but we act out of a wholesome intention with the wisest, clearest, and freest of our ideas in response in that particular moment. Kuan Yin has a thousand eyes on her thousand hands and her thousand hands to respond, but she's blind in seeing and she's deaf in hearing,


and she's insensate in touching to the cries of the world. But she acts. In that way, it's not a personal seeing or touching or hearing. It's beyond that. We might think of them, I think they're well thought of, as a kind of vow, not an admonition. Maybe I should have looked up admonition before I said that, but a kind of vow, like it's deeply my intention not to kill. It's deeply my intention to do good. I know I'm going to fall short, but that's really what's in my heart. One way Suzuki Roshi translated precepts is, with purity of heart, I vow to refrain from ignorance. With purity of heart, I vow to reveal beginner's mind. With purity of heart, I vow to live and be lived for the benefit of all beings.


Isn't that beautiful? So normally they're thought of avoid all evil, do all that's good, live and be lived for the benefit of all beings. He says, with purity of heart, I vow to refrain from ignorance. With purity of heart, I vow to reveal beginner's mind. With purity of heart, I vow to live and be lived for the benefit of all beings. So to dive a little bit more deeply in these is the foundation of the clear-minded grave precepts, avoiding evil. It's also called the precept of fulfilling laws and rules, or as Reb says in his wonderful book, being upright of upholding forms and ceremonies. It's a way of training the mind and particularly I think this is really throughout Buddha's teachings in the Pali Canon, at least as I know them.


The first place he starts is really think about what the negative impact about this is. Really think about what the potential harm of what you're doing is. Let that aversive influence of the ants consuming the scorpion be what causes you to wake up and really want to avoid that behavior. So it's a way of training the mind to avoid harm. It's the practice of ahimsa, that quintessential foundation of Buddhist practice. And maybe I don't need to say there are myriad ways to create harm. A harsh word or look, ignoring someone or avoiding contact, it can be so subtle and occurs sometimes even when we're just trying hard to do good. To study harm and to look at what motivates you inside is very, very helpful practice. It says Gil was saying speak truth to yourself.


Don't be afraid to turn towards that which feels uncomfortable and see what it's about for you. The suffering of others that we create might be the medicine that draws you to practice. And as James Baldwin says, it's a terrible inexorable law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one's own. I think that that's a very strong motivating practice for all of us. I know it's a motivating practice for people who are waking up to try and transform our society. Excuse me, I seem to be a little hoarse for talking so much. In Reb's rendering of Avoiding All Evil, and he calls it Upholding Forms and Ceremonies,


forms are a way of physically containing and training our energy to harmonize with the environment and to others. For those of us here who haven't had a chance to be in the Zendo together very much and practice the forms, it's a really wonderful revelation that when you're trying to do what everyone else is doing, you really get a chance to see the workings of your own mind and everyone else's too, and to try and contain ourselves to see the places in which we don't want to or we can't or we have resistances is a wonderful way of seeing our resistances in other places where our sense of who we are, want to be comes up. Another definition of the word sila, I think this is right, is restraint or discipline. So that is the point specifically to this particular precept. And you might for a moment stop and think,


for those of you who have been practicing for a while or for those of you who have spent a little bit of time with the forms, you might think about some of the ways in which some resistance came up when you and what it revealed about yourself, and I think common ones have to do with bowing, either bowing down or bowing to a Buddha statue. Wherever there's resistance, there's something to learn about how to avoid evil, I think. Doing all that's good is the second pure precept. It's the precept of fulfilling wholesome dharmas. Daito-lori says it's the ground of groundlessness. That is, we don't know it is good before we act. We act in response to a situation without obstruction, and we know that good has occurred because something positive has been put in motion. That was something really important that the Buddha was saying.


He says, look at the impact. Is this beneficial? Is something good come of this, or is something bad come of this, something unbeneficial? That's how you know whether it's good. That's how you know whether it's evil, at least in part. We can parse that a little more finely, but probably not right now. As Dogen says, all that is good is the good of the three natures, good, bad, and neutral. Although good exists within the nature of good, it doesn't mean that it has a previous independent existence and is waiting to be accomplished. That is, good is accomplished in the moment, out of the circumstances, and it appears as such because of that interaction. When good is done, it contains the good, and when done, it attracts more good faster than magnet attracts iron.


Its power is stronger than the strongest wind. All the accumulated karma throughout the earth, mountains, rivers, and worlds and lands can't obstruct the power of good. Isn't that beautiful? That's something of Dogen's I hadn't run across before, but that's just so encouraging. And I think it's interesting to observe. Maybe you've all had that experience in life of having, especially when something has happened that you have participated in, that you've been a part of the catalyst for, and something clearly shifts or happens that is wholesome, that is helpful, and you don't even necessarily recognize that it's, like, something that you were a part of, but you see the energy and you see how it affects other people and you see how it has momentum throughout your day. That's the kind of good that is being talked about here.


I see one hand, and I'm just going to say I'm going to go through this section and then I'll stop for questions. So I see you and I want to hear from you in a few minutes. Live and be lived for the benefit of all beings or actualizing good for others is the third precept. It's the precept of fulfilling all beings, transcending profane and holy, taking self and others across. It's our fundamental bodhisattva vow. Dogen's fundamental insight here was that practice is enlightenment, that when we act in these ways, when we act out of our zazen, that is enlightened activity. Dogen says there's no morality without enlightenment. There's no enlightenment without morality, that the two are completely dependent upon each other. They both function out of our zazen. Dogen described the ways in which a bodhisattva acts


in one of his fascicles, Shishobo. Hosan has written a book on this and has given many lectures around the bodhisattva's four methods of guidance. But just to touch on them briefly, we actualize our bodhisattva vow by our giving, generosity, our kind speech, our helpful acts, and identity action. Identity action is that activity that arises as if self and other are one and there is no self or other. So maybe I'll stop there and see if there are any questions still before we go on to the grave precepts. Jeff, please ask your question.


Please make a focused question and a focused comment. I look forward to hearing it. A focused comment? Yeah, well, here it is, focused or unfocused. So there's been something I've been itching to get at while you've been talking, and I didn't quite know how to capture it. But it's kind of rooted in my experience when I was sewing my raka suit. And there was something that happened for me as I was beginning to have my first experiences of emptiness, of stillness in motion, of that quiet space where I see something out of the corner of my eye that's both me and not me. And the way that manifested for me in the precepts is there's a reflexive relationship here. I mean, you have lots of definitions in what you're talking about and lots of descriptors about what the precepts mean and what they are. But one of the things that I took out of this,


and it's probably not so correct, but it's that I can't put the precepts on as a list. You were just talking about committing kindnesses and goodnesses and doing all of these wonderful things that are accelerants for the general goodness in the world. I don't commit those things as if I were going to look for some woman to help across the street or some good thing to do. That's not how it works for me. I think you have it. I think that's what I've been trying to point at. But here's where I'm going with this. This reflexive relationship is a result of practice. It's not that I have – I can't even tell you what the precepts are, but here's what I know about them. When I sit, they inhabit me. When I listen to them and I hear them as they inhabit me and commit them, it reflects back into them. And so there's a process of being in practice, both with myself and with other people,


that causes the precepts to come alive. They're not dusty, and they're not dry, and there's no vicious to them. It is the warm living blood of practice for me. I can no more – I mean all of the rotten things that I've done, and it's a long list. They're still hanging on here, right? Thank you, Jeff. I think you've summarized really nicely what I was trying to point at, but you've said it really, really nicely. Thank you. Oh, sure. Thanks. Anyone else have any responses or experiences, especially people who haven't spoken yet, people who are coming across this? Anyone here coming across the precepts for the first time tonight or relatively new? How is this landing on you? How are you relating to it in terms of other things that you've done?


My first exposure to information like this was Protestant confirmation. I think all of us have had exposure to a way of trying to orient to morality. How is it for people who are not so familiar with this? All your comments are welcome. What's this like? How do you relate to it? Nathan, thank you. Thank you, Michelle. I have to say I was doing the reading, and I found myself bristling a little bit. There's nothing in anything that I've read sort of up to this point that engaged my reflexive rebellion against being told what to do. I have to say that I'm aware that to damage my body or my consciousness


with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. That's a pretty heavy kind of goes in the guilt direction that I got a lot of as a kid, and I just reflexively really don't respond to very well. I don't know. That hasn't been my experience of anything that I've read within our tradition, but I did have that response to coming across that in this, and I was reflexive. To be fair, that's not what I'm getting from you describing this, but that was my initial reaction in doing the reading. Where did you come across that? Before I make a comment, where did you come across that? Sorry. You suggested that we read Chapter 13, Right Action, from the heart of the Buddhist teaching. Right, yeah. I think that's one side of the motivation.


That's the side that says let me get in touch with as a fundamental motivating force that I can create harm. That's helpful to some people. It was often the Buddha's first instruction to people, but I think the Mahayana balances out. That's one side. The reason that there are three pure precepts is that there's also the doing good and the recognition that that energy generates its own positive karma, and then set in the context of you don't always know the impact of what you do and you can't always call it something specific before that happens. I understand the aversion to the idea of being bad or having some idea of being almost unredeemable in some way,


which is what that smacks of. I don't think that's what the intention is. It's just to say because the basic Buddhist teaching is that we are Buddha, that that is what we're made of, but what happens is that we forget or we get caught up in our own stuff, and so we don't see clearly. So it's kind of a way of shaking us a little bit and saying, now wait a minute, wait a minute, take a look at what you're doing here. That's not really what you're made of. Thank you. Peter, you had your hand up. Did you mean to keep it up? And if you unmute, I'd love to hear what you have to say. Okay, can you hear me now? Yes, thank you. So I've been thinking quite a bit during this talk about the impossibility of fulfilling vows.


You referred to this several times, actually. And I think that this aspect of our practice is sometimes I wonder what the purpose is. What's the good of that? It seems to me that it's a kind of liberation. Liberation from measuring, judging, and that also the kinds of knots I tie myself up into when I'm engaged in those kinds of fault-finding activities is really inconsistent with the vows as you've been explaining them. So it's kind of wonderful to kind of get this commitment to doing something which is really not, really way beyond my capacity, so to speak. Well, I don't even know that, actually.


In any moment, maybe not. Yeah, maybe not. Who knows? The ability to judge what's right and wrong is severely limited. And it seems like the best we can do is just plunge in and then leave the rest to Buddha. I think that you've just very nicely pointed again why Dogen thought that taking refuge was the most important thing, that that was such an important addition to him. When you take refuge, you're taking refuge in your enlightened nature. You're taking refuge in everyone's enlightened nature. In a way, you can trust in that. So when you mess up, when you fall short, when you can't fulfill your vow,


you can still trust in that inherent quality. It's probably even wrong to call it a quality, but that inherent essence of what we're made of. So, yeah, thank you. In a way, it's very freeing. In a way, it's very freeing. Heather, and then Hozon. This is such a great topic, and I love the precepts, and I love them for a lot of different reasons. But at a certain level, they just make my life easier because 80% to 90% of the time, it's just like, yes, no, yes, no. Do that, don't do that. It saves me time and energy and debate. It's like a litmus test, right?


Then there's like, say, 10% to 20% of the time where there's this great ambiguity about which bucket it falls into. Earlier, you had said something about look at the effect of your actions. The area that is so rich and interesting and challenging for me is that the effect of my actions to one person can land so differently than another person. I have really live examples of saying one thing to one person where they go, yay, and saying the same thing to another person, and they're like, you're a horrible person. It's an ongoing riddle for me. That's right. They're very relational. They're very situational, and we're constantly learning from how we practice with them. Thank you. Ozan, and then either Helen or Preston, who's ever next? I come back.


I was speaking with Ross this afternoon, and I was reminded of Suzuki Roshi's expression. We have Hinayana practice with Mahayana mind. One of the things that we're doing in this practice period, which is very difficult, is actually moving between those perspectives. Some of the teachings that we're looking at in the context of early Buddhism are, to me, flat-out dualistic. They say right and wrong, wholesome, unwholesome, whereas the Mahayana perspective is not so clear, even though those classifications still exist.


The early version of what Mahayana as a pure precept is, avoid all evil, do all good, purify the mind. The Mahayana version is, avoid all evil, do all good, save the many beings. I think it just is what Heather was just saying, and Ryushen was affirming, is that pointing towards relationality is the essence of Mahayana mind. Recognizing that even where your intention is wholesome in this moment, the effect of it actually can be otherwise. So then, if you're a Buddha, you actually have to be able to correct your course. We're constantly being asked to examine ourselves and correct our course.


I think that's the mission of the precepts as you're laying them out, not as commandments, not as the Dharma as law, but as ways to point us towards what connects people. But it's true that all the things that we've been talking about, I understand that the thrust of the original teachings can appear dualistic. Thank you, Hosanna. That was a really important point. Thank you. Eleanor Preston. Kanjira, could you say something about the role of Sangha,


the role of friendship in helping us to follow precepts? Oh my goodness. I'll tell you a little story. Maybe that's, I hope this isn't talking about myself too much, but I'll tell you a little story. I can't tell you how important I think it is. Berkeley Zen Center has such a mature community. And I know for myself, I recognize that the stability of people's practice and their willingness to be honest with themselves and each other was essential to my growing up and my understanding the working of my mind. And I could see it by how people related to each other. I could see it by the kinds of spoken and unspoken feedback I got. I felt like I was held accountable in a way. And I just, I felt, feel, I still feel very inspired by each of you in your efforts to wake up together.


So, you know, like company, be careful who you hang out with because that's who you're apt to become. I think there's a good component of that that goes on in our practice together. That's how I'd answer that, but I bet there are a lot of other responses to that. Maybe that's a wonderful way to kind of spend our last minutes is hearing how other people would answer Preston's question. What's the value of Sangha practice for you? Or did I cover it all? Okay. Or are there any other questions? We have only a couple more minutes. So I haven't talked about the pure minded precepts, but indirectly,


but I think I've given you the background for studying them. The last part of this time was going to be to break out into small groups and talk about grappling with them from the perspective of the three pure precepts, any one of them. But I really want to encourage you to do that on your own. Hannah, did you have something you were going to say? I mean, for me, the Sangha is so important. The precepts are so important to me, and I look at you all and I know they're important to you, too. And that knowing is very, very helpful and important. I just want to see. I see that Heiko has his hand up, but I want to give a moment to see if anyone else who hasn't spoken would


like to speak. OK, Heiko, it's you. Thank you. I just wanted to say how much the momentum of Sangha is what I ride in keeping my effort going. Everything else everybody else said applies. But it really gives me strength to see people practice and to know that as I waver off the train, the momentum is still going and I can get back on. And that's how I practiced with BCC. I'm so grateful. Thank you. Well, we're just about out of time. So I think we'll end here and know that we'll be continuing to practice


precepts forever and there will be lots more conversations to be had. Thank you all for attending. Thank you all for your input. Thank you for the opportunity to share the teachings together and the opportunity to think about precepts anew in the context of this practice period.