Thursday, January 04, 2007

He lied to me (on the nature of the precepts)

Dear J and I,

I think that sometimes our puritan roots come peeking out from under our robes.

The precepts are not laws that someone must follow...the precepts are guidelines to navigate our own lives by...but just as a map of the sea will show a "ideal" must take into consideration wind, wave, and light conditions as well as the size of the ship, and the power and turning radius of this particular boat, when one decides how close to navigate through the shoals..the map shows the shoals..but it does not show the safe route through for us under all conditions...just because from our place (hindsight is 20/20) we can point out how a navigator has deviated from the "ideal" route, does not mean that the route the navigator chose was not a safe route for the conditions, nor does it mean the general "ideal" route was the "best" in those particular conditions.

Shohaku Okumura Sensei put it this way "one does not have to go to the north star to steer by it."

Even the Buddha said that telling a lie was proper if it moved someone out of a burning building. This was an example of skillful means.

Since none of us is actually in the conditions of another of us...we have no real idea as to the proper or safe course another individual must navigate through their life to reach the other shore safely...we are specifically charged with not becoming "precept police" for others so as to gather examples of others failings to "properly follow" our interpretations of the precepts that we can wave like bloody flags pointing to others failures. (there is also a precept that says one should not put others down in order to raise themselves up)...we should not even use others actions that have harmed us as justification for our present state of emotion. We are always responsible for our own navigation of the precepts. Using others failures to prop up our own ideas and emotions is also in "technical violation" of the precepts. I am not angry because he hit me, or lied to me...I am angry because I am afraid. ....perhaps afraid he will hurt me or betray me again....but in at least acknowledging the true cause of my anger...I can then take steps not to let the fear run my responses....and thus steps to assure that my behavior better matches the ideal course set out in the precepts.

I am the child of a man too fond of the bottle for his whole life (a sensitive man who could not handle the things the world threw at him without self-medicating). My father beat my Mother (when he was drinking which was whenever he had the money for a drink), and my Mother stayed with him for her own reasons. I grew up in a household where not one day went by without a screaming contest between my parents, I grew up thinking this was the way people lived. For the early part of my adulthood I blamed my parents for my fighting with my spouse, and proudly held that I was better than my parents because I never hit anyone who did not hit me first......then I grew up and realized that at 27 perhaps I could not longer blame my parents for the state of my life, and now that I had been an adult for a while, perhaps I was where I was because I was choosing to do the things that led me to where I was, and since I did not like the place I was , perhaps if I was going to change that place, I was going have to change what I did that led me to that place.

This idea has led me to the place I am today, which is by my own acknowledgment, a less than perfect place according to the precepts. but it is one hell of a lot better a place than I would be in if I kept blaming my parents, and acting exactly like them through my own fear.

I can give you a long list of the names I have been called along the journey...some by well meaning and compassionate people. I laugh at the list...because the names are all accurate...I am not separate from one of the least of my fellow beings. While the list is all true, and I am far from perfect, this place is still a whole lot better than some of the places I have been, I know that through my personal experience. As well meaning as the advice I change my course is, I am quite satisfied with the journey I am navigating right now.

The precepts need to be taken as a whole..but not for the purpose of us judging other's adherence to them...the precepts along with all the teachings..including skillful means are taken as a whole as guidelines for our own choices...not as rules we or any one else need to stick to without fail.

In Zen our light is directed inward ...towards our own behavior, our own conditions. We are charged with being compassionate toward those who share our own conditions to one degree or another. Sometimes in that compassion we want to see that others do not make the same mistakes that we did, but each person must learn in their own way and in their own time..there is no making them get it before they screw up like we did....we needed the conditions to be right before we learned what we know do our children, spouses, and friends. Even though we would like to share our hard won wisdom with others, the truth as old Homeless Kodo put it is "We cannot share so much as a fart together."...your experience of my fart is completely different than my experience of my fart...even though we are in the same time and place....and of course there is no you and no there is ...sort of are not relieved by my expelling of gas.You will not learn by my experience. There are separate beings, just not separate from conditions we share...both of us must wait till the bell rings before we flee the smell.

Be Well