The Precepts

I seem to be condemned to lock horns with Zen priests concerning the precepts and the following of them. First, it was Brad “Hardcore Zen” Warner. Now it is another priest, who I will do the courtesy of not naming as there is no point to it. Unlike Brad, he seems to have a core of civility but, still, I don’t understand the way people interpret the precepts.

Now, the five (ten or however many) precepts are not commandments. Like the Pirate Code, they are more guidelines, like. They are the behavior that you could codify if you observed a bodhisattva’s life and made a note of his or her behavior, their interactions with the world, etc.

It strikes me as weasel words to take on the precepts, a voluntary act, and then blatantly not follow them. Now, following a Christian maxim, I will agree that the plank in my own eye may be greater than the splinter in thine eye, but, still, come on. If you take a precept to not disparage a teacher of the Dharma, you don’t then make a habit of talking smack about teachers. If you take a precept to tell the truth, you don’t make a habit of lying. If you take a precept to not take life, you don’t go whack people…

Part of the responsibility of teachers, monks, priests, lamas, whatever, is to be an example for others on the path, especially those less experienced or for whom you act as a teacher. If my own teacher was a drunk, a thief, or a murderer, how could I expect to accept his advice on how to interact with the movie or develop my understanding of the Dharma? The Dharma is not something that sits in a book on a shelf, surely. The part that some people also seem to miss is that it isn’t something that simply exists while your ass is on a cushion either. Your behavior is indicative of the Dharma, at least in your own life. None of us are perfect and it is not, generally, my job to judge the adherence of anyone to their vows except me for mine but to have people vocally proclaim that their vows to not disparage a teacher don’t apply because they view the teacher as a fraud misses the point. Great, the teacher is a fraud but that teacher is surrounded by students who see the teacher as embodying the Dharma. What are the effects of your action on them? Rather than being critical of another, wouldn’t it be better to focus on your own actions as a teacher and provide an example to these students of what you think the proper, non-fraud, behavior is?

Of course, in this age of bully pulpit blogs, it is quite easy to just talk smack about people or misbehave. That is understandable and human. It is still disappointing though.

And, as an aside to my friends, how the hell I wound up in the self-righteous position of critiquing the Internet behavior of anyone is beyond me, as much as it might be beyond you. I’m growing tired of Dharma teachers who can’t walk the walk though and when called on it, come up with excuses for ignoring their vows. I may break my vows at times but I recognize it and do my best to rectify my behavior and the fruits of this behavior. It is a struggle for all of us but I don’t point to my vices as being virtues. My shit stinks just like anyone else’s…