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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 51 |summer 2007 munities at different times in Buddhist history. It started with the vinaya, a kind of legalistic ethos. Then a much more compassion- and love-based ethos evolved in the form of the Mahayana ideal of the bodhisattva and the development of bodhi- citta. In recent times we see the evolution of dif- ferent forms of precepts, like those developed by Thich Nhat Hanh for the Order of Interbeing. We certainly need the structures and guidelines, but at the same time I think a genuine and sponta- neous ethical life has to stem from integrating love, compassion, and wisdom. It involves a constant openness to the suffering of the world and deep obligation to do something about it that entails risk and uncertainty about the outcome of what- ever we do. Precepts, in whatever form, create a framework, but that framework can never be ade- quate to guide us to a moral life that deals with the exigencies and demands of any given situation. Joan Sutherland: As a contemporary American woman, I have some concerns with the vinaya. I simply can’t accept a rule that requires me to take more vows than a man does simply because I’m a woman. That’s a procrustean bed I’m not willing to lie down in. So it’s my obligation to explore what takes its place. I am in sympathy with what Stephen was just saying about a willingness to meet circumstances as they arise, working not from a recipe book but from openness, caring, and a ded- ication to trying things. listening, attending to the whole thing vulnerably, innocently, then what you are saying need not become the cause of an effect. i see you are nodding. you understand. People say to me: “Didn’t you, toni, learn to concentrate and be aware through long years of zen practice – wasn’t that the cause of an effect?” and looking back through memory, i can say, yes, twenty, thirty years ago, there wasn’t this ability to look and attend quietly, undividedly, in a sustained way. But one also realizes that uncount- able other things, besides zen training, have fed into the unfolding of this present moment, including the Big Bang, the fact that the universe happened at all. if it becomes clear that right now we’re the result of everything that’s ever happened, why pick out one thing and say that was the cause of this? everything is the cause of everything, and everything is also the effect of everything. and yet this moment of being here completely unfettered is timeless and without cause. someone asked me, “can a leaf swirling to the ground be my teacher?” yes! of course! this instant of seeing is the timeless teacher; the leaves are just what they are. Truth is not caused by a path. and waking up – who knows why there is waking up? it’s the miracle of humanity, or of the uni- verse, that there is waking up to the truth of infinite whole- ness! for me to think that you woke up because my tradition did something for you can make me feel good about myself and about my tradition. if i remember correctly, the Buddha once said: “since there is the unbecome, the unborn, the unmade and unformed, there can be liberation from the Become, the Born, the made and formed.” Unbecome means not subject to cause and effect. everything we do – striving, hurting, retaliating, or forgiving each other – is the con- ditioned stuff of cause and effect. the clarity of insight is uncon- ditioned – it has no cause and no effect. why no “effect”? if you belittle me, and there is complete listening, complete attention to what you’re saying – what’s going on for you and what’s happening in me, to the body’s impulse to tighten up, fight back, defend itself, or withdraw in pain – if there is complete openness in who Knows why there is waKing up? “waking up” doesn’t hinge on doing this Buddhist practice or that one, says toni Packer. everything from the Big Bang to a leaf falling contributes to the unfolding of the present moment. from The Wonder of Presence, by toni Packer. Published by shambhala Publications. From the koan perspective, that means under- standing that whatever we do will in some way be a mistake. There’s no right way, so we choose the mistake we feel the greatest affinity with, the one we think is most beautiful or seems like it might help the most. Then we watch and see what hap- pens and we correct and change, based on what we notice. I find it very helpful to hold that idea of everything I do being a mistake. It’s provisional and subject to change. ponlop rinpoChe: The vinaya is not just do’s and don’ts. Each element of discipline teaches us how to be mindful of subtle actions. Wearing robes, for example, makes us pay attention in a way that is different from how we usually treat our clothes. We put clothes on without really thinking so much. Being in robes can give you that deep sense of responsibility and obligation to be mindful of one’s actions in the world in the way Stephen was talking about as a necessary adjunct to meditation. The vinaya is also the Buddha’s teaching on the ideal Buddhist sangha or society. For example, there is a consensus voting system in the vinaya. The Buddha introduced a kind of democracy cou- pled with mindful voting. If there’s any disagree- ment in the vote, we have to ask a dissenter to express their view and see how we can compro- mise. We also ask three times for consent. There are a variety of other social norms in the vinaya. It is much more than Buddha’s list of do’s and don’ts. haPPylant