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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
47 fAll 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly There are many reasons and justifications for betraying ourselves and others, for violating our vows. One often hears that a teacher is dwelling in the absolute—as if the absolute were a place. This is nonsense. While one can be attached to the absolute, this attachment—as is always the case—is to an idea of something; not the thing itself. How can one attach to something that has no position, no fixed characteristic? The absolute is not a place and no one has ever dwelt there. It’s not an “it.” And yet it’s real. That is why going deep into the nature of things, this dharma, is to navigate dangerous terri- tory. In the ultimate realm there is no betrayal, no other, no actor nor the one acted upon. And yet, for this very reason we chant in the Identity of Relative and Absolute, “To realize the absolute is not yet enlightenment.” That’s why it is said that wisdom and compassion are inseparable. The moment we separate them, the danger is already present. We must be able to step forward from the top of the hundred-foot pole and manifest “no position” in all directions, in all relation- ships. That’s why practice must be seamless dharma activity. When Buddhism first came to America there were many problems in various centers with students and teachers becom- ing involved in sexual relations with each other. Over the years, and in large part because of those problems, much has changed. A great deal of maturing has taken place within individuals, within teachers, and within communities, about how to practice in a society that is very different from Japan or China or India. A great deal has been learned, and in fact, most teachers and sanghas are healthy and thriving. At the same time, through our own spiritual journey, it’s always up to us as individuals to insist on our own integrity. It really just comes down to that. What else is there? We must demand more of ourselves than others may demand of us. We must be sincere and persevering and fiercely honest and accountable. This means that we always have to be in a place and posi- tion where our actions are seen and can be held accountable. Everyone is answerable to everyone; this is the great web of interdependence. Vimalakirti said that we should be singularly interested in the dharma, rather than in gaining power, wealth and fame, or needless to say, pleasure. Because in the end, when we betray or disappoint one person in this dharma, we’re turning against everyone. And this action of betrayal, ultimately, is of our own choosing. In that moment, our earlier sincere inter- est in the dharma has been eclipsed by some other interest, a desire arising from and for the self. When we see this in a teacher, particularly someone we’ve respected, it’s easy to become jaded or cynical. But I would say, don’t let anyone or anything dampen your own love for this dharma and your own aspiration for awakening. No one can take that away from you; so why would you yourself turn away from it due to another’s action? Daido Roshi says, “Tell me, right now, how do you manifest it in your life?” As Buddhist practitio- ners, this is always our challenge. Other people have their own practice to take care of. I am responsible for my practice. And at the same time, we are all responsible for each other. How do we genuinely bring it forth in this life? We should appreciate that this dharma is an extremely powerful legacy that has been passed down to us. It is a vast, bottomless wisdom. It reaches everywhere and transcends all of time and space. Within this boundlessness, all things are equal and without discrimination. And it appears—due to conditions—in ten thousand forms. We are unique individuals with our own karma, our own practice and realization. Some will be steady in the Way, some will wander. Wandering, some will return to the true path while others will not. Some will manifest the great heart of Avalokiteshvara, casting off their own body and mind for others. Some will hold on to that body and mind and call it “mine.” The more honestly and eagerly we practice this dharma, the more we see. The more we see, the more we are naturally in awe and wonder. Then it’s easy to be a beginner. Dogen said, “When the dharma does not fill your body and mind, it’s easy to think it’s already sufficient. When the dharma fills your body and mind, you understand something is missing.” When we forget this truth, waves begin to gather on the calm sea. That is why practice has to be ceaseless. Pure jeweled eyes, virtuous arms—formless and selfless they enter the fray. This great function works in all ways—these hands and eyes are the whole thing. Isn’t this our vow—to realize over and over, deeper and deeper, that these hands and eyes of great compassion are the whole thing, the whole of our lives? Please, do not betray another. Do not betray yourself. When we betray or disappoint one person in this dharma, we’re turning against everyone. And this action of betrayal, ultimately, is of our own choosing.