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Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
59 summer 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly given moment of passion. At the time of the sexual revolution we had the idea that sex was just a thing you did, and that if you got over your hang-ups, it was really no big deal. It turns out that it’s not so simple to get over your hang-ups and that sexual activity is powerful—it has a powerful karmic effect. lama PaldeN: “Sexual misconduct” has been interpreted differ- ently by different Vajrayana teachers. Some on the very strict side believe that you’re only supposed to have one partner for life. My own teacher, Kalu Rinpoche, interpreted it for us much more in the spirit of what Andrew was talking about. Also, reinforcing what Norman just said, the cornerstone is that our actions be based on a loving, compassionate heart and that any repercussions that arise from one’s sexual activi- ties are supposed to be looked into deeply. Buddhadharma: As an exercise, I would like to pick a sila guideline from each of the traditions and ask you to comment. We can start with an example from the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts of the Zen tradition: “I vow not to misuse intoxicants but to keep the mind clear.” NormaN Fischer: We have fairly significant ceremonies for receiving precepts, and these take a lot of preparation and commitment, so I’m talking all the time to people about the Sixteen. The fifth precept asks us not to intoxicate with sub- stances (some translations include intoxication with doctrines). Intoxication means going beyond an aware and clear state of mind. I say to students that it doesn’t mean you can never drink alcohol, because it is possible to have a glass of wine with dinner and not become intoxicated. Some counter that one sip of wine has one sip of intoxication in it. Nevertheless, we would all recognize a kind of line you cross somewhere when you become a little tipsy. I say have a glass of wine or a social drink, but if someone said they would like to use marijuana or take cocaine or ecstasy I would suggest they not take that precept. I don’t want to give someone a precept that they will not follow, since those substances are always intoxicating. You don’t smoke marijuana without getting intoxicated. Overall, the trouble with intoxication is that it then might cause you to break other precepts. In my view, when you feel yourself coming close to intoxication you stop the drinking at that moment. Also, if you find you’re drinking frequently, you need to examine that. We try to talk over how we’re doing with our precept practice over time with fellow students and teachers. When I was abbot at Zen Center, I instituted a ver- sion of the full-moon and new-moon confession ceremony. We sat in small groups and talked to each other about our practice of the precepts and got feedback from others. The precepts work best when there’s an ongoing sense of reflection. lama PaldeN: In Vajrayana there’s the monastic tradition and the yogic tradition. The yogic tradition is much more flexible in terms of intoxicants. Trungpa Rinpoche famously demon- strated a yogic way of life. In the yogic context, the conscious- ness of the individual and the individual’s deep integrity is said to be harder to ascertain. Since it is not possible to judge whether the actions of an accomplished yogi emerge from a deep and uncompromising compassion, despite their external appearance, self-honesty is critical. Otherwise, people may delude themselves about their true progress on the path and believe their behavior is yogic when it’s really just harmful. Buddhadharma: To continue the exercise, I’d like to ask Andrew to comment on the first precept, about not killing, which some people regard as simply a no-brainer. aNdrew oleNdzki: Again, the first precept is talking to qual- ity of intention rather than the action performed, because in Buddhist psychology action is merely the active mode of the passive side, which is intention arising from disposition. The mind is constantly manifesting some emotional state. It could be a state of anger. It could be a state of loving-kindness, anything, within the whole spectrum of the emotional mani- festations of being human. As I understand the first precept, it’s largely saying that some of those emotions are harmful to ourselves and others, especially the ones that are rooted in hatefulness, cruelty, or wanting to do harm to others. If we bring a heightened awareness to the quality of our mind at every moment, whenever we notice that harmfulness—whether in a very strong form of hatefulness or in a very weak form of mild annoyance or judgmentalism—we should simply notice that. In the noticing, we see whether we can abandon it, let go of the hold it has on us. The more we can learn to do that, at ever more subtle levels, we’ll be engaging in this process of purifying our mind. As a result, our actions will be purified. We’re not really working to transform behavior as much as we’re working to transform the emotional quality of mind that we have while we’re behaving. Buddhadharma: The behavior changes as a byproduct of our understanding? aNdrew oleNdzki: Sometimes it works the other way around. Sometimes you say something nice to somebody even though you don’t feel nice thoughts—it’s the fake it till you make it model of ethical behavior. That can be fine too, because the action also has an impact on the intention. If the spirit behind the rules is to align oneself with your true nature, then the rules are understood, administered, and held in a very different way— they are guidelines for awakened conduct. —Norman Fischer