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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
summer 2007| 48 |buddhadharma industrial revolution and capitalism spread all over the world, we have such capitalistic mind. So Zen is considered as an investment of time and energy for which we should receive a product. This is a great danger. It’s a disease of modern practice. In pure Zen, there are no expectations, none what- soever. There is no virtue, none at all. Stephen batChelor: That reminds me of Shantideva talking about acting with no sense whatsoever of reward, but simply making a spontaneous response, like the hand reaching out to assuage the pain of the foot. There is no calculation of any merit. eido roShi: That’s the Buddha view. ponlop rinpoChe: In our tradition, accumulation of merit is very important, but I am not so sure about the “accumulation” part of its English translation. Indeed, accumulating is based on a quantitative thinking, thinking of investment, which is cer- tainly wrong. Merit practice is basically letting-go practice. It is about letting go of negative habits, thinking, action. It is letting go of all your attach- ments to any objects. One of the key examples is not ritualistic practice but simple acts of generos- ity and discipline, the paramitas. I suggest people go to a homeless shelter or food bank to make a contribution. True giving is giving without expec- tation, any expectation of results in return. That kind of giving goes beyond virtue and non-virtue. Joan Sutherland: Rinpoche, would you say that in addition to the letting go, that activities like offer- ing and begging also acknowledge our intercon- understanding, and attention to how we act and how we relate to others. Joan Sutherland: These are big questions involving big words, like Buddhism and meditation, that mean many different things to many different people. In the case of meditation, the word to me includes koan practice, and koan practice doesn’t make the distinction between meditation and the rest of your life. It’s one whole thing going on all the time. Koan practice is a way of inquiry, a way of engaging with the world with warmth and curi- osity. Sometimes you do that quietly on a cushion and sometimes you do that at the breakfast table or at work. So are we emphasizing meditation too much? Not from that perspective. What we’re really try- ing to do is encourage people to have an attitude of interest in their lives and the greater life of all of us all the time. Realization means both to under- stand something, the prajna part, and to make real or actual in the world, the compassion part. I don’t know how to separate those two faces; they need each other. buddhadharma: Some teachers, in particular Tulku Thondop Rinpoche, have talked about the need for Buddhist practitioners in the West to embrace what are called in the Tibetan tradition merit-mak- ing or accumulation-of-merit practices. Do you share this concern? Stephen batChelor: I don’t find the word “merit” itself particularly helpful. It leads into a kind of quantitative thinking: the accumulation of merit. Merit, as I understand it, is simply the conse- quence of living an ethical life focused on realizing the paramis of generosity, ethics, tolerance, and so forth. Indeed, meditation alone is not enough, but I don’t know whether merit necessarily is accu- mulated through doing certain kinds of ritualistic behavior. Perhaps that may be the case for some people, but the broader context of merit is effec- tively living a life in which you seek to embody the paramis. Joan Sutherland: roShi, I would be very interested to hear you speak about the concept of merit from the Zen perspective. eido roShi: In Zen, we say Mukodoku: No merit! There is no merit whatsoever in our practice. No virtue at all. In the West – or perhaps I should say the modern world of East and West – there is so much interest in investing, so people expect something out of it. Real Zen should aim for no Buddha, no virtue whatsoever. buddhadharma: So does mukodoku mean going beyond investing? eido roShi: Yes, in the modern world, with the It is true that we have been neglecting other aspects of the path. However, Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment sitting under the bodhi tree. He was not doing anything else but self- realization, and that is the root of Buddhism. — Eido Roshi zenstuDiessociety