Today we take the opportunity to think about the second of the Eightfold Path taught by Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), “Say nothing to hurt others.” I began my day this morning thinking about an old friend whose friendship had broken up due to hurtful words that had been spoken by her that I observed. I decided then and there that she was not the person that I had grown to know and love then one thing led to another and we, to this day, have not spoken.
Sitting in dokusan  with one of my teachers I shared this story with him and the power that those words, both hers and mine, had had in my life. I felt sad about it and wondered what good it had done.
Today I picked up from my bookshelf this wonderful book on ethics co-authored by Norman Vincent Peale and Kenneth Blanchard entitled The Power of Ethical Management (1988). I was curious as to what they had to say about ethics and the power of the word since it had been many years since I had read the book. And to my delight the very first paragraph in the introduction were the exact words I needed to hear.
In writing a book on ethics we are reminded of the story of a young Englishman who had just been elected to Parliament. When he entered the halls for the first time, he approached one of the sages and asked, “Tell me, sir, do you think I should participate in the debate today?”
The old man looked at him with piercing eyes and said, “To be honest, young man, I would recommend that you keep silent. It’s better that people wonder why you didn’t speak than wonder why you did.”
I wonder why I had spoken all those many years ago the way I had and maybe I could have handled the situation in a different manner and we would still be friends. So the Buddha says, “Say nothing to hurt others.” But when someone says something to hurt others in front of you what should you do? How should you handle it? Once handled should you talk about them in a negative way to show how “right” or “righteous” you were to speak up and set her “straight.” I will let each of you, my dear readers, make up your own mind about that, to think about how you have handled similar situations in the past and will handle similar ones in the future.
The authors go on to say:
Both of us agree that ethical behavior is related to self-esteem. We both believe that people who feel good about themselves have what it takes to withstand outside pressure and to do what is right rather than do what is merely expedient, popular, or lucrative.
Dealing with such a topic is like untangling a fishing line. The more you get into it the more complicated it becomes.
So these blog posts I’m writing on ethics will challenge me, expose me, and help me think through what I think, believe, and know about “Zen and Ethics in Business and in Life.” It will help me think before I speak so as not to “say anything to hurt others.” I hope you will take on this assignment for the week and let me know what happens.
1. Meeting of a Zen student with his/her master in the seclusion of the master’s room. Dokusan is among the most important elements in Zen training. It provides the student an opportunity privately to present to his master all problems relating to his practice.” The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991)
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Browsing my email this morning I came across a discussion digest from a wonderful organization that I belong to the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE). It led me to a section on their website “The Tree of Contemplative Practices” which led me back to my talks on ethics and the first of the Eightfold Path, “Know the truth.”
Below is the picture of the tree and the items on the tree reflect some of the contemplative practices “currently in use in secular organizations and academic settings.” These practices help us to “know the truth.” And when they are integrated into our lives will help us “live the truth.” Many of the practices listed on the tree are linked to areas that are directly related to areas of ethical conduct and practice. Some of them are listed below:
- Justice issues
- Deep listening
- Establishing a sacred/personal space for self and others
ACHME describes the tree thus:
The roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts.
The branches represent different groups of practices.
When used and contemplated they can help us know what is true for us and provide us with simple practices to help us live an ethical life.
My goal this week is to choose one area and focus on it knowing that doing this will help me maintain peace, love, and compassion in my life and hopefully make this a better place in which to live. When you go to the link you will find a blank tree there that you can copy and print and put your personal contemplative practices on the tree. This may help you focus on your opportunities to merge your ethical, spiritual, and practical life into one union of knowing the truth and being one with it.
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Ethics is not complicated it is simply “doing the right thing.” It is not bound by culture, religion, or politics–it is simply doing the right thing in each and every situation, even when it’s hard. Actually, especially when it’s hard.
Rush Kidder, founder of the Institute for Global Ethics, talks about “Ethical Fitness.” He writes that one definition of ethics is:
“Obedience to the unenforceable.” Something is unenforceable if there is no rule or law forbidding it. But there are some things most people would not do even though there is no law about it, such as scaring a baby or taking away a shopping cart from an older person.
A friend of mine met a person at church who had a very difficult life problem. The person had stepped over the boundary from the “unenforceable” rule or law to the “enforceable” when the person participated in a scam to cheat Medicare and Medicaid out of 70 million dollars that was to be used to help the disabled and the poor. The person probably should have read Rush Kidder’s book before work each day. The person will not see the “get out of jail” card until the age of 72. Plenty of time to read now, wouldn’t you say?
So how do we keep ourselves from getting caught in this situation? What will keep the temptation at bay, the wolf from the door, the shark from the surf board? By living a life as prescribed in the teachings of Zen Buddhism. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do so.
This series on Zen and Ethics will be focused on these eight simple ideas and how to incorporate them into your life at work, at home, and at play. Imagine what a wonderful world this would be if we all just followed these simple ideas day in and day out!
I hope you will take this journey with me and before you do anything and everything stop-think-inquire-listen-love (STILL). Or as we used to say when I was a Unity minister, “Be still and know that I am God.” Regardless of whether you believe in a God–God/Good only appears when we become STILL. So sit with me each day for 10-20 minutes and just be still.
Then make your decision. Let me know what happens.
Posted in Zen | Tagged anger, anxiety, Buddah, Buddhism, challenges, Charles Fillmore, Christianity, compassion, contemplation, Ethical Fitness, ethics, Institute for Global Ethics, medicaid fraud, Rush Kidder, stillness, The Eight Fold Path, The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics, Zazen, Zen, Zen Buddhism | 2 Comments »
Once again my dear teacher and friend Wilbur Mushin May Sensei gave me something to put up on our Southern Palm Zen Group website for our members to read and I think it is such a great and important topic I would like to share it with all of you as well. I hope this Christmas season you give it much thought as the energy of giving is everywhere and you and the gift are one inseparable. So choose the gift wisely. ~Shokai
“To give is non-attachment.
Not to attach to anything is to give.”
To give-dana-is the first of the six Paramitas. In giving yourself completely all 6 are realized.
In life we always take up positions: me/other.
When we wake up, we are right in the middle of it all. You are giving to all—all are giving to you.
No more reference points, no time for space perceptions.
In zazen you give yourself fully. Just sitting you realize: No me/no other.
In the Mumonkan there is a koan (case 49), Shakyamuni and Maitreya giving to each other. Tell me, who is that other? There is no other.
When all of the “other” or objectivity is cast away, all of the “I” the subjectivity is also gone. And when this happens, the Only True One is finally manifested. Then you see with the eyes of another, feel with the hands of another. The “fact is: When you see, what you see is not separate from yourself. When you hear, what you hear, is yourself; when you think what you think is yourself then everything is yourself, and you are stripped and released by the threefold emptiness of giver, gift, and receiver.
To grasp this and live this experientially is not easy.
Concluding with a poem:
“A cuckoo sings.
Its rare song
I have forgotten the dream
I had just now.”
“The dream” here means I-myself, the universe and everything.— in gassho, Mushin
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Today on Twitter I saw a post forwarded to my account from John Fugelsang from someone named JohhnyBoy that said “I wish gun related deaths were just as scary to Americans as ebola.” During our Zen Buddhist service and sitting this morning we prayed for the families and friends of the students killed during school yesterday in Marysville, WA . The combination of this incident and the post from JohnnyBoy brought back to mind the short piece that one of our teachers had given me to put into our Zen Bulletin and on our website he titled it “Excitement.” Wilbur Mushin May Sensei wrote:
We cannot live without excitement. However, when excitement becomes the sole purpose in life that’s out of balance, that does not work. It seems, we strive to be on a constant high all the time. Having fun almost becomes an addiction. But the craving for the extraordinary dulls the palate, and we lose our sense for the ordinary.
In Zen, when our practice is calm and ordinary nothing is lacking and our everyday life itself is enlightenment.
Don’t engage disturbances and emotional reachings gradually fade away.
Don’t engage distractions and spiritual practice naturally grows.
Violence, fear, and panic have become an everyday thing. The news touts it and wants us to “be afraid…be very, very, afraid!” This will draw people to the 24-hour news stations and to the internet for minute-by-minute updates. Thus, we can see more of their commercials, buy more of their products, and I could go on and on.
But in Buddhism we live by the values of the Buddha and his followers and students who focused on the good and the gracious and the generosity ingrained in all human beings. We step in to help the family, friends, and teachers in their time of need. We do all we can to minimize gun deaths with stronger gun laws and the like.
And hopefully living a life of peace, love, and compassion will be an example that others will want to follow. Change comes one person at a time. Knowing this we can change the world in which we live to one where the loudest form of excitement is only as bold and brash as cheering for your favorite team, or blowing out the candles on your birthday cake, or sharing tears of joy when your favorite relative greets you with a smile and a hug.
This excitement I wish for you.
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Once again I picked up the book Peace Pilgrim for words of wisdom and came across something that is so relevant today as we watch the killings and destruction of people of different faiths. Some people are even killing others who are the same faith only a different sect or denomination of that faith. Whether you believe in a religion, or a faith, or a spiritual teaching or a God or Supreme Being or not I hope the Peace Pilgrim’s words resonate with you and help you deal with your life and your challenges more easily today.
I am a deeply religious person, but I belong to no denomination. I follow the spirit of God’s law, not the letter of the law. One can become so attached to the outward symbols and structure of religion that one forgets its original intent—to bring one closer to God. We can only gain access to the Kingdom of God by realizing it dwells within us as well as in all humanity. Know that we are all cells in the ocean of infinity, each contributing to the others’ welfare (page 85)
Roshi Robert Aitken in his wonderful book The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics writes this about oneness and war and peace.
Acting upon the First Precept [Not Killing] is also the spirit of not harming applied in the natural world. The same poisons that set us apart in families, communities, and across national boundaries—greed, hatred, and ignorance—blight the grasslands, deplete the soil, clear cut the forests, and add lethal chemicals to water and air. In the name of progress, some say. In the name of greed, it might more accurately be said (page 20).
So if we let go of the outward symbols, laws, and structures and move toward the natural world or “God’s World” or the world of the Bodhisattva as Roshi Aitken says, “Compassion and peace are a practice, on cushions in the dojo, within the family, on the job, and at political forums. Do your best with what you have, and you will mature in the process.” You and I can be more like the Peace Pilgrim and the Buddha and be a part of “all cells in the ocean of infinity” contributing to the peace and welfare of everyone and everything.
If only we could feel and see ourselves afloat as an integral part of this infinite sea of creation we could not harm the cell that is in the other because we are that cell as well. Together we are that united one: separate we could not exist. Just imagine how our lives and the lives of those around us could be blessed if we lived each day in that “ocean of infinity.”
How about joining me for a swim!
In honor of our wonderful teachers I post these words:
Good Friends and good teachers of Zen: Jundo and Doshin
I feel within me a peace
Above all earthly dignities,
A still and quiet conscience.
 Peace Pilgrim (2004), Peace Pilgrim, Editors Friends of Peace Pilgrim http://www.peacepilgrim.org
 Aitken, R. (2000) The Mind of Clover, Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY, NY
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