Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Right and Wrong.
In the Buddhist lineage I'm involved in there is currently some hot debate and dissent about the question of morality and what's 'right' and 'wrong' in Buddhism.
Thankfully, the Buddhist teaching on this is very practical and clear and was summed up in ancient times in these terms:
Not to commit wrongs,
To practice the many kinds of right,
Naturally purifies the mind;
This is the teaching of the buddhas.
Master Dogen, the Buddhist Master considered the founder of Soto Zen, particularly emphasised the first line about 'not committing wrongs' because, when we are not committing wrongs, things manifest as they are, we manifest as we are, and we are naturally right when we allow ourselves to be right.
Basically, the emphasis is not on lofty, moralistic ideals, or worrying about what other people are doing, or praising them or criticising them for being 'right' or 'wrong' as we perceive it. The emphasis here is actually on our very own conduct right here and now: We make real, manifest right and wrong just here and now with our own real actions of body, speech and mind... any 'right' and 'wrong' outside of this is just a thought in our heads, a judgement, a splitting up of the situation using our intellect.
This does not mean that we should not have views and opinions on events or situations, or that we should not make efforts to improve things for ourselves and others, *but*, from the perspective offered in Buddhism, we should clearly understand that our views and opinions are just our own views and opinions and not some objective truth.
It's easy to get intoxicated by our own views and opinions, and Buddhism recognises this:
If needs be, we should try not to do what we know to be wrong,
We should let good manifest as it is,
This clarifies our intention and our lives.
Nobody is perfect, everybody makes mistakes... please bear in mind that Buddhism is essentially not a philosophy/religion of lofty, abstract morals and sitting in judgement of others. It's about us. It's about our own personal actions/conduct right here-and-now. That's what we can change, that's what we can control.
Of course, the natural introspection of zazen, where we drop off all thoughts of 'good' and 'bad', is indispensable if we wish to understand and clarify our thoughts and intentions. It aligns us with our natural goodness that already exists before we think up 'good' and 'bad'.