Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zen and George Brassens

Last Sunday I officially became a Zen Buddhist during a JUKAI or discipleship ceremony held at the Atlanta Soto Zen center

During this ceremon
y : I received and vowed to follow the Soto Zen Precepts - This is materialized by my receiving the RAKUSU, a garment that symbolizes the Kesa robe of the Buddhist monks, and a new Dharma name.

Not every school of Buddhism have exactly the same precepts, or express them in the same way.

Soto Zen has 16 precepts :

The Three Treasures:

  1. I take refuge in the Buddha - The teacher
  2. I take refuge in the Dharma - The Buddha’s teachings
  3. I take refuge in the Sangha - The Buddhist community, past and present

The Three Pure Precepts are general vows to abstain from evil and to practice good, not just for one’s self but also others:

  1. Avoiding all evil (actions leading to attachment) by respecting the precepts.
  2. Practicing all good.(Make effort to live in enlightenment)
  3. Doing good for others. (Help others live in enlightenment)

The Ten Grave Precepts

  1. Do not kill
  2. Do not steal
  3. Do not misuse sexuality
  4. Do not lie.
  5. Refrain from Intoxicants (Do not cloud the mind)
  6. Do not discuss others errors and faults
  7. Do not praise yourself and blame others
  8. Give generously: Do not withhold the teachings of Buddha
  9. Refrain from anger
  10. Do not defile the Three Treasures

A very nice program, and difficult to achieve. As Elliston Sensei put it during the ceremony: "Sometimes we practice the precepts by breaking them"

Some of these seem to be contradictory.

Lets take an example : I am walking in the country, all of a sudden, I see a kid running away with his pockets full of apple. A farmer runs behind him with his shotgun. The kid turns right and hides in a ditch. The farmer comes to me and asks me where he is, Should I tell him ? He is liable to shoot him after all. So I’ll lie…

Quand je croise un voleur malchanceux,
Poursuivi par un cul-terreux;
Je lance la patte et pourquoi le taire,
Le cul-terreux se retrouve par terre
Je ne fait pourtant de tort à personne,

En laissant courir les voleurs de pommes.

(Georges Brassens : La Mauvaise reputation)

Precepts are not the dictates of a God who would send us to hell if we break them, they are to be adapted. We have however to be very careful in the way we adapt them, for it would be very easy to justify horrific behaviors by broadly adapting them.

There is no clear demarcation line between “adapting” and “corrupting”, and we should be extremely careful on this matter.

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