Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Bodhisattva precepts and Jodo Shinshu Buddhism

'Buddhism of compassion' by Rev. Josho Adrian Cirlea

As we have seen in the previous chapter, the Eightfold Path, the basis of every Buddhist teaching preached by Shakyamuni Buddha in his first Dharma talk, may be divided into three categories: Wisdom (which implies Right Understanding and Right Thought), Spiritual Ethics (which refers to Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood) and Spiritual Practice (Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration).
In Mahayana Buddhism this resumes to the Six Paramitas (Perfections) called “The Six Types of Practices by which a Bodhisattva achieves Buddhahood” and these are:
1.Charity, generosity (dana) 2. discipline and proper behaviour (sila) 3.  perseverance (ksanti) 4. diligence 5. meditation (dhyana) and 6. higher wisdom (prajna).
From both presentations we can see that ethics or the observing of the precepts plays a very important role in achieving the Supreme Liberation. This together with spiritual practice (various Buddhist practices) represents the basis of wisdom. All three must be practiced together. In order to emphasize the importance of the precepts in reaching the Supreme Liberation[43], I will quote from Brahmajala Sutra, regarding the observance of the Ten Major Bodhisattva Precepts:
“As a disciple of the Buddha, you should study these ten parajika (major) precepts and not break any one of them in even the slightest way – much less break all of them! Anyone guilty of doing so cannot develop the Bodhi Mind in his current life and will lose whatever high position he may have attained, be it that of an emperor, Wheel-Turning King[44], Bhiksu[45], Bhiksuni[46] – as well as whatever level of Bodhisattvahood he may have reached, whether the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices[47], the Ten Dedications, the Ten Grounds[48] – and all the fruits of the eternal Buddha Nature. He will lose all of those levels of attainment and descend into the Three Evil Realms[49], unable to hear the words “parents” or “Triple Jewel”[50] for eons! Therefore, Buddha’s disciples should avoid breaking any one of these major precepts. All of you Bodhisattvas should study and observe the Ten Precepts, which have been observed, are being observed, and will be observed by all Bodhisattvas.”
The words are very harsh but they express the real existence of one who cannot follow these precepts. More than this, all Bodhisattvas from the past, present and future observe them. There is no real aspiration for personal salvation as well as for other’s salvation as long as these precepts are disregarded, for they are the expression of  the all embracing compassion towards all beings. All the Bodhisattva precepts[51] are based on compassion; they express the three main root precepts of Mahayana Buddhism: 1. not doing evil, 2. to practice good and 3. to help all beings. The four main vows[52] which a Bodhisattva makes at the beginning of his spiritual career are contained in them.
Not observing these precepts leads not only to the falling in the Three Evil Realms but also to the impossibility of developing the Bodhi Mind, which the supreme Liberation cannot be realized without. This is so because the Bodhisattva precepts are not merely rules of deportment but “precepts of the Buddha nature”. They are not important just for such and such location and age but for ever, this how the words “have been observed, are being observed, and will be observed by all Bodhisattvas” must be understood.
            On the Path of self power (jiriki), that is when the disciple relies solely on his efforts for achieveing Supreme liberation, observing or disregarding the precepts causes spiritual evolution or involution, representing a key element together with wisdom and religious practice, as we’ve seen  in the first lines.
The question for which this chapter wants to give an answer is wether the nembutsu follower, who relies on the salvation offered by Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, that is not on his personal power, he should observe the Bodhisattva Precepts too. My answer is “yes”, but from the perspective of the man for whom this life is anyway his last life as a being led by illusion, for whom Nirvana is something already assured in the Eighteen Vow, and who expresses in this way his gratitude towards the Buddha and sentient beings. The ethics requirements of a nembutsu follower are similar to other Buddhist’s ethics, but the motivation is different. For him, observing the precepts does not aim at the achieving the Supreme Liberation, for through shinjin offered by Other Power he is already in the stage of those who are assured of Nirvana. On the nembutsu path, the practice required for our Enlightenment is fulfilled by Amida and all we are to do is to express our gratitude towards him. Saying “thank you” should become the aim of a Jodo Shinshu disciple’s life, putting aside once and for all the preoccupation concerning the Supreme Liberation, whose realization is Buddha’s concern. Reciting Amida’s Name is also the expression of faith and gratitude. But should it rezide from here that the nembutsu follower has to do nothing to improve his behaviour towards others?  We all know from the history of  the Pure Land tradition in Japan, about the appearance of the heresy of “licensed evil”, which claimed that since Amida saves us as we are, we might as well behave as we wish to, disregarding any kind of morals. Shinran adopted a very severe atitude towards those who developed such ideas, as we read in one of his letters:
“How lamentable that people who have not fully awakened from drunkenness are urged to more drunkenness and those still in the grips of poison encouraged to take yet more poison. It is indeed sorrowful to give way to impulses with the excuse that one is by nature possessed of blind passion – excusing acts that should not been commited, words that should not be said, and thoughts that should not be harbored – and to say that one may follow one’s desires in any way whatever. It is like offering more wine before the person has become sober or urging him to take even more poison before the poison has abated. “Here’s some medicine, so drink all the poison you like” – words like these should never be said.
In people who have long heard the Buddha’s Name and said the nembutsu, surely there are signs of rejecting the evil of this world and signs of their desire to cast off the evil in themselves. When people first begin to hear the Buddha’s Vow, they wonder, having become thoroughly aware of the karmic evil in their hearts and minds, how they will ever attain birth as they are. To such people we teach that since we are possessed of blind passion, the Buddha receives us without judging whether our hearts are good or bad.
When, upon hearing this, a person’s trust in the Buddha has grown deep, he comes to abhor such a self and to lament his continued existence in birth and death; and he then joyfuly says the Name of Amida Buddha deeply entrusting himself to the Vow. That he seeks to stop doing wrong as his heart moves him, althgouh earlier he gave thought to such things and commited them as his mind dictated, is surely a sign of rejecting this world.
Moreover, since shinjin which aspires for attainment of birth arises through the encouragement of Shakyamuni and Amida, once the true and real mind is made to arise in us, how can we remain as we were, possessed of blind passion?”
These words of Shinran represent the basis of Jodo Shinshu ethics. Those that are afraid that they cannot achieve Supreme Liberation because of their  evil karma are told that: “since we are possessed of blind passion, the Buddha receives us without judging whether our hearts are good or bad”, which means unconditional salvation offered by Amida. In the following lines, the so-called double profound conviction (nishu-jinshin), which represents the two aspects of Jodo Shinshu faith, is described: the conviction that we are overwhelmed by blind passions which enchain us in birth and death; and the conviction that Amida’s Vow accepts us disregarding these things.
We notice that after “joyfuly says the Name of Amida Buddha deeply entrusting himself to the Vow”, the follower begins to nourish the will to reject the world, that means not being the same as before. So, according to these words, trying to observe the precepts is absolutely normal for a nembutsu practitioner. This trying is not made as we’ve said before, for achieving Enghlitenment or for being afraid of loosing this chance in the end, because according to Tannisho: “                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
“For those who entrust themselves to the Primal Vow, no good acts are required, because no good surpasses the nembutsu. Nor need they despair of the evil they commit, for no evil can obstruct the working of Amida's’Primal Vow."

No good acts being required shows precisely the fact that attaining Liberation does not depend on their efforts, so the nembutsu follower tries to observe the precepts relaxed from this point of view, but still with the same strong will of  rejecting the world:

“Signs of long years of saying the nembutsu and aspiring for birth can be seen in the change in the heart which had been bad and in the deep warmth for friends and fellow-practicers; this is the sign of rejecting the world. You should understand this fully.”

Yet the same karmic obstacles which prevent us from achieving Liberation through our personal efforts, represent also the obstacles which will prevent us from succeeding in a permanent observance of the precepts, even after attaining shinjin. This is another aspect of our real existence as ignorant beings. For if we succeeded in perfectly observing the precepts in every moment of our life, we might ask ourselves if we already destroyed the blind passions and became free; then Amida’s Vow which is precisely made for ignorant beings, would have no sense for us. Shinran says:

“To rid yourself of blind passions is to become a Buddha, and for one who is already a Buddha, the Vow that arose from five kalpas of profound thought would be to no purpose.”

Knowing who you trully are and becoming aware of your limitations, saturated with your miserable ego, and relying on Amida Buddha as the last way of salvation for a man like you, being grateful, trying to change yourself because you feel ashamed in front of Buddha and other beings, succeeding once in a while but failing when evil karma from the past violently bursts out and find yourself saying and doing what must not even think at, this is the reality of an ignorant being living in the light of nembutsu.  Shinran’s writings are full of repentance which he felt during his life. I could never imagine Shinran as a careless and calm person once he attained faith in Other Power. I am reffering at his moral tranquility which I think he never had. I am sure that he always tried to change himself, and his harsh lamentations about himself prove it. His words express the profound repentance felt whenever he confronted himself with the inherent limitations and misery of the human nature and these became unbearable:

“I, Shinran, am wandering in the great mountain of ambition and selfishness. Although I am established in faith, yet my sense of gratitude to my saviour is weak. Though I am promised the Land of Bliss, yet by illusions am I prevented from being joyfull.
Though I seek refuge in the teaching of Amida, yet my heart is not truly sincere. My conscience cries aloud within myself to be truly sincere, and I try truly to obey this supreme command, but alas! my flesh is too weak!
Though my faith given freely by him (Amida) is pure – pure as the purity of his mind, yet my soul is full of sinfulness. I try with all my might to be righteous and pure, but alas! I cannot overcome my flesh.
Deceit and untruth abide in my flesh, and in my soul is selfishness; vile and foul am I.
In their outward appearance all men are wise, good, and diligent: in their souls are covetousness, anger, injustice and deceitfulness.
A formidable enemy is the enemy is the evil of my heart: I cannot control or conquer it.  
Alas! my soul is likened unto the poison of serpents: even my righteous deeds, being mingled with this poison, must be regarded as deeds of deceitfulness.
Shameless am I; I have no truth in my soul.
There is no mercy in my heart: the good my brethren is not dear in my eyes: alas! I cannot love others as I love myself!
If it were not for the Ark of Mercy, how could  I cross the Ocean of Misery?
Impotent am I to practise righteous deeds. If I sought not refuge in his grace and gift, I should die a shameless death.”

One of the things that had a great impact on me in Jodo Shinshu, was the way in which Shinran was speaking about himself. I felt the Shinran the man, an idealist seeking perfection and purity but permanently confronting himself with a soul which obstinately didn’t rise to the level of his demandings. I think he was very much troubled by the question: “how can I achieve liberation as I am?”, which he shouted not just like an ordinary question but like the final despair. Shinran took himself very seriously and never did he like to indulge in illusions about himself. I picture him tired and desperate before Kannon Bodhisattva, and firmly decided not to stand up in front of the One who listens to the cries of the world[53], unless a solution regarding his salvation should apear[54]. After ninety-five days Bodhisattva showed himself in a vision and urged Shinran meet Honen, from whom he received the teaching about the nembutsu of the Primal Vow. But not even after the “diamond like shinjin” became established in his heart, Shinran didn’t disregard the precepts, on the contrary, just as it resides from his ethical advice towards his disciples and his repentance, he never stopped trying to diminish his negative impulses and lead a life full of compassion.
Along the path of personal power, repentance is the most appropriate way of expiating the negative karma. In buddhism there are precise methods prescribed in this purpose, among them being the confession in front of other buddhists, Buddhas from the ten directions, sages or images of them. Shan-tao mentioned three types of repentance in his work “The Liturgy of Birth”:

1.      the highest degree of repentance is to shed blood from pores of the body and from the eyes;
2.      the middle degree of repentance is to exude hot perspiration from the pores of the body and shed blood from the eyes;
3.      the lowest degree of repentance is to become feverish all over the body and shed tears from the eyes.

Answering the question whether repentance is neccesary in the Pure Land buddhism, Shan-tao says in the same book that although it is difficult to shed blood and tears, if the follower has a completely sincere mind (true faith in salvation offered by Amida) he reaches the same result as in the case of repentance. Shinran says the same thing in one of his hymns:

            “Those in whom the True Faith is firmly establihed,
             Which is itself the Diamond Mind,
             Are equal to those who repent of their evil karma
              In three ways; so says our master Shan-tao.”

             The faith given to us by the Other Power is the cause of our Liberation and not what we ourselves can do through our personal efforts. It is this faith who destroys our negative karma and assures us of birth in the Pure Land:
              “For us who live in the evil world of the five defilements,
              Diamond Faith alone is available;
              It enables us to leave Samsara forever
              And reach the Land of Naturalness[55].”           

            In Kyogyoshinsho, Shinran Shonin sustains the fact that the nembutsu follower has ten advantages or benefits in this life. Here’s the eight and ninth advantages: “the advantage of being aware of the Buddha’s benevolence and the wish to respond with gratitude to his virtues” and “the advantage of always practicising great compassion”. “To respond with gratitude” means of course to recite nembutsu but also to try to live our lives in accordance with the precepts left by the Buddha, precepts which represent the way in which he wants us to conduct ourselves. When someone intends to show his gratitude towards one’s benevolence, it goes without saying that he will try to behave in a manner that the other one should approve. We know that Amida Buddha would never want his disciples to behave without compassion and understanding to one another or to the other beings and we should never fancy that his promise to save us unconditionaly means he agrees with our passions.
“The advantage of always practising great compassion” means we become more aware of the suffering of others and we desire more to avoid harming them, trying to help them and relieve their pain. But we cannot help any being if our behaviour towards them is not in accord with the ten major precepts (Bodhisattva precepts) precisely because they don’t  aim at our spiritual purification but at the good of others.
            Rev. Masanobu Nishiaki wrote in his article “Lifstyle of Jodo Shinshu Buddhist” about how we must respect the precepts:
            “Please imagine a chest that has four drawers. In the first drawer you put in your Onenju[56] and Seiten Book, the second drawer – letters and stationery, the third drawer  - clothes and the fourth drawer you put in your laundry. As long as you keep this in order and put things separately you will have no problems. However, if you do not care about the order and put things in here and there, then the inside your chest there will be chaos and you will have problems. This can apply to Jodo Shinshu too!
            The first drawer in Jodo Shinshu is the act of listening. It is the effort one puts in to listening to the teaching. This is the essence of Shinshu teaching. Without listening, we will never get an understanding of Jodo Shinshu. Also, listening once is not good enough, we must listening to the teaching over and over. The second drawer of Jodo Shinshu would contain shinjin.Shinjin is not something you create within yourself; you receive it from Amida Buddha. This means to fully understand the working of Amida Buddha’s Wisdom and Compassion, which is already helping us regardless of the kind of person we are. Simply accepting Amida’s Wisdom and Compasion is essential in Shinshu. The third drawer is the nembutsu. The nembutsu is showing our gratitude to the Buddha. The fourth point is daily life. As long as we are living in this society, we have to follow its rules. Morality, ethics and common sense – these are important factorsto living in our society. We cannot mix these drawers. If we mix these up, we will misunderstand the Jodo Shinshu teaching. The most common mistake is mixing the second and fourth drawers, shinjin and daily life. How does this happen?
In the process of receiving shinjin or awakening to shinjin, we may think, ‘No matter what we do, Amida Buddha will help us and we will be reborn in the Pure Land as we are. That being the case, then what is the point of behaving properly.’ By thinking this way, we are mixing up the two drawers. We should not take Amida Buddha's’Wisdom and Compassion for granted...
If we keep mixing the drawers, Jodo Shinshu will be an excuse for our laziness…Do not mix up the drawers. Do not use the teaching (shinjin and nembutsu) as a tool to rationalize our egocentric actions.”


            This being said, I will pass on to the presentation of the Ten Major Precepts, which should be regarded by the nembutsu followers in the light of the teaching about salvation offered by Amida’s Primal Vow.
            These ten precepts are exposed in the Brahmajala Sutra and represents the highest moral code of Mahayana Buddhism.
The essence of the Bodhisattva precepts is the filial piety towards all sentient beings.
I will take again a quote from the first chapter in order to explain a very important aspect of the teaching of our tradition:
“A disciple of the Buddha should have a mind of compassion and cultivate the practice of liberating sentient beings. He must reflect thus: throughout the eons of time, all male sentient beings have been my father, all female sentient beings my mother. I was born of them.”
            Reffering to the words “a disciple of the Buddha should have … and cultivate the practice of liberating sentient beings”, we do not think in Jodo Shinshu, that we can liberate ourselves and others during this present life. Can it be concluded from this that Jodo Shinshu followers are not Bodhisattvas? No, they are not Bodhisattvas, if through being a Bodhisattva it is understood that they save others even from this life, but they can be called in this way if it is taken into account the fact that aspiring to be born into the Pure Land (attainment of Buddhahood) they actually aspire to their and others Liberation. The Bodhisattva idea is present in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism as in every Mahayana schools – birth in the Pure Land is not a selfish destination but a permanent coming back, this time as an Enghlitened being, in order to help others. The only difference between our school and other schools based more or less on personal power, is that in Jodo Shinshu we realize our imposibility of practicing the real virtues untill we reach Enlightenment in the Pure Land and consider our actions as still being the actions of a bombu (ignorant being) who tries to express his gratitude to the Buddha.

1.         A disciple of the Buddha shall not himself kill, encourage others to kill, kill by expedient means, praise killing, rejoice at witnessing killing, or kill through incantations or deviant mantras. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of killing, and shall not intentionaly kill any living creature[57].
As a Buddha’s disciple, he ought to nurture a mind of compassion and filial piety, always devising expedient means to rescue and protect all beings. If instead, he fails to restrain himself and kills sentient beings without mercy, he commits a Parajika (major) offense[58].
I see this first major precept in connection with the following secondary precept[59]:
-         “A disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately eat meat. He should not eat the flesh of any sentient being. The meat-eater forfeits the seed of Great Compassion, severs the seed of the Buddha nature[60] and causes [animals and transcendental] beings to avoid him. Those who do so are guilty of countless offenses. Therefore, Bodhisattvas should not eat the flesh of any sentient being whatsoever. If instead, he deliberately eats meat, he commits a secondary offense[61].
Since “all male sentient beings have been my father and all female sentient beings have been my mother” means that “if I now slaughter them, I would be slaughtering my parents as well as eating flesh that was once my own”, says Brahmajala Sutra.
In Buddhism, the practice of vegetarianism[62]  is a behaviour through which we do not wish to be indirectly responsible in the killing of a sentient being. The direct killing for food is more seriously than eating the already prepared flesh from the store, but this does not make us less responsible of its tortured death.  If there is no request, there would be no offer, so the more vegetarians will be in the world, the fewer the number of slaughtered beings. Nobody wants to be killed, all beings wants to enjoy life and all have the right to live. In Buddhism there is no place for the grotesque idea of the man being in the center of the Universe and all other beings have been created for him. I am sure that if we can feel on our own the suffering  and fear an animal feels when he is slaughtered, we will not be able again to keep in our mouths a single piece of meat. I ask, and answer myself affirmative, if according to the law of cause and effect, all the violence and natural disasters which take place in the world of today, aren’t the result of greed and cruelty we treat other beings. We became involved in a chain of violence from which we cannot free ourselves unless we change our behaviour and attitudes towards all forms of life.
Man has declared war to all beings for the satisfaction of his belly while the enviroment in which he lives provides him with sufficient vegetal food to keep him healthy. For us who live in countries from Europe, America and even Asia, being a vegetarian is not such a great effort. Although other animals eat one another, man is gifted with rationality and sensibility, this is why he can chose to live a life which will do no harm to other beings[63].
As a Jodo Shinshu follower, he must be motivated by the fundamental principles Mahayana Buddhism, to which this school belongs, like filial piety towards all sentient beings and never make such statements as: “In Jodo Shinshu one is not supposed to be a vegetarian” or “the precepts are not important”. I often meet with fellow practicers who say these kind of words, which in my view seem very close to the heresy of licensed evil that Shinran and Honen struggled against.
If Amida Buddha saves us as we are, this doesn’t mean that he agreeds with our blind passions. As a Buddha he always tries to awake beings to compassion in their inter-relations and vegetarianism and the attempt to observe the precepts is one of the manifestations of this compassion.
            Our motivation in always searching arguments for not being vegetarians[64] and not trying to observe the precepts appears because we are dominated by greed.
I don’t wish to be misunderstood, I do not have the pretention and I do not state that we can behave ourselves in this life like Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, because in this case we would not need the Primal Vow of Amida. But I strongly wish that all Jodo Shinshu followers accept as an expresion of gratitude to the Buddha and other beings, these simple words: “Let’s try, let’s try to keep the precepts and be vegetarians”. That’s all. At least we should try. And if we do not succeed, let’s be ashamed and more grateful to the Primal Vow of Amida. Then, let’s try again. All our life must be dominated by this impulse: gratitude to the Buddha and all beings, and trying to have a compassionate behaviour towards all forms of life. This is Mahayana Buddhism where Jodo Shinshu is, in my opinion, the most beautiful child. How wonderful to know that you are already saved and that you can try without fear and without a personal goal to love other beings. Namo Amida Butsu always appears spontaneously on my lips when I contemplate these things.

2. A disciple of the Buddha must not himself steal or encourage others to steal, steal by expedient means, steal by means of incantation or deviant mantras. He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of stealing. No valuables or possesions, even those belonging to ghosts and spirits or thieves and robbers, be they as small as a needle or blade of grass, may be stolen.
            As a Buddha’s disciple, he ought to have a mind of mercy, compassion, and filial piety – always helping people earn merits and achieve happiness. If instead, he steals the posessions of others, he commits a Parajika offense[65].

3.         A disciple of the Buddha must not engage in licentious acts or encourage others to do so.[66] Indeed, he must not engage in improper sexual conduct with anyone.
            A Buddha’s disciple ought to have a mind of filial piety – rescuing all sentient beings and instructing them in the Dharma of purity and chastity. If instead, he lacks compassion and encourages others to engage in sexual relations promiscuously, including with animals and even their mothers, daughters, sisters, or other close relatives, he commits a Parajika offense.

4.         A disciple of the Buddha must not himself use false words and speech, or encourage others to lie or lie by expedient means. He should not involve himself in the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of lying, saying that he has seen what he he has not seen or vice-versa, or lying implicitly through physical or mental means[67].
As a Buddha’s disciple, he ought to maintain Right Speech and Right Views always, and lead all others to maintain them as well. If instead, he causes wrong speech, wrong views or evil karma in others, he commits a Parajika offense.

5.         A disciple of the Buddha must not trade[68] in alcoholic beverages or encourage others to do so. He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of selling any intoxicants whatsoever, for intoxicants are the causes and conditions of all kinds of offenses.
As a Buddha’s disciple, he ought to help all sentient beings achieve clear wisdom. If instead, he causes them to have upside-down, topsy-turvy thinking, he commits a Parajika offense[69].

I consider this major precept as being interconnected with the following secondary precept:

“A disciple of the Buddha should not intentionally consume alcoholic beverages, as they are the source of countless offenses. If he but offers a glass of wine to another person, his retribution will be to have no hands for five hundred lifetimes[70]. How could he then consume liquor himself! Indeed, a Bodhisattva should not encourage any person or any other sentient being to consume alcohol, much less take any alcoholic beverages himself[71]. A disciple should not drink any alcoholic beverages whatsoever. If instead, he deliberately does so or encourage others to do so, he commits a secondary offense”.

6.         A disciple of the Buddha must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of clerics, lay or monks and nuns – nor encourage others to do so[72]. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of discussing the offenses of the assembly.
As a Buddha’s disciple, whenever he hears evil persons, externalists[73] or followers of the Two Vehicles[74] speak pf practices contrary to the Dharma or contrary to the precepts within the Buddhist community, he should instruct them with a compassionate mind and lead them to develop wholesome faith in the Mahayana.
If instead, he discusses the faults and misdeeds that occur within the assembly, he commits a Parajika offense[75].

7.         A disciple of the Buddha shall not praise himself and speak
ill of others, or encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of praising himself and disparaging others.
            As a disciple of the Buddha, he should be willing to stand in for all sentient beings and endure humiliation and slander – accepting blame and letting sentient beings have all the glory. If instead, he displays his own virtues and conceals the good points of others, thus causing them to suffer slander, he commits a Parajika offense[76].

8.         A disciple of the Buddha must not be stingy or encourage others to be stingy. He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of stinginess. As a Bodhisattva[77], whenever a destitute person comes for help, he should give that person what he needs. If instead, out of anger and resentment[78], he denies all assistance – refusing to help with even a penny, a needle, a blade of grass, even a single sentence or verse or a phrase of Dharma, but instead scolds and abuses that person – he commits a Parajika offense.

9.         A disciple of the Buddha shall not harbor anger or encourage others to be angry. He should not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of anger.
            As a disciple of the Buddha, he ought to be compassionate and filial, helping all sentient beings develop the good roots of non-contention. If instead, he insults and abuses sentient beings, or even transformation beings [such as deitis and spirits], with harsh words, hitting them with his fists or feet, or attacking them with a knife or club – or harbors grudges even when the victim confesses his mistakes and humbly seeks forgiveness in a soft, conciliatory voice – the disciple commits a Parajika offense[79].

10.       A Buddha’s disciple shall not himself speak ill of the Triple Jewel or encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods or karma of slander. If a disciple hears but a single word of slander against the Buddha from externalists or evil beings, he experiences a pain similar to that of three hundred spears piercing his heart. How then could he possibly slander the Triple Jewel himself?
            Hence, if a disciple lacks faith and filial piety towards the Triple Jewel, and even assists evil persons or those of aberrant views to slander the Triple Jewel, he commits a Parajika offense[80].
            These are the precepts that every Mahayana Buddhist, be it Jodo Shinshu or not, should try to observe. I intentionally said “try” because I’m not high on illusion concerning the capacities of beings at the present time.We should never live under the impression that weîve succeeded in resăecting them entirely, in their spirit and form, because Shinran’s words are crystal clear when they refer to the reality of mappo age[81] – the age in which we live and where our good deeds are intermingled with the poison of ego. As they are not entirely freed from personal interests, they are not truly good deeds nor real virtues. For us, ignorant beings permanently sunk in all kinds of delusions, and without possibility of saving ourselves from Birth and Death, there are no real virtues, for we cannot say that all throughout our lives we want nothing but the good of others or that we conduct ourselves without ever aiming a personal goal. Let us never be wrong about this aspect.
            It is said that when the Great Master Bodhidharma came to China, Emperor Wu called him and asked him: “I’ve built many temples and I’ve offered many lands to the path of the Buddha; now please tell me what merits have I gained? Bodhidharma’s answer came shocking but true: “None, not one merit.”
            In Buddhism we speak about two kinds of merits: mundane and supermundane.
The mundane good is the effect of every good deed fulfilled with the purpose (conscient or unconscient) that there will be positive consequences: happiness in this life or in the next, a better rebirth, etc. This good deed doesn’t escape the subtle or thick forms of greed, which is one of the “Three Poisons” along with anger and ignorance (delusion).
The supermundane good represents any kind of action undertook without a goal or a personal interest. It comes as a spontaneous and natural thing, aiming the well being of others. Only the last one is the materialization of true compassion and may be considered as a true virtue leading not only to a better life in one of the six forms of existence, but to the Supreme Enlightenment.
Emperor Wu is representative for all of us who have the pretention that by our deeds we are clean and pure without even realizing that the true virtues are in fact far away from our tiny actions fulfilled under the influence of ego. What the Emperor had accomplished represented mere mundane merits: that is why Bodhidharma told him: “not one merit”. We, the Jodo Shinshu followers, shouldn’t forget these meaningfull words and we should never consider ourselves spiritually pure or superior: “Know yourself to be a foolish being of karmic evil”, says Shan-tao. Let us not show a mask of virtue while inside we are full of falsehood and let us try to observe the precepts always being aware of our imperfection, of our deeds mixed with the poison of ego.
Brahmajala Sutra represents the moral and ethic standard of Mahayana Buddhism. The world has never known such a profound teaching about the way we should treat other beings. Nobody before stated in the history of mankind that all the beings, not only humans, are our mother and father. It is  a wonderful teaching but for many of us it is impossible to put into practice. Even so, Bommo Kyo must be read and honoured by all the people, it must be the fundamental by which we judge wether our actions are good or bad. It must make us bow our heads to the ground and make us live the true humbleness and gratefulness. Being aware of our nothingness we should never sustain that we’re superior to other beings simply for the fact that we are humans and don’t walk in four legs. Only a Buddha is truly good and pure, for only a Buddha is capable of real compassion without expecting anything in return.
As far as I am concerned, as an ignorant being living in this age of decline of the Dharma, the only thing I’m capable of is to bring my homage before these wonderful precepts and to recite nembutsu, thanking Amida because only due to him I’ll be capable of following them once I become a Buddha myself. Until then I merely try, like a powerless child who wishes to please his father (Oya-sama[82]).


1.      A Record in Lament Of Divergences, A Translation Of Tannisho
- Hongwanji International Center, Kyoto 1995. 
2.      Letters of Shinran – A Translation of Mattosho – Hongwanji International Association Center, Kyoto, 1978.
3.      The Way of Nembutsu Faith, A Comentary of Shoshinge, by Hisao Inagaki, publicată de Nagata Bunshodo, Kyoto 1996.
4.      Shinran Shonin’s Tannisho with Buddhist Psalms by Saizo Inagaki, publicată de Eishinsha.
5.      Life style of Jodo Shinshu Buddhist – article written by Rev. Masanobu Nishiaki.
6.      Brahma Net Sutra – English translation by Sutra Translation Committee of The United States and Canada, republished by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taiwan, 2000.
7.      The Seekers Glossary of Buddhism, second edition, printed by Sutra Translation Committee of  United States and Canada, republished by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taiwan, 1998.
8.      Thus have I heard, Buddhist Parables and stories. Published by Sutra Translation Committee of  United States and Canada, republished by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taiwan, 2003.
9.      What Buddhists believe, by Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda, republished by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taiwan, 2003.
10.   The Dhammapada – text in Pali language & English translation by Ven. Narada Maha Thera, republished by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taiwan, 2002.
11.  The Buddha and His Teachings – Ven Narada Maha Thera, republished by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taiwan, 2002.
12.  Food of Bodhisattvas – Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat, by Shabkar
      Tsogdruk Rangdrol, translated in English by the Padmakara Translation
      Group, Shambhala Boston&London, 2004.

[43] It refers to the attainment of Enlightenment through personal power, in which case the observing of precepts becomes one of the reasons of falling or advancing towards this goal.
[44] An ideal king in Indian mythology. In Buddhism they represent the kings who rull by justice rather than by force.
[45] Buddhist monk.
[46] Buddhist nun.
[47] The ten practices of a Bodhisattva are: 1) the practice of giving joy, 2) beneficial practice, 3) the practice of non-oposition, 4) the practice of indomitability, 5) the practice of non-confusion, 6) the practice of good manifestation, 7) the practice of non-attachment, 8) the practice of that which is difficult to attain, 9) the practice of good teachings, 10) the practice of truth.
[48] Also named the Ten Stages (or Ten Bhumi) through which the practitioner advances in Buddhist practice. In the system of the fifty-two (or fifty-three) levels of Bodhisattva practice, they are viewed as the forty-first through fiftieth levels. There are several “ten stages” with of varying content listed in different scriptures. Avatamsaka Sutra divides Buddhist practice into Ten Stages, as follows: 1) the stage of joy (Skt. Paramudita), in which one rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth, 2) the stage of purity (vimala), in which one is free from all defilement, 3) the stage of the emission of light (prabhakari), in which one radiates the light of wisdom, 4) the stage of glowing (archishmati), in which the flame of wisdom burns away earthly desires, 5) the stage of overcoming final illusions (sudurjaya), in which one surmounts the illusions of darkness, or ignorance, 6) the stage of the sign of  supreme wisdom (abhimukhi), in which supreme wisdom begins to appear, 7) the stage of progression (duramgama), in which one rises above the states of the Two Vehicles, 8) the stage of immobility (achala), in which one dwells firmly in the truth of the Middle Way and cannot be perturbed by anything, 9) the stage of all-penetrating wisdom (sadhumati), in which one preaches the Law freely and without restriction, and 10) the stage of the Cloud Of Teaching (dharmamegha), in which one benefits all sentient beings with the Law (Dharma), just as a cloud sends down rain impartially on all things.
[49] These are: hells, hungry ghosts and animals.
[50] The Three Jewels of Buddhism are: Buddha, Dharma (Teaching of Buddha) and Sangha (the community of followers).
[51] In Buddhism, all precepts can be divided in two main categories: Sravaka precepts (for lay, monks and nuns who aim at their own and personal salvation birth and death), and Bodhisattva precepts which are superior to the preceding ones. All these precepts comes from the root precepts. However, Sravaka precepts are based on the first root precept “not doing evil”, while the Bodhisattva code covers all three emphasizing the third “to help all beings”.
[52] Bodhisattva Vows. See the first chapter.
[53]The One who listens to the cries of the world”, refers to Kannon Bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara in sanskrit.
[54] Shinran spent one hundred days in retreat at Rokkakudo temple, founded by prince Shotoku, before the statue of Kannon Bodhisattva, praying for his salvation.
[55] Pure Land or Buddhahood.
[56] Buddhist rosary.
[57] The mind is the key factor in all Bodhisattva precepts. “Killing by expedient means”: refers to the means employed to facilitate the killing of a sentient being, such as pointing out the whereabouts of a chiken to others, cornering it, binding its feet, forcing its head onto the butcher block, etc.
[58] Parajika offense. A major offense, which warrants expulsion from the Buddhist Order. (In practice, the cleric is given the opportunity to repent and reform).
Killing sentient beings, including slaughtering animals for food, is among the heaviest transgressions in Buddhism. This is not only because such acts create untold suffering but also because they cut short the lives of future Buddhas (as all sentient beings have a common Buddha Nature).
The injunction against all forms of killing (including suicide), covering all sentient beings, is unique to Buddhism. Jainism, for example,approves of the penance of death by self-starvation, while Hindu ceremonies such as the Srauta rites “centers on offering into the altar fires oblations of milk, butter, honey…domestic animals…” (K.Crim, Dictionary of Religions, p.369 and 790.)
Note: There are important exceptions to this rule. A well-known recent example is the self-immolation (suicide) of Master Thich Quang Duc in the early sixties to protest the persecution of Buddhists in Vietnam. The Master, a recognized and respected figure, killed himself not to escape personal suffering, but rather to call attention to the plight of the population at large, bring a halt to the persecutions and, in the good Mahayana tradition, save perpetrators themselves from major transgressions.
The first Stravaka precept (the precepts of  monks and nuns from early Buddhism) is not to indulge in sexual relations, while the first Bodhisattva precept is not to kill. This is because the Sravaka’s main goal is to become Arhats and escape Birth and death. Bodhisattvas, on the other hand, take compassion as their main calling, and killing is the very antithesis of compassion. Another explanation is the Sravaka precepts are specific to an audience and time. Thus, in the time of the Buddha, when a Bhiksu/Bhiksuni (monks and nuns of early Buddhism) commited a certain offense, the Buddha, in response, instituted a certain precept or regulation. This is how the first Bhiksu/Bhiksuni precept against sexual relations came into being. Bodhisattva precepts, on the other hand, are universal in scope, beyond time, space and audience. They were promulgated independently of specific offenses, to help the practitioner return to his Self-Nature and achieve Buddhahood – they are the precepts of the Mind.
[59] In fact, in Brahmajala Sutra, among the Ten Major Precept, there are another forty-eight secondary precepts, from which only two were presented in this work.
[60] This statement “severs the seed of the Buddha nature”, reffers to the practicers who rely on their self power and are in this way, subject to their personal karma, who manifest itself through  the impossibility to attain Buddhahood. However, the practicers who rely on Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow try to be vegetarians as a way of expressing gratitude to the Buddha and other beings and not due to the fear of not attaining Enghlitenment, because this is assured by Amida regardless of their virtues or bad actions which are done under the influence of their ignorance and evil tendencies, which are so hard to remove. The Vow of Amida Buddha makes no discrimination between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, but this doesn’t mean that he aproves a behaviour who lacks compasion towards other beings, meat eating being one of them.
[61] In early Buddhism, there is the theory of the so called “three kind of meat in purity” according to which a man can eat the flesh of an animal he didn’t kill himself, was not killed especially for him and he didn’t hear his cries when he died. Hovewer, in Mahayana sutras (for example Brahmajala Sutra, Surangama Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra, Parinirvana Sutra, etc) which presents the last teachings of the Buddha meat eating is strictly forbidden. This means that the theory of  “three kind of meat in purity” was only a temporary measure through which the Buddha took into account the difficulty of stopping at once the meat eating  in the environment and conditions of that time. Then he forbidden definitely this practice and emphasized vegetarianism. As a proof of this in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha says to Kashyapa:
“Son of my lineage, my teaching is not like that of the naked ascetics. I, the Tathagata, established  rules of  discipline in relation to specific individuals. Consequently, with a certain purpose in mind, I did give permission to eat meat regarded as suitable for consumption after it has been subjected to threefold examination. In other contexts, I have proscribed ten kinds of meat. And yet again, with someone else in mind, I have declared that it is improper to consume meat of any kind, even of animals that have died of natural causes. But I have affirmed, O Kashyapa, that hence-forth, all those who are close to me should abstain from meat”.
Here are another two quotes from Lankavatara Sutra, the only text recommended by Bodhidharma (the first Chinese Zen patriarch):
“In the present sutra, all meat-eating, in any form, in any manner, and in any place, is unconditionally  and once and for all, prohibited for all. Thus, meat-eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit”.
“Dar Wei…How can those who wish to cultivate a kind heart eat meat?” … “Dar Wei, if man’s flesh is burnt, the smell stinks, just like burning the flesh other animals. Why is some meat eaten and some not?” … “How could people say that I let my disciples eat meat? If anyone says that I let my disciples eat meat, this man has libelled me”.
[62]  “The motivations for performing such acts [setting free captured fish, refusing to eat meat] are rooted not merely in ethical demands, but religious and psychological factors. When a person kills another sentient being , he breaks the hidden bonds among all forms of life. Violence alienates the violator not only from a sense of cosmic harmony but also, ultimately, from himself. For although the act of killing is extreme assertion of the self, the self which is so isolated and delimited, ironically ceases to have any real life or to have any real meaning. Buddhist vegetarianism is significant when viewed in this context. For even though one does not kill the animal himself, every time one eats meat, one denies the existence of any meaningful relationship between oneself and other beings. By objectifying an animal as ‘food’, one can become insensitive to its suffering and regard it as a mere thing. On the other hand, each time he releases a creature from impending death, each time he returns it to freedom, a person reaffirms the original bond among all sentient beings. The act of releasing is a celebration of reunion, during which the selfish human is momentarily obliterated. The person who releases life in fact releases himself from human selfishness.”
[63]  Some might ask why the prohibition in Buddhism of killing animal life does not include that of plants. The answer is that although plants have the functions of existence, they do not have the conscience of the eye, ear, smell, taste, touch, mind, impure (mind) consciousness and alaya. If they have no conscience it follows that they have no feelings. If they have no feelings it follows that they cannot give rise to negative or positive causes, so they have no karma.
In Buddhism it is only said that there are spirits who live in harmony with some plants, find shelter in them and attach to them as if these would be their own body. This is why Buddha prohibited, for example, the cutting of big and large trees. The preservation of the environment is one of the human duties which finds a lot of space in Buddhism which states that all beings and things in the Universe live in unity and influence one another. Destroying the balance of nature we finally destroy ourselves.
[64] The people who state that lack of meat in alimentation is conducive to disturbances in the organism, are contradicted by the real examples of many people who live well and are healthy because of the vegetarian regime. A large number of books written by specialists in the field of alimentation testify to the advantages of a vegetarian diet.
[65] The life of a sentient being can be divided into two aspects: the internal, related to the physical body, and the external, having to do with food, possessions, and the like. The physical body is sustained by food and other essentials. If these essentials are stolen, life becomes very difficult. In extreme cases, stealing them is tantamount to taking a person’s very life. Therefore, the precept “not to steal” is second in importance only to the precept “not to kill”. Please note, too, that in the “Four Means of  Salvation”, charity is first and foremost. These are the four means by which Bodhisattvas interact with society in order to carry out their work. Charity, the giving of one’s possessions to benefit others, is the anthithesis of stealing. (Master Yen-p’ei)
Stealing by expedient means: refers to such acts as hiding other people’s possessions, etc. and then adopting an air of innocence, feigning ignorance as to what occurred.
[66]  I excluded from the presentation of this precept the following passage which refers to monks, because in Jodo Shinshu there is no monastic order: “[As a monk] he should not have sexual relations with any female – be she a human, animal, deity or spirit – nor create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of such misconduct. “
[67] Examples of physical means include nodding, shaking one’s head, etc. An instance of lying through mental means is when someone who has committed a misdeed remains silent when asked. The most serious example of false speech in Buddhism, constituting a major offense is to claim to have achieved a level of attainment (Arhantship, for example) when one has not in fact attained it. The purpose of such a claim is, of course, to receive respect and offerings. Other lies are considered secondary in importance and can be expiated through face-to-face confession before one or several Bhiksus or Bhiksunis, depending on the gravity of the offense.
[68] It is considered that a Buddhist must not earn his existence through the following type of activities which go against the spirit of compassion towards other sentient beings: hunting, fishing, slaughtering animals (butcher), selling animals and animal products for food, selling weapons or contributing to their manufacturing, selling human beings in slavery or prostitution, as well as any activity that harm the mind and body of beings. 
[69] Selling alcoholic beverages is considered a major offense while consuming alcoholic beverages is only a secondary one. (secondary precept No.2). This is because Bodhisattvas place compassion first and foremost and aim at benefitting others – to sell liquor is to harm others, to consume liquor is to harm only oneself. Why should we not consume alcoholic beverages? Buddhism prohibits alcoholic beverages not to deny enjoyment of life, but because alcohol clouds the mind and prevents one’s innate wisdom from emergings. Thus, to sell liquor goes against the Bodhisattva’s compassionate goal – to help sentient beings develop wisdom and achieve Buddhahood.
[70]No hands for five hundred lifetimes”: the disciple will be reborn as a worm, reptile, etc. This retribution appears unusually harsh at first sight; however, in Buddhism, the worst karma is to lack wisdom, the consequence of intoxication. Without wisdom, we can never escape Birth and Death and are bound to revolve in samsara not only for five hundred lives but even for untold eons!
A story is told of Mahakasyapa (the senior disciple of the Buddha) visiting the Jeta Grove accompanied by Anathapindika (a famous benefactor of the Order), and suddenly catching sight of a black ant scrambling across his path. Drawing Anthapindika’s attention to the insect, he recalled that in untold eons past, during the times of the six previous Buddhas, he had come across that ant. Now, under Shakyamuni, the seventh Buddha, he himself had become an Arhat, but the poor ant, after eons of rebirth, was still just an ant, condemned to the sufferings of an insect’s life – as devoid as ever of wisdom!
Selling alcoholic beverages affects others and is against the Mind of true Compassion which a Bodhisattva must always cultivate.
[71] Exception: “When the Buddha was in the world, King Prasenajit’s Queen had received the eight precepts of a layperson. One time, King Prasenajit wanted to kill his cook. When his Queen heard about this she wanted to save the cook, so she bedecked herself in fine adornments, put on fragrant powders, placed flowers in her hair, and prepared delicious food and wine. Then she took along several ladies-in-waiting and went to see the King. King Prasenajit was extremely pleased with the wine and the food, and afterwards the Queen beseeched the King to forgot his idea of killing the cook. The King consented, and so in this way the cook was saved. The next day, the Queen went to the Buddha’s place and repented. She had already taken the eight lay precepts, and one of them is that one can’t put fragrant oils or perfumes on one’s body or flowers in one’s hair. She had also drunk wine the previous day… But since the only reason she did all that was because she wanted to save the cook’s life, the Buddha said: ‘Not only have you not transgressed the precepts, you actually have gained merit and virtue” (Master Hsuan Hua).
[72] Here too I changed a little the presentation of this precept in order to fit better in the Jodo Shinshu context. The original expression was: “must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of Bodhisattva-clerics or Bodhisattva-lay persons, or of [oedinary] monks and nuns.”
In oher forms of Buddhism Bodhisattva precepts are received in a ritual context before a Master of precepts, or in his absence, before an image of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, in which case the follower must see an auspicious sign (light manifestations, etc) which would testify their receiving and the sincerity of the receiver. However, in Jodo Shinshu I do not consider this to be necessary because here the observing of the precepts is only an attempt originated from gratitude, always having in mind the awareness of our imperfection. 
[73] Lit. “non-Buddhists”. This term is generally used by Buddhists with reference to followers of other religions. An externalist is someone who does not believe in or follow Buddhist teaching.
[74] The Two Vehicles are the Sravaka (who aim only to their own salvation from birth and death, that is to become Arhats) and Pratyekabuddha (Buddhas who become Enlightened by fully understanding the principle of causality but who, unlike the Supreme Buddhas, do not teach and help others). These vehicles, considered together are what is called the Theravada Vehicle or Southern Vehicle. Bodhisattva Vehicle, which aims to the Supreme Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings is called the Mahayana Vehicle (the Third Vehicle). 
[75] The Bodhisattva’s aim is to benefit sentient beings. Therefore, when someone commits an offense, the Bodhisattva does not advertise it but patiently finds ways to counsel him. Furthermore, a Bodhisattva should mention the good points of others so as to encourage them on the right path and help them develop their potential.
Illustration: The Lotus sutra relates the story of a Bodhisattva named “Never Despise”. Whenever he encountered a layman or a cleric, he would approach him, bow to him, and say aloud: “I dare not look down on you because you will become a Buddha in the future”. This declaration angered some persons, who would insult and beat him. In response, Never Despise would simply run far away and repeat: “I dare not look down on you because you will become a Buddha”. Why did the Bodhisattva Never Despise act that way? It was because he cultivated the practice of seeing everything with eyes of equality, of respecting all sentient beings equally, as they all have the Buddha Nature and are all future Buddhas.
[76]One can say that the habit of praising oneself and looking down on others is common to most people. That is why wherever we go, if we do not hear a person praise himself, we can hear him speak ill of others. Seldom do we hear anyone speak about his own shortcomings while praising the good points of others. That is why, since ancient times, it has never been easy to create an atmosphere of non-contention and happiness between individuals on this earth. If people got into the habit of “returning the light and looking within”, aware every minute, every hour that they still have many shortcomings, while others have many good qualities, there would never be self-congratulation or criticism of others.” (Master Yen-p’ei)
To praise oneself and speak ill of others necessarily makes other people suffer. Not only that, such actions tends to raise the ego – the very opposite of the goal of cultivation. Furthermore, in the Avatamsaka Sutra (chapter 49), sentient beings are compared to the roots of a tree growing in the rocks and sand of the barren wilderness, while the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas are the flowers and fruits. Therefore, Bodhisattvas need sentient beings. How can they go about criticizing them, unless it is for the purpose of helping them correct their mistakes?” (Rev. Minh Duc)
[77] The expression “as a Bodhisattva”, does not mean that in Jodo Shinshu we dream that we are or that we can actually become Bodhisattvas in this life, helping and benefiting sentient beings like Kannon (Bodhisattva of Compassion). We will truly act as Bodhisattvas only after we will attain Supreme Enlightenment in the Pure Land and we will come back to this world, in many forms, to save others.
Bodhisattva is an ideal and the precepts related to this selflessness state are also an ideal. In other traditions the practitioner engages to fulfill it even in this very life, but for the Jodo Shinshu follower, the keeping of the precepts is only an attempt originated in gratitude, always having in mind the awareness of our imperfection.  
[78] The Buddhist disciple becomes angry and loses his temper because the other party keeps asking for help.
[79] This ninth precept includes two parts: 1) being angry and 2) harboring grudges. This precept, like others, takes compassion as its cornerstone. Once anger arises, all compassion is lost. The Bodhisattva should not harbor grudges toward anyone and should gladly forgive the mistakes of others.
Moreover, once we are reborn in this impure world, we are bound to meet with events that go against our wishes. When these events occur – as they are bound to – we should keep calm and try to transcend them. What is the use of getting angry or getting even? Supposing we awere lost in the depts of the forest, filled with poisonous plants, deadly insects and ferocious beasts. We should expect to be pricked by thorns and bitten by insects and ferocious beasts. We should expect to be pricked by thorns and bitten by insects. The best course of action  is to find a way out of the forest. To lose one’s temper, cursing the thorns and insects, is irrational, to say the least. (After Master Yen-p’ei)
[80]Few people would dare slander the Buddha. However slandering the Dharma or Sangha is another story. An example of slander of the Dharma is to criticize the Two-Vehicle Teaching as inadequate for all sentient beings. Slandering the sangha is very common nowadays. If a cleric breaks the precepts, he will receive bad karma, but this does not preclude him for being a good teacher. It is like being lost with a group of people in a deep, dark ravine and among them is a leper who happens to have a torch. A wise person would suppress his revultion and follow the leper to safety. Please note in this regard the teachings on the Four Reliances, the most important of which is reliance on the Dharma, not on any particulat teacher. Moreover, the Buddhist disciple should have a calm mind, free of discrimination in any circumstances. To speak ill of others is to harbor a mind of discrimination, not yet realizing that good and bad, correct and incorrect are in essence not-existent and dream-like.” (Rev. Minh Duc)
Note: Major Precept eight stems from greed, nine from anger and ten from delusion. Greed, anger and delusion are the Three Poison which enchain beings.
[81] The last of the Three Dharma ages – a scheme that describes the gradual decline of Buddhist teaching in the world (its is based on the prediction of Shakyamuni). During the Perfect Dharma age, which lasted five hundred years  since the passing of Shakyamuni, the teaching could be rightly understood and practiced and the Enlightenment often attained. During the Dharma Semblance age, one thousand years since the passing of Shakyamuni, the practices are still performed according to the teachings but Enlightenment is rarely attained. During the Last Dharma age, which will last ten thousand years, the teaching survives but the practices are beyond the capacities of human beings because of the spreading of various defilements  which mark this time. Shinran states that we are now in the Last Dharma age and that now only the Pure Land teaching remains the most accessible way to Liberation.

No comments:

Post a Comment