November 11, 2014:
This Saturday, November 15 from 10:00 to noon we’ll have the second meeting of our current precepts study series. This and future meetings will take place at the Center for Inner Peace, 740 W. 15th Street in Pueblo, where Wet Mountain Sangha regularly meets. Below is a message being sent out in preparation for this meeting. Everyone is welcome, regardless of whether or not you are interested in formally taking precepts, so join in!.
**Please note: This will be the final general message sent out regarding this series. If you would like to receive emails as the series continues to roll on, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.**
I’ve heard from several people how powerful and rich the first precepts gathering was, with so many people attending as well. How wonderful! I’m excited about being with you all this coming Saturday, joining in the energy of the exploration that is already rolling along.
It will be good to take some time at the beginning of the meeting to share with one another what has been coming up and flowing along since that initial gathering, what you have encountered and discovered in regard to refuge. Bring along the koans Sarah Bender, Sensei handed out last time as well, to see what they are helping to illuminate now. We’ll also take some time to explore the process of taking refuge in our tradition, mostly related to how a person might notice the call to do so and what you might do when you recognize this in your own life. From there, we’ll turn more intently toward the Three Root Vows, offered here along with Dogen’s commentary, and followed by some thoughts that might help open up the ground for working with them:
I vow not to do harm
This is the cave where the teachings of all the Buddhas have their source
I vow to do good
This is the way of perfect enlightenment, and the path that everyone walks
I vow to do good for others
This is going beyond any distinction between ordinary and awakened people, freeing yourself and others
I love the image of the “source cave” and the sense of intimate recognition that comes along with it, looking into my own heart-mind and seeing that these aspirations are central, fundamental to my being – I don’t want to cause harm, I want to be helpful. “The path that everyone walks” shows me my connection with all beings, that we share this aspiration, all beings dwelling within that same cave. But it is not enough to simply remain there; we must come forth and manifest our aspiration in the world, which is where things get complex and complicated. I find this summed up through the encounter between Bird’s Nest Roshi and a provincial governor who asks the roshi about the teaching of Buddhism and is told it is the Three Root Vows. Recognizing this in his own heart-mind and noticing it present in others, the governor curtly states, “Any three-year-old knows that.” And Bird’s Nest replies, “Any three-year-old may know it, but even an eighty-year-old has a hard time doing it.”
Notice if you find this to be true for you, and be curious about what makes it so. How is it so hard to do this thing that I find so intimately and effortlessly woven into my being? One thing that comes to mind for me is that, however strong and pure my good intention may be, once I offer what I offer I can’t control where it goes. I’m reminded of an adage about a cow and a rattlesnake drinking water from the same pond – in one it turns to milk which enriches and nourishes, in one it turns to venom which harms and kills. What to do? Withhold the water from both because I can’t have a completely beneficial result? Create a “cows only” situation along with an anti-snake campaign? Or do I offer the water regardless yet not let that be the end, instead continuing pay attention to and accompany that which results from my offering as long as I am able?
Notice what rises to meet you, to bump against you, to dance with you as you spend time with these vows over the coming days. Bring your discoveries and curiosities and wanderings into the field of our exploration, whether they be light and bright or heavy and dark or cloudy and grey like a gentle fog. Bring them, drop them in and let’s see what happens as we enter together again.
See you Saturday,
Andrew Palmer, Sensei