By: Rev. David Shi Shen-Xi 曦 肯
Our Buddhist practice is one of seeking. Seeking the spirit and in wonder, which is in our human nature. It requires committed action, with determined intent to find a place of wonder, promoting a mind at peace and harmony with all that surrounds us in our Universe. We are called to deeply examine our lives from a position that will lead us to ask deeply profound questions about how this body-mind of ours functions in relationship to our personal needs, but also how we live together with others. The Buddhist precepts that are condensed from the Four Noble Truths, as well as the Bodhisattva ideal, require and challenges us to seriously consider how we can live a life that manifests our universal expressions; which is the manifestation of harmony and happiness. We may be the only sentient beings that has this capacity for seeking a wider understanding of how we can awaken to the Buddha nature that makes us enlightened beings. Because, as I see it, when we truly realize this capacity for developing the body-mind state of harmony, we have stepped onto the path to awakening. But there is a challenge.
Dogen, in Shinjingakudo, the “Realization of the Way through the Body and Mind,” said, “The sun, moon, and stars as seen by humans and by divas are not the same, and the views of various beings differ widely.” But these views are nothing but mind. If this is true, then all phenomena that fill our sense consciousness can be considered differently by different beings by how the mind processes the concepts inherent in what the senses present to it. Does this mean that everyone’s view is correct? Does it mean that everyone’s view is somehow wrong? Does it mean that there is no right or wrong, that it is all relative? Given this, how can we possibly live together in harmony if each of us adopts a different view of this world from how we perceive objects thru our filters of dispositions and personal preferences?
We only need to look at the current news and the commentary giving varied views on cause and consequences to know that there is a lot of talk about moral/ethical values and the need to cultivate civilized behaviors based on the roles we play in our communities, government and politics, and in our educational institutions. These ideas and notions are then going to find there way into the creation of policies, into the schoolroom, and it is influencing what is being taught, and how we understand things; evolution, and the superiority of democratic values, that seem to have been lost in our contemporary culture. We find those in authority expounding on the right action necessary to address current day social challenges, and often with a convincing voice. I don’t doubt their convictions or sincerity. However, we need only to wait for the briefest moment to hear a rebuttal, and another view expounding what is right and giving us the “real” correct value according to that worldview. We are being ask to have faith and trust that a given action is best for a specific situation. We only need to believe. These various claims to authority lead to arguments, hatred, and sometimes violence. All in the name of what is “right”.