By: Rev. David Xi-Ken Shi
From the very beginning of our Buddhist studies we learn about the Three Pure Precepts – Do no harm, Do only good, Do good for others; and the Ten Precepts, the first being to abstain from taking life, or as we creatively re-describe it ‘I undertake the training of loving-kindness in all possible circumstances, I will abstain from hurting sentient (all) beings’. We recognize that by acting with encompassing and corrective effort that we gradually train our body-mind to act spontaneously for the good. The way we tackle life’s experiences and situations will seem spontaneous to others but we quickly learn that they come from practice and commitment to the path we have chosen to walk. Our Buddhist Precepts can be considered as positive and constructive resolutions that are sincerely and voluntarily undertaken. They awaken in us how the truly wise behave, beyond any sense of self or other; the realization that mutability is the foundation upon which we are built.
Malevolent behavior springs from an ego-mind deluded about our nature as human beings, and it takes the characteristics of hatred, aggression, and craving for unnatural control over others. It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it unjustly and without consent. These behaviors feed upon themselves and become strongly rooted in the way we see the world around us and our dominating dispositions, not only in individuals but in whole cultures. Physical aggression, as expressed in war like action, is no more than their most spectacular and bloody expression. In Buddhism the cultivation of situational ethics reflected in expressions of compassion by our attempting to follow the Precepts is an aspiration toward breaking this karmic cycle. It is a primary step towards resolving the egocentricity of dominating willfulness, and cultivating sincere awareness of others. The Precepts invite us to remove those filters through which we view the world in negative terms and to aspire to promoting harmony and reconciliation where it is needed. Whether, and to what extent, we keep the Precepts is the responsibility of each individual. But we must remain fully aware of the intent of our actions while we engage the hard issues of our day. Continue reading