Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Ultimate Perspective On Life That Is No Perspective At All

Sun-faced Buddha, Moon-faced Buddha

In the Blue Cliff Record, Case Three is a koan in which the great 8th century monk, Master Ma-tzu, once a man of great physical presence and prowess, has just awakened. He is lying quietly, old, sick and about to die. His attendant enters and asks, "How are you feeling?" Master Ma says, "Sun-faced Buddha, Moon-faced Buddha."

In Buddhist mythology, the Sun-faced Buddha lives for eighteen hundred years in brightness and good health; The Moon-faced Buddha lives only one night, in darkness and ill-health. Master Ma uses his final moments of life to teach his student that whether one is sick or healthy is unimportant. All one does, his answer suggests, regardless of the conditions, regardless of whether sick or healthy, all one does is just practice. Sick or healthy, there is no difference.

To practice this way, to be peaceful in the face of the unwanted and when “perceived injustices” arise, we must train ourselves to see things as they really are. But more than just that, we must be able to see things as we think they are: good or bad, wanted and unwanted, and at the same time to understand that their ultimate nature is undifferentiated. Then everything is one. It is this way of seeing the world that leads us to One Mind, to Buddhahood.

Sun-faced Buddha, Moon-faced Buddha doesn't lead us to being uncaring or indifferent, quite the opposite. It leads us to a very clear and powerful engagement with every moment, with a sense of awe and wonder that arises from within when differentiation and preferences no longer cloud our vision.

As Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, said in a dharma talk: SUN-FACED BUDDHA, MOON-FACED BUDDHA! "I am here, I am right here."

We Must Be Clear

Now That We’re No Longer Singing

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.

I want to be clear. Not diplomatic. Not obtuse. Not sidestepping.

Here’s what happened to His Holiness when he tried to sidestep the issue:

From The Wall Street Journal:

According to an official statement released by the Tibetan Government in Exile on Wednesday, speaking at USC the Dalai Lama “said [that] in the case of bin Laden, his action was of course destructive and the September 11 events killed thousands of people…so his action must be brought to justice.”

The Los Angeles Times, on Wednesday wrote that this meant the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism implied Osama bin Laden’s death was justified.

But in its statement, the Tibetan Government in Exile disagreed.

When confronted with the most horrific, heinous deeds, whether perpetrated at us or upon us, real or imagined, or at or upon our family, or our friends, or our community, or our country…we never have the spiritual or moral right to kill the perpetrator.

The only thing a Buddhist is allowed to kill is his or her self. Or the Buddha, if he happens to get in your way. That’s it, both literally and metaphorically.

What’s the first precept? Do not kill. What does the Noble Eightfold Path tell us? Do not kill. What about the Bodhisattva Vows? Do not kill. Not mercy killings; not euthanasia, not suicide.

But what about our enemies? No. Absolutely not.

What did the Buddha do when Devadatta tried to kill him…three times? He responded with compassion. What did the Buddha do when King Kalinga cut his body limb from limb? He responded with compassion.

Let’s not delude ourselves. Revenge has no place on the middle path. The middle path has no place for hatred. Rejoicing in our defilements is not our practice.

The Buddhist response to a “perceived injustice” (Bodhidharma’s phrase), regardless of its scale, is compassion.