Commentary upon Summary of Faith and Practice (part 6)

TEXT
with body, speech and mind

COMMENTARY
This phrase occurs a great many times in Buddhist texts. Clearly it means “in all ways”. “Body” refers to behaviour. The body exists in the material world and moves about doing things. It is with the body that we enact the Dharma. “Speech”, here, includes thought: all conceptual activity. When we do things we hold a conception of what we are doing and why. We have a sense of the context that makes our action make sense. “Mind”, here, is, perhaps, a somewhat unfortunate rendering of the Indian word chitta. “Heart”, “soul” or “spirit” might all have been better, but the rendering “body, speech and mind” has become so universal that I think we have to live with it. So, although we say “body, speech and mind”, “spirit, sense and action” might better convey the meaning of the original expression as Buddha spoke it.

Everything we do is done in a certain spirit, makes sense in a particular way and manifests in some form of action. If we wish to understand another person it is not sufficient to observe his or her actions. We need to know what the sense of those actions is and in what spirit they are performed, otherwise we can easily misunderstand.

There is a story about a Buddhist temple in China where deer would come onto the land and the monks, feeling kindly disposed to the deer, would feed them. When the abbot heard about this he came out, forbade the feeding of deer and attacked the animals with his staff. The animals became frightened and ran away. The disciples were perplexed. “Aren’t we supposed to be kind and compassionate? What sort of an example are you - coming out and attacking defenceless animals?” The abbot said, “There are hunters in these mountains. The only defence these animals have is their fear. As long as they run away as soon as they see a human, they have a good chance of survival. If you take that away from them by taming them, they will soon all be caught and killed.”

What looks like compassion is not always the best kind. Action, concept and spirit must harmonise. Intelligence is needed. The “speech” element is an important link between spirit and action. There is always a danger that one take religious precepts in an overly simplistic manner and this then leads to pretense rather than the genuine thing.

The things we do have consequences. We can make this world better or worse; we can act in ways that are constructive or destructive, but many acts are both constructive and destructive at the same time, so this is not a simple matter. At the moment I am laying a path in the garden. To construct the path I have to dig up some of the lawn. One thing is constructed as another is destroyed. I judge that the overall effect will be an improvement, but there is no way to live that is completely free from the destructive side of all creative activity.

Furthermore, this all forms into a feedback loop. As we act we see what we have done and the sense of it transmutes. We are not omniscient, so we never see the whole project all at once. Only as it becomes reality do we see what we have done more fully and as we do so we are learning, changing and growing.

Buddhist training is a cultivation of body, speech and mind - of spirit, sense and action - and it never stops, never ends. It is not a matter of arrival, it is a matter of endless travel. At the beginning of our journey in Buddhism we take refuge, but do we know what refuge means - do we understand the sense of it, the real spirit of it, the enacting of it? Only vaguely. As we go on we are finding out. Amitabha may be at our elbow from the very beginning, but we do not know it. I do not mean “know” just in an intellectual sense - I mean in the sense that a person who walks a path every day knows that path. Yet even the person who walks the same path every day may still notice new things along the way.

“With body, speech and mind” designates the spirit of Buddhism: the self-entrustment to a wholehearted engagement with the practice, open to everything it brings.

Views: 77

Replies to This Discussion

This is a beautiful teaching, Dharmavidya. Thank you _/l\_

Namo Amida Bu

RSS

Events

ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

Varlam Shalamov

Posted by Geeta Chari on July 16, 2018 at 0:00 1 Comment

From The Paris Review:

For fifteen years the writer Varlam Shalamov was imprisoned in the Gulag for participating in “counter-revolutionary Trotskyist activities.” He endured six of those years enslaved in the gold mines of Kolyma, one of the coldest and most hostile places on earth. While he was awaiting sentencing, one of his short stories was…

Continue

The Buddha, Season 1, Episode 1

Posted by Geeta Chari on June 29, 2018 at 9:21 1 Comment

I have been watching The Buddha on Netflix, and although I came well-prepared to scoff, there is a surprising amount of food for thought from a Pureland perspective. What follows is a review of the Pureland touches in the episode, coloured inevitably by my upbringing in India, although I have now lived in Britain for more than half my life.

The scene opens in the republic of Kapilavastu, depicted as a green and pleasant land, with the Himalayan mountains as a backdrop. (I was…

Continue

Nembutsu Question

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on April 20, 2018 at 8:22 1 Comment

I found this in a book that I'm reading. It has challenged my current "understanding" of the Nembutsu. I tend to think of the name itself as salvation and the bridge to the Pure Land...

"...Nembutsu is not a means to gain salvation but a reflection of it. Shinran acknowledges there is nembutsu without true entrusting because he lived in an environment where nembutsu was recited for benefits and merit. By itself it cannot produce true entrusting. Nevertheless, they are inseparable as…

Continue

Shinran and Ippen

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on April 16, 2018 at 8:00 0 Comments

On Saturday evening our regular study group met on Skype where we looked at and discussed material from "No Abode", a beautiful book about the life of Ippen, ancient Japanese Purland master and "The Essential Shinran" which documents the life of Shinran Shonin, one of Honen's most famous disciples. We had a very stimulating discussion which I enjoyed greatly. We will be meeting again on Saturday 19th May at 9pm British time. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to join us.…

Continue

© 2018   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service