I was thinking recently about theTen Mahayana Precepts. Sometimes we take these precepts as a way of committing ourselves to the Dharma path; and we undertake not to kill, not to steal, not to tell lies and so on. And when we think of these undertakings, at first we probably think it’s fairly straight forward: these are things that one shouldn’t do and one has some confidence that one is not going to do them.

But actually, when we reflect upon it, we’re all involved in all of them. We pay our taxes - the taxes are spent on, amongst other things, the military. We eat food and even the most vegan diet involves killing somewhere along the lines in order to produce the quantities of food that humans need. There is no way of avoiding being involved in killing. So, perhaps the precept should be: “I resolve to try to kill less” or perhaps it should be: “I resolve to become aware, to become more conscious, of how it is that I am involved in killing; to become more conscious of how I am involved in taking what is not mine or what does not belong to the group that I belong to.”

And of course, it extends to the psychological: “I resolve to become aware of how I coveted things, how I am attached to things” and also of course, “how I dissimulate and present an appearance of myself which in many ways is a deception that has been practiced for years and years and years.”

And perhaps I need to become aware of how I denigrate others add fuel to conflicts and how I hang onto views about myself, my group, other groups, and so on. All of these things, they have become compulsive, sometimes intoxicating. So, perhaps I should become aware of my compulsive and intoxicating habits.

All of this is a bit daunting when we think of it this way, and we suddenly think: “Oh, it’s not so simple after all, perhaps I’m not endowed with quite such a generous and compassionate mind as I thought I was. Perhaps it’s not so easy to be a virtuous person.”

And then, perhaps, we fall into blaming ourselves, or blaming others, or blaming circumstances, and then realise that by doing so we have made a mess of it again.

This is life. This is the bombu, this is the akunin within ourselves. The thing is that this is normal. One needs to see a middle way. On the one hand it’s no good simply saying “This is normal, so I don’t need to do anything about anything.” On the other hand, there’s no point in beating yourself up or beating other people up or holding on to overly rigid ideas about personal purity, personal virtue, about being justified in everything that one does. One simply isn’t. “Well, I’ll just do my best” we say, but, of course, we know we won’t always do our best. We shall do what we do.

We try to live natural lives. Fortunately, the Buddha receives us just as we are, and for that we can be grateful. So, perhaps, the overwhelming precept is to be grateful. To practice gratitude, to remember and to say “Namo Amida Bu. Namo Amida Bu.” The world goes on turning.

Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much


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