"In Zen precepts study it is always noted that there are three level of precept practice- the literal, the compassionate, and the ultimate. On the literal level we just follow the precept according to its explicit meaning- not to kill means not to kill, not even a bug. But on the compassion level we recognize the complexity of living- sometimes not to kill one thing is to kill something else. The network of causality is vast and wide and our human ideas do not encompass it. We recognize that precepts will be broken and we affirm that our guide will be compassion- to follow precepts not only literally but with a strong spirit of compassion as our guide, with unselfishness as our guide. So sometimes we break precepts in order to be compassionate and loving. On the ultimate level we recognize that there is no breaking precepts. This case involves this ultimate level of precept practice- the recognition that Nanchuan and Zhaozhou have, but that the monks lack, that there is no killing, that life can never be killed- or is already dead.
. . . The precepts and not therefore simply rules of ethical conduct- like laws to be obeyed. The precepts- our everyday conduct- take us to the root of what it means to be alive, take us to the center of the human problem of meaning. Nor is it the case that there’s a hierarchy of importance in the three levels of precept practice- with ultimate being the most important. In reality the three levels must be appreciated equally- and seen as they actually are, as all one level. We are always faced with the question whose depths we will never be able to fathom: what do I do?"
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Interesting discussion of the cat cutting koan: