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Re: [shinlist] Jodo Shinshu and Social Justice

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  • Shak El
    I wrote the following a decade ago: A Commentary on the Five Lay Precepts Jim Davis So simple and yet so complicated, the precepts have from the very beginning
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 27 8:49 PM
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      I wrote the following a decade ago:
       
      A Commentary on the Five Lay Precepts
      Jim Davis
      So simple and yet so complicated, the precepts have from the very beginning been a source of many problems. Created by the Monastic Sangha, themselves bound to +227 regulations, to give the laity a sense of monastic practice (especially when combined with the three other training precepts) and opportunity to avoid creating harmful karmas. Yet practicing the precepts would not create Nirvana; the best one could hope for was rebirth in a Hindu-style heaven or rebirth as monk/nunk. Most followed the precepts to avoid painful rebirths in the hell-worlds. Given the universal nature of precepts, which are found in all religions, precepts are not a particularly Buddhist practice.
      Historically, Pure Land Buddhism has downplayed or outright rejected the use of precepts based upon its concept of Other-Power. However, if the terms of Self and Other Power are seen as ways of going into Nirvana, then the precepts would fall outside of this dualism. The use of precepts have nothing to do with Nirvana; the precepts do not deal with ultimate spirituality. They are instead the way to a good life in this world. So in place of Rennyo's [the sixth head of jodo-shinshu] rule about obeying the laws of the land, I would advocate using the precepts. While holding society and the State up to its standard. It is in this light that I make this commentary.
      REFRAIN FROM KILLING: this means I will not kill human beings.
      This means I will not engage in aggression against other people. And yet, I am aware there are times when the killing of other beings becomes necessary and unavoidable. I will protect my own life and the lives of others of whom I find myself karmically attached. I will strive to create a society of peace through justice and convert this society of violence to peace.
      This means I will oppose all state violence and executions.
      This means I do believe that abortion is killing and that life begins before conception (life is beginningless and endless). And yet, I recognize the samsaric nature of this world of birth-and-death and will not stand in the way creating further suffering. I will struggle against the society of death which causes many to choose abortion as the means to avoid poverty and missed opportunities. I see the only way to do this is to end poverty through full employment, universal healthcare, universal daycare and education.
      This does not mean I have to give up the eating of meat. The early Buddhists clearly ate meat and so did Shakyamuni Buddha. Prohibitions against the eating of meat are taboos adopted from Jainism. The logical result of not taking life in the area of food is to choose death by sacred starvation (which is a holy Jain practice). All eating requires that beings die both plant and animal, that is the way of all things. However, we should be mindful of how the food we eat is obtained and to reduce as much as possible the suffering of those involved.
      REFRAIN FROM STEALING: this means I will not take what is not given.
      This means I will try to stop others from taking what is not given through the systems of exploitation, or economies, based upon greed.
      This means I should support the poor and not the rich. I will join movements to end economic injustice.
      This means I will join movements to protect the earth from exploitation as to not allow present greed to steal from the future. I recognize other creatures and plants have rights to existence and to their share of the earth's bounty.
      This means I will not condemn the poor if they have to break this precept out of poverty.
      REFRAIN FROM SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: this means I will respect the relationships of others and will not seek out sexual relations with those already committed to others.
      This means I will only have sexual relations with adults in a situation of love and long-term commitments.
      This does not mean celibacy or an endorsement of heterosexuality as the "norm." Buddhism has never had a single sexual ethic which transcended time and space. Rather it adopted whatever sexual mores of the lands it entered and changed as the mores changed. I hold that one's sexual orientation has no bearing on practice, as long as, my previous statements are kept in mind and followed.
      REFRAIN FROM UNTRUTHFUL SPEECH: this means I will speak the truth.
      This means I will speak truth to Power and struggle against its system of lies and deceits, which maintain its systems of poverty.
      This does not mean I will have to speak the truth if I feel by doing so will endanger the innocent lives of other beings.
      REFRAIN FROM INTOXICATION: this means I will not use chemicals to become mindless.
      This means I will struggle against the system which provides the chemicals to make the poor and working classes mindless in order to maintain their power and wealth.
      This does not mean I am against the moderate use of alcohol. There does appear to be health benefits from moderate use. As always stick to the middle path between the extremes of indulgence and abstinence.
      In conclusion, the precepts are more important as social practice than as individual practice. They are something we try to do for the benefit of others. So while it is true that practicing them will not result in Nirvana, but at least we will not turn this world into Hell.
       
       


      toraginus <toraginus@...> wrote:
      I sometimes wonder how much concern there is about social justice within Jodo Shinshu. Part of my particular Catholic upbringing was concern that  all people receive a fair shake. The Church has teachings on social justice. 

      Within Buddhism, and I have been around the track, one sees some concern also. The Turning Wheel, is a Buddhist journal of engaged Buddhism. Seldom do I see any article by a Shin Buddhist within its pages. Sulak Sivaraksa is a Thai activist for a more humane and livable world. This Theravadin Buddhist has written a number of books on the subject, and was exiled for awhile from his native Thailand for activism. There are Zen groups that stage sit-ins (zazen-ins) for peace and for the environment.

      Question: Why do I  detect not much activity or interest in social justice, peace movements, environmental action among Shin Buddhists?

      I know that Japanese Americans have not had a very comfortable experience always in America. When they first arrived, they were  ostracized, and, eventually laws were passed restricting their rights. During WWII, they were interned.

      So, these experiences would  make them hesitant to engage these issues, and, they may feel that they have been the victims of social injustice.

      However, what worries me about Jodo Shinshu is that it is sometimes accused of being other-worldly ---looking forward to the Pure Land after death.

      Once one has experienced shinjin, it's conceivable that a person would not be interested as much in helping to improve the actual world we live in.

      I'd appreciate the thoughts of other Shin Buddhists. I live nowhere near a temple, to get a take on the Shin community. As an Outreach BCA member, I receive The Wheel of Dharma BCA newspaper monthly, but I never recall seeing anything on the topics of social justice or the environment in it.

      toraginus


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    • toraginus
      ... beginning been a source of many problems. Created by the Monastic Sangha, themselves bound to +227 regulations, to give the laity a sense of monastic
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 29 4:24 PM
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        --- In shinlist@yahoogroups.com, Shak El <from_alamut@...> wrote:
        >
        > I wrote the following a decade ago:
        >
        > A Commentary on the Five Lay Precepts
        > Jim Davis
        > So simple and yet so complicated, the precepts have from the very
        beginning been a source of many problems. Created by the Monastic
        Sangha, themselves bound to +227 regulations, to give the laity a sense
        of monastic practice (especially when combined with the three other
        training precepts) and opportunity to avoid creating harmful karmas. Yet
        practicing the precepts would not create Nirvana; the best one could
        hope for was rebirth in a Hindu-style heaven or rebirth as monk/nunk.
        Most followed the precepts to avoid painful rebirths in the hell-worlds.
        Given the universal nature of precepts, which are found in all
        religions, precepts are not a particularly Buddhist practice.
        > Historically, Pure Land Buddhism has downplayed or outright rejected
        the use of precepts based upon its concept of Other-Power. However, if
        the terms of Self and Other Power are seen as ways of going into
        Nirvana, then the precepts would fall outside of this dualism. The use
        of precepts have nothing to do with Nirvana; the precepts do not deal
        with ultimate spirituality. They are instead the way to a good life in
        this world. So in place of Rennyo's [the sixth head of jodo-shinshu]
        rule about obeying the laws of the land, I would advocate using the
        precepts. While holding society and the State up to its standard. It is
        in this light that I make this commentary.
        > REFRAIN FROM KILLING: this means I will not kill human beings.
        > This means I will not engage in aggression against other people. And
        yet, I am aware there are times when the killing of other beings becomes
        necessary and unavoidable. I will protect my own life and the lives of
        others of whom I find myself karmically attached. I will strive to
        create a society of peace through justice and convert this society of
        violence to peace.
        > This means I will oppose all state violence and executions.
        > This means I do believe that abortion is killing and that life
        begins before conception (life is beginningless and endless). And yet, I
        recognize the samsaric nature of this world of birth-and-death and will
        not stand in the way creating further suffering. I will struggle against
        the society of death which causes many to choose abortion as the means
        to avoid poverty and missed opportunities. I see the only way to do this
        is to end poverty through full employment, universal healthcare,
        universal daycare and education.
        > This does not mean I have to give up the eating of meat. The early
        Buddhists clearly ate meat and so did Shakyamuni Buddha. Prohibitions
        against the eating of meat are taboos adopted from Jainism. The logical
        result of not taking life in the area of food is to choose death by
        sacred starvation (which is a holy Jain practice). All eating requires
        that beings die both plant and animal, that is the way of all things.
        However, we should be mindful of how the food we eat is obtained and to
        reduce as much as possible the suffering of those involved.
        > REFRAIN FROM STEALING: this means I will not take what is not given.
        > This means I will try to stop others from taking what is not given
        through the systems of exploitation, or economies, based upon greed.
        > This means I should support the poor and not the rich. I will join
        movements to end economic injustice.
        > This means I will join movements to protect the earth from
        exploitation as to not allow present greed to steal from the future. I
        recognize other creatures and plants have rights to existence and to
        their share of the earth's bounty.
        > This means I will not condemn the poor if they have to break this
        precept out of poverty.
        > REFRAIN FROM SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: this means I will respect the
        relationships of others and will not seek out sexual relations with
        those already committed to others.
        > This means I will only have sexual relations with adults in a
        situation of love and long-term commitments.
        > This does not mean celibacy or an endorsement of heterosexuality as
        the "norm." Buddhism has never had a single sexual ethic which
        transcended time and space. Rather it adopted whatever sexual mores of
        the lands it entered and changed as the mores changed. I hold that one's
        sexual orientation has no bearing on practice, as long as, my previous
        statements are kept in mind and followed.
        > REFRAIN FROM UNTRUTHFUL SPEECH: this means I will speak the truth.
        > This means I will speak truth to Power and struggle against its
        system of lies and deceits, which maintain its systems of poverty.
        > This does not mean I will have to speak the truth if I feel by doing
        so will endanger the innocent lives of other beings.
        > REFRAIN FROM INTOXICATION: this means I will not use chemicals to
        become mindless.
        > This means I will struggle against the system which provides the
        chemicals to make the poor and working classes mindless in order to
        maintain their power and wealth.
        > This does not mean I am against the moderate use of alcohol. There
        does appear to be health benefits from moderate use. As always stick to
        the middle path between the extremes of indulgence and abstinence.
        > In conclusion, the precepts are more important as social practice
        than as individual practice. They are something we try to do for the
        benefit of others. So while it is true that practicing them will not
        result in Nirvana, but at least we will not turn this world into Hell.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > toraginus toraginus@... wrote:
        > I sometimes wonder how much concern there is about social justice
        within Jodo Shinshu. Part of my particular Catholic upbringing was
        concern that all people receive a fair shake. The Church has teachings
        on social justice.
        >
        > Within Buddhism, and I have been around the track, one sees some
        concern also. The Turning Wheel, is a Buddhist journal of engaged
        Buddhism. Seldom do I see any article by a Shin Buddhist within its
        pages. Sulak Sivaraksa is a Thai activist for a more humane and livable
        world. This Theravadin Buddhist has written a number of books on the
        subject, and was exiled for awhile from his native Thailand for
        activism. There are Zen groups that stage sit-ins (zazen-ins) for peace
        and for the environment.
        >
        > Question: Why do I detect not much activity or interest in social
        justice, peace movements, environmental action among Shin Buddhists?
        >
        > I know that Japanese Americans have not had a very comfortable
        experience always in America. When they first arrived, they were
        ostracized, and, eventually laws were passed restricting their rights.
        During WWII, they were interned.
        >
        > So, these experiences would make them hesitant to engage these
        issues, and, they may feel that they have been the victims of social
        injustice.
        >
        > However, what worries me about Jodo Shinshu is that it is sometimes
        accused of being other-worldly ---looking forward to the Pure Land after
        death.
        >
        > Once one has experienced shinjin, it's conceivable that a person would
        not be interested as much in helping to improve the actual world we live
        in.
        >
        > I'd appreciate the thoughts of other Shin Buddhists. I live nowhere
        near a temple, to get a take on the Shin community. As an Outreach BCA
        member, I receive The Wheel of Dharma BCA newspaper monthly, but I never
        recall seeing anything on the topics of social justice or the
        environment in it.
        >
        > toraginus
        >
        >
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        >
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        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Jim Davis
        > Ozark Bioregion, USA
        >
        > http://anarchistozarks.blogspot.com/
        > http://people.lulu.com/users/index.php?fHomepage=141735
        > http://shops.half.ebay.com/brothershak_W0QQmZbooks
        >
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