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Re: Jodo Shinshu and Social Justice

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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 1 of 4 , Apr 29, 2006
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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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      >
      > Jim Davis
      > Ozark Bioregion, USA
      >
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      >
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