12 posts • Page 1 of 1
A group in our sangha has started a monthly discussion of precept practice in our lives, loosely structured by Diane Rizzetto's book, Waking Up to What You Do. We had our first meeting last Sunday, and many of us felt that the experience was transformative not only of our individual understandings of the precepts themselves but of our collective commitment to practice as a sangha. I'm eagerly awaiting next month's session and have been engaging more actively with the precepts in my daily interactions.
How have different teachers and students put the precepts into practice in their sanghas? I mean to ask not only about jukai preparations but also about less formal explorations.
this is an important question, one that needs to be discussed more often in dharma centers.
i will be giving a series of classes on the five and the bodhisattva precepts after i finish my commentaries on the gateless barrier, probably after august. i tend to create exorcises in daily for my students so they have personal experience with the topic of discussion (instead of talking in abstract terms). it will be a combination of reading excerpts from buddhist texts in translation with daily exercises and reflections. then in class i will probably talk about these texts and open the floor for questions and sharing among the students.
when i was in the monastery we use to have bi-monthly recitation of the precepts and individual study groups of precepts. my teacher used to give classes on precepts.
let us know the results of your discussion. maybe provide a summary once in a while. ppl here may benefit from reading them. thanks.
Precepts are the on-ramp to the Buddhaway.
On the other hand, Precepts are just a description of the natural unaffected behavior of an actual living Buddha.
"The abundance of Nature is not a matter of its 'providing' ". -- William James, c. 1901.
The most challenging precept , and it is a real surprise to me lately.. has been around sexual energy. If you are married, part of a healthy married life is an ongoing, uninhibited, intimacy. This intimacy grows and deepens with the marriage over time. Sexual energy is none other than charismatic creative energy, and when creative energy and skill is strong, so is sexual energy. It has its seasons. All of this is neither good nor bad, but it does mean sometimes dealing with a wild energy. I think if one takes a celibate path, it may be challenging, but it is simple, ..turn it off,... end that side of life. Then perhaps this energy is transmuted.. because it is after all just life energy. But if you are in a marriage it is not so simple. This is because the aspect of body and mind that procreates is very old... like Paleozoic, and does not know about niceties like time and place, or who's neck has a graceful curve. Sexual energy does not know about the boundaries of a responsible life... it is primitive.
This does mean one falls into infidelity, but it does provide strong currents to deal with. Of all the precepts this one is the least simple for me. I guess the measure of keeping a precept is actual conduct, and on that score I have a faithful marriage approaching its 25th year, but periodically this does become challenging. It is ongoing.
A frank and open discussion within sangha can be helpful, but it may need a little gender separation.. males can talk freely among males, and women can speak among women.
Just riffing. richard
i don't understand what you mean by sexual energy is "charismatic creative energy." i don't think the two are necessarily related. one can have one without the other. and certainly if one "turns off" sexual desire, in my experience, creative energy becomes unhindered without side effects (of vexations). in fact, it is not about turning off, which sounds like suppression, but it's really a natural outcome of practice and insight.... and it has nothing to do with monastics or lay or lifestyle.
there are probably as many ppl as interpretations of what is "intimacy" or so-called "healthy relationship." intimacy and love is so much more than sex. but your right, this procreative energy is "very old" and it "does not know about the boundaries of a responsible life".... because it is the root of samsara.
are we willing to relinquish samsara? i'm not talking philosophy or theory, or literally asking one to change one's lifestyle--but our willingness and commitment to practice. there can be all kinds of fancy talk and rhetoric of intrinsic enlightenment and all, but the truth is: whatever one cannot let go of, one is enslave by it.
discussion of this with dharma brothers and sisters and examining it in our own lives can be very helpful. concealing it is not so. gender separation in the discussions may help... but there should definitely be opportunities to engage in discussions across gender divides. of course ppl have different comfort levels. so it's up to the sangha, but even if one is quiet and not participate in cross-gender discussions on this topic, one can also learn a lot and the community becomes more open and stronger. so both gender separation discussions and cross gender discussions are needed.
Hi guo gu.
Thank you for your response. It is interesting and raises a few questions of my own.
In your view.. is the appropriate outcome of practice and insight the ending of sexual relations within marriage? Conversely, is making love with your spouse an act of ignorance and delusion? Have i got that straight?
If so..such a view , such a sensibility , is a familiar one to me, and a life rejecting one. Yes, there are many kinds of intimacy, but when a married couple, especially married many years, make love, ..it is noble and ennobling. Making love with my wife is part of growing together, aging together, suffering together, dying together, ...and feeling the proper human anguish of loss together. It is marriage, beautiful, and not for the faint of heart. It will end in its own time, according to its own season.
By charismatic creative energy I am talking about fire. Passion. Fire is life. I am alive. The fire is temporary. I will die.
i think there may be a communication issue at play here. when you frame sexual energy as wild, knows no bounds of responsible life, challenging, i'm reading that as vexations. these are your words. did you mean something else? because now you're framing it in another light: making love, growing old, suffering together, dying together, which i would agree with you.
sorry if i misunderstood you, but i only have your words to go by. the first post, to me, is steered toward a very particular context of physicality, primal sexual drive, materiality. when i read that, yes, i saw that as vexations. is it your understanding that they are not? you'll have to think back to when you typed that what was going on your mind... what did you mean?
that said, lay practice does NOT necessarily lead to celibacy. but sex is very different than making love (the choice is words you chose is what i have to go on). like i said in my response, creative energy is the outcome of practice and insight, untainted by sexual energy. actually, creative energy is heightened, unhindered when sexual, base energy is absent.
if one's making love with one's spouse, there is no unrestrained, base, sexual aggression, or wildness. it may be an intimacy similar to vulnerability, openness, complete surrender, love, and even gratitude. it is not a need for sex--on the level of physicality. if sex (as opposed to love) is a "need," one has to really examine that.
now, marriage evolves. if two ppl truly evolve and mature together, the physical need will lessen (also as they get older) and intimacy is brought to another level. they may still make love, but it is of the sort that i mentioned above. they also may not have sexual intercourse. is that life rejecting? no. the realm of "intimacy" one may explore with one's spouse is so much, so much more than sex. being one, growing together, aging together, suffering together, dying together. that is creativity. that is life.
i hope this is clear. but talking in the abstract probably won't help. in any case, this may be what you mean anyway (and it's just a misunderstanding of your choice of words)? if not, then it would be worth to explore.
be well, my friend.
I see. Sorry if i misunderstood you. Yes, sometimes there is wild energy. By wild i do not mean aggressive, but intense. It is the same fire that wells up in the studio, and this is why i mentioned creativity. The energy to work two days and nights straight on a large canvas, forgetting self and time, is the same energy that is electric when eyes meet. It is the same energy that turns making love into an intense and beautiful union. But it is wild. I can speak better about it as an artist than a Zen practitioner. It is wild because it is there in the wonderful art I grew up studying, but also there in how it consumed some wonderful artists. Is there vexation in that..oh yes. Is there Joy.. plenty.
..."Tiger tiger burning bright"
thanks, richard. i had forgot you are an artist. i know the passion you speak of doing art. i went to the school of visual art in nyc in college. i did abstract art and then installation art. would love to see your art sometime.
now i see what you mean by energy without bounds.... in the context of art making; it is a creative energy, which not constrained by conventions and methods. creativity happens in this state. that said, it might be worth exploring just how much is that energy the same as making love...
be well, friend.
i think the epiphany and creativity trance that artists get into is a higher level of consciousness than vexations. i post this because when i was doing art over 25 years ago i explored the differences btn creativity, meditation states, etc and how they relate to vexations. i also explored the mental states of stage diving... i was a straight edge skin head for a while in the mid-80s. the feeling of transcendence, loosing oneself in the pit, diving off of stage was also similar to me in the beginning... what i discovered was that when vexations are present, my creativity was hindered, the sense of selfless freedom in slam dancing was a high based on aggression.... which curiously led to, for me, a transcendence of aggression... in a quasi-selfless state (more of a forgetful of self state)... but it was volatile... vexations could easily arise. but in meditation states, it was difficult for vexations to arise.
our understanding frames our experiences.... you may have a general understanding that all of this is the same primitive, procreative energy, but if you examine into whether the energy is actually the same in sex, love making, art making, dance, zazen, etc you might discover something new.
just sharing some random reflections...
We appear to have a similar experience... though i indulged a romantic strain of punk/art self destruction long after its best before date Can anyone spare a liver? Just kidding.
This is leading off from the OP so I'll start a thread for discussing energy and creativity. Would very much like to talk about that.
Of relevance to the OP and the precepts, I can describe what is wholesome sexuality. I have indulged unwholesome sexuality as well, but can talk about what is wholesome. Speaking personally, my partner and I have gone on regular Buddhist retreats together, especially in the early years, so we can just be, it isn't as if there is a constant need for intimacy because we are married.. However, it is an important aspect of marriage. When a couple is together over many years, responsibilities and roles and arrangements build in layers.. parenting, caring for elders, earning money..... taking care of business. This is all fine, but we will now and then have a “date night”.. where we are not just shared responsibilities and arrangements, and practical expectations and roles, and money and schooling....etc. We are just a boy and a girl.. some candle light, a plate of pasta, and wordless intimacy. We are sharing something unique to each other that we share with no one else. All the layers of responsibilities and roles ( that can so easily estrange a couple) are dropped in our original love for each other. Of being in-love, walking down the street holding hands. Our son was born of that intimacy. It is at the heart of marriage in my view. Worth nurturing creatively. Is it animal? Yes. We are a chemical match, a mammalian pair, ....and so is building a nest for children. Is it attachment? Yes. Neurotic attachment is not necessary, but trying to have bloodless “Buddhist” marriage free of passion and pain sells both the Dharma and marriage short. It requires accepting grief in direct proportion to the love and intimacy of the home. The heart that goes into the commitment has to be big enough to embrace the whole thing.
thanks, richard. pls do start another thread about energy... others may have lots to say but don't want to derail from the original post on precepts and diff. sangha practice/discussions on them.
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