“Daily sitting is our bread and butter, the basic stuff of dharma.
Without it we tend to be confused.”
― Charlotte Joko Beck
|A Carmelite Monk and his Vows|
Little did we know.
Once I actually connected with a teacher and a sangha, a different reality emerged. I found that the foundation of Zen Buddhism, like that of other spiritual traditions throughout the world, rests squarely on a set of vows and precepts. Rather than becoming a member of another tribe of free form hippies, I found out that engaging in formal Zen training with a teacher meant making a commitment to a set of clearly stated intentions: Taking Refuge in the Triple Gems, the Four Bodhisattva Vows, the Three Pure Precepts, and the 10 Essential Precepts was expected. It was part of the deal.
Jeez. In the Judeo-Christian world, we only had to worry about the ten commandments! Now? Do the math. This is twice as many. So much for being hip and cool, for "doing your own thing!"
Or so it seemed.
Now, decades down the road, having explored this set of intentions in various contexts, even ordaining for awhile in one order, I've come to understand the nature of commitment differently. Although I have maintained a commitment to a daily morning practice for a long time now and recite the 4 Bodhisattva Vows (in one form or another) most days, what is involved doesn't have much to do with making a choice to follow a code of conduct, or a commitment to being a "good" person as opposed to being a "bad person". Nor are the promises I've made primarily about achieving the goal of enlightenment, arriving at a destination other than where I am at any one the moment.
The fundamental commitment made is simply the ongoing choice to Be Present, with as much Kindness and Compassion as I can muster, to the ever-changing, ongoing Flow of Life as it emerges in each and every moment. I've found that as I commit to open my heart and mind and senses to what simply is, the promise made is, in itself, the promise fulfilled. The commitment is doing me more than "I" am doing it.
Reality Holds Great Promise.
At this stage of the journey, it's often quite clear to me that the One Love that permeates the Universe simply is. Life seems to know what needs to be done -- or not done. Flowers bloom. Flowers fade and die.
Sometimes it seems to appropriate to be "doing my own thing" on the material plane of action, or in the realm of thoughts, visualizations and prayer.
Most the time, it's seems like all I can "do" is to pause in wonder, realize I don't really know what is going on at all-- and just let Life be what it Is. (As if I could do otherwise. LOL)
At this point, it's all Practice. The choice, if it is a choice, to take a conscious breath, relax a bit, feel my heart -- and really pay attention.
What else is there to do?