Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Brahmajāla Sutta

I am going to honor my teacher's passing by studying the Dharma closely in the Pali Cannon.

Access to Insight has the sutta.

The frame of a student following around his teacher, and debating for the Buddha and the teacher debating against the Buddha is an interesting frame.

But then the sutra goes into the Cula Sila, which are the 10 precepts. The sutta takes it to where the tire hits the road--what do you actually do.

Having abandoned the destruction of life, the recluse Gotama abstains from the destruction of life. He has laid aside the rod and the sword, and dwells conscientious, full of kindness, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings.' It is in this way, bhikkhus, that the worldling would speak when speaking in praise of the Tathāgata.

The Buddha grew up in the warrior caste, so the first precept is interesting. It's all about laying down arms and not wanting to be part of the war business. It's about choosing compassion.

It's a valid political theory to not want the government to do things, that we can do thing privately to enact compassion. But the midterm elections just had a rainbow wave of diversity into Washington and I'm pretty excited. The youngest woman, a muslim, and people with non-conforming sexuality. I want to see Trumps tax returns. He can make a multimillion dollar mistake in Trump University and just write it off on his taxes so he doesn't have to pay taxes. That's not American, to have such protections for mistakes. What about the poor person who loses a job because they had to stay home because they couldn't find child care. That problem, not even a mistake, is hugely punished, but Trump gets a free pass. Just seems wrong.

I'm not all for government being everywhere. I dislike government. But I expect a better functioning government, not that I want to get rid of it.

Having abandoned taking what is not given, the recluse Gotama abstains from taking what is not given. Accepting and expecting only what is given, he dwells in honesty and rectitude of heart.

No stealing--that's a precept we could use for our times. No stealing the earth from our grandchildren. No stealing of the environment by corporations. I drink the radium in the water because I work near Grumman.

The Gore and Hillary elections that were stolen. Hilary had 3 million more votes! Get rid of the electoral college, or make it in line with population. This is the 5th time it's happened, the second this century.

Having abandoned unchaste living, the recluse Gotama lives the life of chastity. He dwells remote (from women), and abstains from the vulgar practice of sexual intercourse.

There is a heterosexual presumption here, but the opposite of this precept is to live with simplicity, stillness and contentment. Not an easy thing. The USA president got embroiled in a sexual scandal. The idea that you have a non-disclosure agreement for a prostitute--you're trying to hide something and why are your trying to hide something? Because if everyone knows, then people look at you with less respect. And why less respect? We are sexual creatures. Trump has taken no vow of chastity. I don't know if he has an open marriage. I don't have any problem that he used a sex worker. Trump has joked that he could murder someone on 5th Avenue in broad daylight with witnesses and he wouldn't get convicted. So why hide things?

Politics aside, I have had my own misconduct. I strive for simplicity, stillness and contentment. Thich Nhat Hanh wants people to be in committed monogamous relationships. When you loose the bonds of Christianity, there's no reason not to be polyamorous, except it's so messy. And so many people want exclusivity. An easy formula for a drama is to create sexual infidelity.

The Buddha is supposed to have said it would be better to stick your dick in a snake's mouth--a lovely image. One of his disciples ex-wife wanted a child and the monk thought it would be kind to give her one. That's when he brought out the image of a snake.

With the amount of sexual scandals in the Buddhist community, I begun to think of it was the teacher's way of saying, "I'm not enlightened, just a leader and teacher with imperfections." There is no secret about Sangharakshita and his followers engaging in acts that hurt people. Sangharakshita deeply regretted the pain he caused. He said, "“I did not regard myself as a teacher with a capital T.”

I could explore sexuality and the spiritual life on and on. The first book you should read on Buddhism should be Sex and the Spiritual Teacher. Watchout.

The next precept is as following: Having abandoned false speech, the recluse Gotama abstains from falsehood. He speaks only the truth, he lives devoted to truth; trustworthy and reliable, he does not deceive anyone in the world.

Honest speech is hard, especially when in conflict. I was locked into my parking spot by someone who didn't want to wait and just parked blocking my car. Then he proceeded to argue with me about it. I said he was preventing me from getting to my second job on time. It's hard to be righteous when you're stopping someone else from working. But it's not true, my second job is unpaid, watching my daughter.

Many times when I use honest speech I get it trouble, and I am a people pleaser, so I when I'm honest and face the music, that's good. It's so convenient to lie and avoid problems.

Having abandoned slander, the recluse Gotama abstains from slander. He does not repeat elsewhere what he has heard here in order to divide others from the people here, nor does he repeat here what he has heard elsewhere in order to divide these from the people there. Thus he is a reconciler of those who are divided and a promoter of friendships. Rejoicing, delighting, and exulting in concord, he speaks only words that are conducive to concord.

This is hard because we talk about other people and living in a crowded world of relationships it's hard to figure people out, relationships out. But when the motivation is to put others down, then it's slander. I like to speak nicely behind people's back. Being aware of why you're really putting people down is a good idea.

Having abandoned harsh speech, the recluse Gotama abstains from harsh speech. He speaks only such words as are gentle, pleasing to the ear, endearing, going to the heart, urbane, amiable, and agreeable to many people.

When I was a supervisor, dealing with conflict resulting from "blunt" speech. Basically instead of seeing communication in the context of a relationship and wondering how others feel is important. Some people try to make a virtue out it it--"I can't help but speak the truth." There's a kind of impatience and lack of discipline in it.

Having abandoned idle chatter, the recluse Gotama abstains from idle chatter. He speaks at the right time, speaks what is factual, speaks on the good, on the Dhamma and the Discipline. His words are worth treasuring: they are timely, backed by reason, definite and connected with the good.

Chit chat is a good way of tuning into people and gradually working up to more weighty matters. But then the chit chat is everything, that is a problem. It's the opposite of being blunt.

This last one is about monastic ethics, and is about being mindful: The recluse Gotama abstains from damaging seed and plant life. He eats only in one part of the day, refraining from food at night and from eating at improper times. He abstains from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and witnessing unsuitable shows. He abstains from wearing garlands, embellishing himself with scents, and beautifying himself with unguents. He abstains from accepting gold and silver. He abstains from accepting uncooked grain, raw meat, women and girls, male and female slaves, goats and sheep, fowl and swine, elephants, cattle, horses and mares. He abstains from accepting fields and lands. He abstains from running messages and errands. He abstains from buying and selling, and from dealing with false weights, false metals, and false measures. He abstains from the crooked ways of bribery, deception, and fraud. He abstains from mutilating, executing, imprisoning, robbery, plunder, and violence.

I find dancing an important part of my day with a toddler.

How many of you focus your time on buying things? I spend a lot of time thinking about purchases, even if it's just groceries.

You get the impression that a kind of fusty editor inserted this list of things. The last precept positive is to be mindful. Rooting out false views is important.

Then the sutta says the above is how a worldling would speak of the Buddha. That is an interesting frame too. How would another Buddha speak of it?

The next sections are on how a monastic gets food.

Then it goes into views. I imagined how I would write modern play about the qualms a modern person might have about Buddhism. We're so entrenched in materialism, capitalism, distracted by devices. Simplicity, stillness and contentment is not easy to come by. So go read the sutta.

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