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In Buddhism, Zen, and our meaning here, what does "generate only thoughts with the right escort" and "actions that shoulder only wholesome intent" actually mean? The question comes up over-and-over and the upcoming article in folder #7 What The Buddha Said offers insights into the meaning of both, but before then an earlier clarification is being offered for you by reading the following:

Right View

The Commentary to the Discourse of Right View

Criteria for Judging the Unwholesomeness of Actions in the Texts of Theravada Buddhism



Zen master Dogen begins his chapter "Shoakumakusa" in the Shobogenzo by quoting a familiar passage which occurs in several places throughout the Buddhist scriptures, but especially so the DHAMMAPADA XIV: Awakened; verse 183 (the verse is a summary from a talk called the Ovada Patimokkha, which the Buddha is said to have delivered to an assembly of 1,250 arahants in the first year after his Awakening. Verse 183 is traditionally viewed as expressing the heart of the Buddha's teachings) :

The Buddha said:

Do not commit evil;
Do good devotedly;
Purify your mind.
This is the precept of all Buddhas.

Having stated his text, Dogen then isolates the first part of it "Do not commit evil" and begins to expound on its meaning at some length. He does the same, subsequently, for each section of the verse, but here we are only going to consider his treatment of this first line. Since this, however, will produce the essence of his view about the questions we have in mind, we can be satisfied.

Every Buddha, it seems, has left us this injunction against evil. On the face of it, it seems both a trivial and imprecise command and suggests the image of the faithful Buddhist as a sort of simpleminded Oriental Puritan preoccupied with the negative function of avoiding whatever orthodoxy disapproves. Dogen, however, sees this injunction in quite a different way. It is important not because it is a piece of good, if pedestrian, advice but because it is pregnant with ontological illumination. To put the matter briefly, "Commit no evil" is the self-expression of the Unborn, and the practice of it is the Unborn itself in action. He says, "This 'Do not commit evil' is not something contrived by any mere man. It is the Bodhi (the Supreme Enlightenment) turned into words.... It is the (very) speaking of Enlightenment." The significance of this is that the Enlightenment spoken of here cannot be separated from Ultimate Reality itself. It is an important Mahayana understanding that the Absolute and the knowing of the Absolute are identical--the knowing and the being are one. Consequently, to say that "Do not commit evil" is the very speech of Bodhi means that it is the self-expression of the Absolute. Having established this, Dogen goes on: "Being moved by the Supreme Enlightenment one learns to aspire to commit no evil, to put this injunction into practice, and as one does so the practice-power emerges which covers all the earth, all words, all time, and all existences without remainder."

To understand this important sentence it is essential to realize that for Dogen the "practice-power," that is, the power by which a man performs what is good and attains Enlightened understanding is not simply the power of the individual ego, the sort of thing a man boasts of as his "willpower." It is, rather, the Bodhi-power or Dharma-power, the Absolute itself conceived as power.

While our last quotation,therefore, is rather unclear, it seems to mean that the practice-power which is manifested as the Buddhist applies himself to avoiding evil (the power not to do evil) and the injunction not to do evil are united. "Do not commit evil" is, in a sense, the verbal self-expression of the Absolute and its fuifillment is the active self-expression of the same Absolute.

The above section has been excerpted, edited, and modified for our purposed here from:

ZEN AND ETHICS: Dogen's Synthesis



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