January 03, 2012
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Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede of the Rochester Zen Center leads the January 2012 Tricycle Retreat, "The Precepts as Practice." The precepts are often overlooked for the simple reason that meditation is sexy, while morality is not. But as Roshi Kjolhede points out in his Week 1 teaching, they are of a piece, root and branch, and meditation without grounding in the precepts will surely founder. Breaking the precepts, Roshi says, is harming others. When we have harming others in our minds (it's all up there somewhere, no matter how we try to arrange it) we will not achieve the silence and clarity the practice can bring, and which in turn engenders further positive action.
Roshi Kjolhede has also discussed the ethical dimension of practice in the article "Pain, Passion, and the Precepts." (Tricycle Winter 2011) In that article he laments the behavior of certain Zen teachers who have recently received attention for their bad behavior.
The discussion of ethics in Zen Buddhism recalls the charges of Zen gadfly Brian Victoria, who asserts that Zen (and the Mahayana generally) has left behind the ethical imperative of dharma practice in favor of "value-neutral" meditation that can justify atrocities and, well, just about anything at all. See the blogpost, "Where is the ethical dimension of Buddhist meditation in Zen?" for more on this.