In my most recent Dharma Byte, published in May, I made some comments regarding the Precepts of Zen. I closed with the following:
The first Five Precepts, in the Matsuoka lineage, are given to candidates for Initiation into Soto Zen (J. jukai tokudo), while the Ten Precepts total are reserved for the first formal stage of training as a priest, which we call Discipleship (J. zaike tokudo). Other lineages differ. But the receiving of Precepts is regarded similarly in all sects of Zen, as a living act of commitment to examining our life, and penetrating to its depths.
The meaning of the Precepts evolves over time, maturing with our practice. Like everything else in Zen practice, “The meaning does not reside in the words but a pivotal moment brings it forth” (Precious Mirror Samadhi). Hopefully, for those of you who have gone through Jukai in the past, this has become clear. For those of you who are planning to do so this year, may it come to pass soon.
The only other point I would like to make about the Precepts, is that they are not something new or different, really nothing special. You already harbor precepts about killing, lying, stealing, et cetera, which may be inchoate, and may not be fully conscious. When you go through the initiation ceremony, it raises your own precepts to the level of conscious awareness, perhaps for the first time. You may find that your preconceived precepts do not match those of Zen Buddhism. In the difference you will find the critical sameness.
In this follow-up, I want to suggest that you consider undergoing Jukai in July, if you have not already done so. And if you feel you are ready to commit to a more serious practice of Zen.
This last sentence is, of course, an oblique reference to The Harmony of Sameness and Difference, by Shitou Xiqian (J. Sekito Kisen), one of three Chinese, or Ch’an, chants in the Zen liturgy. It is a wonderful dissertation on the mind-boggling distinction-without-a-difference that we associate with our dualistic notions of reality. We chant it each Monday morning after zazen:
Grasping at things is surely delusion
According with sameness is still not enlightenment
So, sorting out the “Myriad Things” or “10,000 Things” into the usual categories the mind conjures, however useful, represents a fundamental kind of delusion. But merely intuiting the sameness underlying the obvious differences in things is not, in itself, enlightenment. According to Matsuoka Roshi’s “360 Degree” model, this is realized at 180 degrees, only halfway around the circle, from our beginning Zen practice at point zero.