Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Experience the intimacy of things; Do not defile the three treasures

What I like about Robert Frost is that I learn about his life when I read his poems. I know what he did when he wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

I have two deadlines: finish taxes by tomorrow at 4:45 pm to go to my new accountant, and finish preparing the attic for insulation by 10 am on Friday. In the meantime, the work on our yard continues, day after day, week after week, month after month. Maybe tomorrow it will be done if no more irrigation values explode. Sometimes I'd make art about all these grand life struggles, but no, I'm still at it trying to live with these Buddhist Precepts.

"Experience the intimacy of things" confused me. Did he really mean "intimacy?" I asked one of my teachers and she said that Buddhists associate intimacy with enlightenment. This actually confused me further, because it didn't seem to fit the second part of precept "do not defile..." Then I found this wonderful article about Buddhist intimacy. I loved this line, "This is true intimacy, handling all beings as if they were ourselves." And, of course, in Buddhism, all beings includes everything.

So while eating dinner (a great dinner expect I wondered if the chickens were well treated who generously gave me their eggs) I read the article (a Buddhist no-no) and then decided I would do the dishes while my wife was watching TV. And I would treat the dishes as if they were my eyeballs (which Dogen said is the way you should treat every grain of rice). Anyway, other than a few gently moves, like quietly setting the frying pan in the sink to wash it, I don't think I passed the test.

I take it that "do not defile the three treasures (buddha, teachings, sangha)" is kind of like "do not use the lord's name in vain." And we do that when we treat things with less than the respect that we'd treat our eyeballs, or, as the Zen teacher Reb Anderson would say, "...as if it is your mother's face."

One more thing. Even though I've now gone through the sixteen precepts, I don't pretend to understand them. The first six I did three at a time. My plan for the next six days is to do one of the first six at a time.  After that, maybe I'll give it all up for lent.

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