“As I would now explain it, diligently practicing the Way means letting all things be what they are in their Self-nature, as you put your essential oneness into operation by following the road away from discriminatory and dualistic thinking. When you have abandoned that type of thinking and have thus passed beyond its barriers, you will cease to be affected by its explanations, which, like the nodes in bamboo, block free passage, or by its theories, which are as convoluted as the knots in a piece of pine wood.”
Great Master Dogen,
– From “A Discourse on Doing One’s Utmost in Practicing the Way of the Buddhas” (Bendōwa)
I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic over the last months and there is much that could be said and maybe should be said but really, Dogen sums it up pretty nicely in the quote above.
In the context of fault finding, the Sangha Refuge is special even though it is made up of regular human beings who are a mix of frailty and durability, strength and weakness and enlightenment and delusion; the Sangha Refuge is special because those human beings hold, and are aware of, the value of “letting all things be what they are … [and] following the road away from discriminatory and dualistic thinking”. And, they are intent on following that road to the best of their ability. The Sangha Refuge understands how to actually walk that road and given time and patience can help us to learn how to walk that road as well.
When we give too much weight to our fault finding about the Sangha, we are eroding our connection to it, undermining our sense of it as a refuge, and undermining our own faith that there is something beyond dualistic thinking. We are undermining our own faith in our own ability to step beyond the opposites and to discover what is there: the source of compassion, love and wisdom.
There is a precept:
Do not defame the Three Treasures.
To do something by ourselves, without copying others, is to become an example to the world and the merit of doing such a thing becomes the source of all wisdom: do not criticize; accept everything.
The criticizing is the fault finding. The Buddha emphasized that the greatest power we have over the suffering we encounter, is the power to change and train our own minds, this is “doing something by ourselves”. When we say “right, I don’t know if I can change the external suffering, but I can and will change my own entanglement in anger or greed or delusion”, we are doing the thing which is the source of all wisdom.
Meeting what is with the effort to “[let] all things be what they are in their Self-nature”, whether it is painful or pleasant, whether it means gaining or losing or that we are humiliated or uplifted or we are censured or praised, is to work on accepting everything.
Accepting everything does not mean that anything goes. It means that we can train ourselves to meet suffering and pain in a way that reduces and keeps suffering from spreading: we do this primarily by taking responsibility for our own lives, by training our own minds in the precepts and walking this road away from dualistic thinking. And by accepting that sometimes the Sangha and our teachers will have the responsibility to point out where we are creating pain and suffering for ourselves and others; this applies to each and every member of the Sangha from the newest to the oldest.
For my own part, like everyone, I hope that I will be accepted including my weaknesses and shortcomings. As a matter of practice though, I equally hope that the Sangha and my teachers, from their wise discernment, will help me to take the next step in clarifying where I create suffering and I pray that I will be able to accept this teaching and make use of it.
The more I try to explain this problem of discriminatory thinking, the more my explanation falls short, so I can really only give myself and others the advice to trust in the meditation and the practice of the precepts; don’t hold on to what arises in the mind, and keep asking “what is good to do?” and then, do your best to do what arises as good. In other words, just keep trusting that essential oneness is present and keep following the road “… away from discriminatory and dualistic thinking”.