Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Sixth Step

“Right Effort” entails a thorough process that ranges from “right thoughts” through “right actions” resulting in both fence-mending for past offenses and working toward creating desirable karma. Five steps are recognized which define this process. They are: Generating a desire (passion), making a commitment (resolve), activating persistence (forbearance), not becoming side-tracked (focused) and carrying through with the original intention (sees the matter through to completion). These five steps are then applied to four areas of conduct.

• Abandonment of existing evil
• Correcting existing unskilled qualities
• Creating future good
• Creating future skilled qualities

Right effort needs to be seen in the context of enlightenment and dharma. Hui-neng said, “When we are deluded, our teacher liberates us. When we are enlightened, we liberate ourselves.” A dharma is a teaching of truth. The Eight-Fold Path is a dharma—A teacher we use to gain enlightenment. While in an unenlightened state we need to be taught and have guidelines to follow. This is a teaching to follow and the Path is intended to lead to enlightenment.

But Hui-neng correctly points out that once we achieve enlightenment we must put the dharma away. Why? Because to retain a teaching, designed to take us somewhere, would bind us (attach us) once we arrive. The question thus becomes, “What is the nature of enlightenment, and what guide-line would we follow once we arrive?”

The Diamond Sutra is instructive in answering this question. In chapter twenty-three the Buddha says that unexcelled perfect enlightenment can’t be realized since it possesses no features, qualities nor aspects since it (enlightenment) is undifferentiated. Further more he says there is nothing whatsoever to attain. This puzzling expression is explained with four points:

1. A Buddha is eternally enlightened. He thus can’t attain what he already has.
2. All beings are Buddhas and thus share in enlightenment.
3. The nature of a Buddha is non-differentiated—Nothing to hold onto. No subject to grasp nor object to be grasped.
4. This nature is our unconditional nature. Since we too are Buddhas, we are likewise non-differentiated.

In an unenlightened state these qualities are not seen and we must therefore follow a set of guidelines which will help us in the process of removing delusions which obstruct our vision. Bad karma creates such obstructions and muddies the clarity of vision whereas good karma clears the clouds.

The guiding force, once we are enlightened, is the recognition that there is no difference between our self, others and Buddha. These are one thing, not many. The principal to abide by is the one provided by Jesus: “Do unto others as we would have them do to us.” Such effort is right because it is selfless.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Post a Comment