The Tenth Grave Precept

I vow not to disparage the Three Treasures. (Zen Center)

Experience the intimacy of things. Do not defile the Three Treasures. (Zen Mountain Monastery)

To expound the dharma with this body is foremost. The virtue returns to the ocean of reality. It is unfathomable; we just accept it with respect and gratitude. (Dogen’s commentary)

This precept has never especially resonated with me, although I understand its necessity as part of maintaining harmonious practice, and not allowing anyone claiming to be a buddhist while denigrating the actual cornerstones of Buddhism.

However, Dogen’s commentary has long been one of my favourite formulations, especially the first line, which is clearest. Training in a temple or a monastery, you eventually come to understand that the practice is a physical one more than a mental or philosophical one – through our sitting, our deportment, our bowing and chanting, our working. Since it is impossible to explain this, the best we can do is demonstrate it. I always speak of how Blanche taught me so much when she was abbess, not so much from the dharma seat as how she showed up for daily life in the temple, and how she behaved in many different circumstances, from the most formal to the most mundane. Her husband Lou had that first sentence written on his priest’s rakusu, which he wore all day, as he stepped in to wash dishes, tidy up the newspapers in the residents’ lounge, or take care of an altar. There are others, some who are exalted teachers, others who are less senior practitioners, in whom I can clearly see their embodiment as a clear expression of whole-hearted practice. These are the people who continue to inspire me, and that is how I aspire to practice.

And the following lines make clear what happens when you do this: it does not make you a superior person, because the virtue returns to the ocean of reality. Any good you do ripples out into the world, and we don’t know what effect it will have. I trust that it benefits myself and others, and try not to worry so much about how that manifests.

(This post first appeared on my Patreon page, as part of a series on the precepts – and I have posted it before, but as I was meandering around the blog the other day, I thought it might be worth airing again)

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