A Zen’s-Eye View: Zen teaching a reminder that all beings are precious

Web Lead

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Sakura-ji

The whole point of Zen practice is to teach us that we are not separate from anything. Thirteenth-century Zen master Eihei Dogen expressed this in his “Mountains and Rivers Sutra”. He said, “If you doubt mountains walking, you don’t know your own walking. It’s not that you are not walking; it’s just that you don’t know or understand your own walking. If you want to know your own walking, you should fully know the green mountains walking.” Until you appreciate and fully embrace the mystery of mountains walking, you haven’t really seen your own life, and you don’t appreciate the enormous measure of who and what you are.

Often as we get older, we do appreciate this amazing opportunity of human life. I’ve heard many seniors lament the stupid things they did, the time they wasted. But of course, at the time, they had no idea what they were doing, and in some way, what happened in their lives is exactly what had to happen. Dogen is saying that we don’t know our own life until we know constancy, impermanence and letting go of self-centeredness. The big pattern, which includes constant walking and complete rest, characterizes all existence, and until we have contemplated our own constant walking and complete rest through spiritual practice, we won’t fully appreciate our own life.

Dogen goes on to say, “Green mountains are neither sentient nor insentient; and you are neither sentient nor insentient.” This statement is kind of surprising because we think that we are sentient and mountains are not. Dogen’s words may express the essential difference between western and Islamic religions and Far East Asian Buddhism. In western thought, there is a hierarchy of beings. The highest beings are invisible and of the visible beings, humans are highest. Creatures that we think have less capacity are lower beings, and objects without life are lower still. You can’t kill people; but you can kill animals. And it doesn’t matter if you trash stuff that isn’t alive, because it is a lower order of being.

Throughout history, we have imposed this hierarchy on humans, as well. During colonization, Africans and North American Indians could be bought and sold or killed. The Nazis considered Jews to be a disposable race, and today, in the radicalized Middle East, infidels are so low on the hierarchy that it’s a spiritual act to kill them. The examples are endless. At the same time, there are human beings who are so precious that if you insult them you must be killed, or if you deny them as the highest beings, you burn in a lake of fire for eternity.

For Dogen, all beings are equally important. He often says that even roof tiles, walls and pebbles are sentient beings and they all express the teaching of compassion.

Suggested practice: Try treating every person, animal and object in your world as though they are equally precious and see how this affects the way you feel about your life.

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Sakura-ji, Creston’s zendo. This column is part of a long essay on an essay by 13th century Zen master Eihei Dogen and is inspired by the teaching of Norman Fishcher. For more information, Minogue can be reached at 250-428-6500, and previous columns are available at www.zenwords.net.

 

Just Posted

The Nest offers a warm welcome

For Judy and Calvin Germann, retirement means slowing down, not stopping. Calvin,… Continue reading

Cannabis store offers sneak preview

With Town of Creston bylaws and approvals now in place, the opening… Continue reading

Council approves Blossom Festival Beer Garden

A request from Casey’s Community House to close 12th Avenue North between… Continue reading

Police deal with personal disputes

Creston RCMP received 48 calls for assistance, many involving personal disputes, from April 9-15.

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Most Read