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Lions Roar : July 2017
BEGINNER’S MIND I see the word “Zen” tossed around a lot these days. It seems to mean having a relaxing, spa-like experience, or “being in the moment.” Is that what Zen’s really about? This is the Whopper-with-cheese of Dharma-Burgers, as our editor Rod Meade Sperry dubbed appropriations of Buddhism for marketing or com- mercial purposes. Recently, “Zen” has become a synonym for relaxing, plea- surable, or mysterious experiences, or more generally, “being in the moment.” Of course, “being in the moment” is a Zen principle. It’s just a lot easier when you’re enjoying a nice massage than sitting in a cold zendo at four in the morning. Ironically, no one describes that as “Zen.” Real Zen is the Japanese school of Buddhism that grew out of the Chan (meditation) tradition of China. The Soto school focuses more on zazen meditation (shikantaza), while the Rinzai school emphasizes the study of koans, such as “What is the sound of one hand?” Zen monastics typi- cally meditate several hours daily, and practice all day (and sometimes all night) during periods of intensive meditation called sesshin. Zen is not all that “Zen.” DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS HOW CAN BUDDHISTS KNOW if their life is an ethical one? By keeping the precepts, a set of guidelines for those who wish to do no harm. Some Buddhists follow them as literally as they can and others take a more situ- ational approach, guided by compassion and what creates the most benefit. There are many different sets of pre- cepts, but common to all Buddhists are five root precepts. 1. Not killing. It’s tempting to consider this a straight corollary to “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” but this precept can be applied in countless situations. Example: when we resolve ahead of time not to cooperate with someone, are we not “killing” what might have been? 2. Not stealing. Again, not just that. Another reading of this precept counsels us “not to take what is not freely given.” 3. Not misusing sex. Most modern Buddhists would tell you that this isn’t about who you can and can’t have sex with, but about how you relate to them. Clearly, a lack of consent or regard for your partner’s feelings constitutes misuse. 4. Not engaging in false speech. Sometimes, a “little white lie” might be beneficial, but what good comes from mean-spirited deception and gossip? 5. Not indulging in intoxicants. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, television, or the internet, if it clouds your mind it’s not helping you stick to the clear seeing that Buddhist practice is meant to cultivate. —Rod Meade Sperry ILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIERRAYFENWICK LION’S ROAR | JULY 2017 30