My own view is somewhat different. The commentary I added to this case reads:

Priest Xixian’s response, “I am watching closely” is at once fat-headed and misguided. He has missed an opportunity to cause an evil that has already arisen to be extinguished, and to cause good that has not arisen to arise. Both he and the general deserve thirty blows of my stick.

Governments and rulers are traditionally driven by power, politics, and money, and are usually not inclined toward clear moral commitments. However, for a Zen priest to avoid taking moral responsibility when asked to do so is inexcusable.

Enlightenment without morality is not yet enlightenment. Morality without enlightenment is not yet morality. Enlightenment and morality are non-dual in the Way. One does not exist without the other. The truth is not beyond good and evil as is commonly believed. It is rather a way of living one’s life with a definite moral commitment that is practiced, realized, and verified within the realm of good and evil itself, yet remains undefiled by them. Setting aside impostor priests and phony followers, you tell me, how do you transform watching into doing, the three poisons into the three virtues? More importantly, what is it that you call yourself?

How far are we willing to go to justify our position? Gary Snyder once wrote: “Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.” I would say that enlightenment without morality is not yet enlightenment. Morality without enlightenment is not yet morality.

 

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Again, the consequences of not engaging the wisdom of honest, raw practice are that real lives suffer, people die, our fragile and wondrous planet is treated poorly. We need to challenge and encourage one another to realize our clarity and compassion. That is our imperative.

For me, the comparative use of the two Shobogenzos and Dogen’s other writings, along with the traditional koans in our koan introspection, is a very practical—and crucial—endeavor. While this kind of study has opened up new possibilities in the training of western Zen students by addressing their natural philosophical and psychological inclinations, it has not abandoned the heart of the dharma transmitted from Shakyamuni Buddha to the present.

We are incredibly fortunate to have access to Master Dogen’s outstanding body of work. We should not waste the opportunity to study it. And, as he himself said often, we must study exhaustively. Because ultimately, no matter how many hundreds of koans we pass through, if they do not change the way we relate to the rest of the world, then they are nothing but meaningless intellectual exercises. We must realize these koans, and we must actualize them in everything that we do. That is the only way we will truly transform our lives


John Daido Loori, Roshi co-translated with Kazuaki Tanahashi The True Dharma Eye: Master Dogen’s Three Hundred Koans, adding his own titles, commentaries, capping verses and notes.

From “Sitting with Koans: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Koan Study,” edited by John Daido Loori (Wisdom Publications) © 2006 Dharma Communications. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.