Now, there’s a place for watching, no question about it. Take environmental testing, for example. We test the water, we test the air, we test the earth, and in doing this, we’re watching for an evil that has not yet arisen and trying to prevent it from arising. But when it has arisen, then watching must, of necessity, give rise to action. In the commentary to this koan it says, “Governments and rulers are traditionally driven by power, politics and money, and they’re usually not inclined toward clear, moral commitments.” I think the current state of affairs gives ample testimony to this. When we look at what’s going on in terms of war and peace, in terms of the economy, it’s clear that our government is not leading on the basis of what’s morally right. Meanwhile, we watch. We follow the story. We’re becoming a nation of voyeurs who have forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other.


The next line of the commentary says, “However, for a Zen priest to avoid taking moral responsibility when asked is inexcusable.” It’s inexcusable, but sadly it is also part of Zen history. In the book Zen at War by Brian Victoria, there’s the story of Sawaki Kodo, a Zen priest who was drafted into the Japanese army during World War II, and he writes, “My comrades and I gorged ourselves on killing people. Especially at the battle of Baolisi Temple, I chased our enemies into a hole where I was able to pick them off very efficiently. Because of this my company commander requested that I be given a letter of commendation.” Kodo wrote about how one of his fellow soldiers, upon learning that he was a Zen priest, said, “I see, just what you’d expect from a Zen priest: a man with guts.” This was the attitude that existed at that time and it reflected the way Zen was understood by many people. But this is not my Zen. It’s not my teacher’s Zen. And it’s not the Buddha’s Zen.

The commentary says, “Enlightenment without morality is not yet enlightenment. Morality without enlightenment is not yet morality. Enlightenment and morality are nondual in the Way. One does not exist without the other.” It can’t possibly. What is enlightenment? What is prajna? What is wisdom? By definition, the self is forgotten. We realize that the bag of skin is not who we are. The edges that we define as our self dissolve and the ten thousand things are realized as the self. That includes everything. And if it includes everything, then the ten thousand things are as important as the individual, and you deal with them the same way you would deal with yourself.