Minister's Post, Fri Apr 29

Dear Ones,

I saw this question in an advice column:
"I always desire what I don’t have: friends, food, lovers, material possessions. It seems like I never have what I want at any moment, that I’m always thinking, “What if…?” How can I learn to satisfy this desire with what I do have?"
Perhaps you also suffer from this problem. Geri Larkin's response is instructive:
"My experience has always been that it’s an enormous relief just to admit to myself that I’m obsessed by a desire for something. First, I can stop trying so hard to pretend that I don’t want something that, in fact, I do want. Second, most of the time something I think of as an overriding desire is often more a moment of 'wishful thinking.' Often seeing our desire simply as what it is – a desire – allows it to drop away, or at least loosens our hold on it. The few times when that hasn’t worked, gratitude has made me sane again. Instead of getting caught up in the desire, I literally start to list all of the things I’m grateful for, starting with the fact that every time I breathe out, my body breathes back in. I suddenly notice all the different colors in my teacup, the sound of the chickens outside. I call a friend, pull out an old journal to remember a former boyfriend."
Sometimes we are ashamed of our cravings. Or we try to deny them. Or we rationalize a justification of them. None of these strategies is helpful. Instead, simply be with the desire. Acknowledge it and pay attention to what it feels like. It's not your fault the desire has come to visit you, but trying to shove it out the front door just makes it flood back in through the back door. So just watch it until it fades away on its own. Or, if necessary, as Geri suggests, focus on gratitude.

Yours in the faith we share,

Join a Journey Group: http://cucwp.org/journey-groups

I.C.Y.M.I. (In Case You Missed It)

The Apr 17 worship service, "Passover! Easter! Ramadan! Liberation!":

The Apr 24 worship service, "Borders and Belonging":

PRACTICE OF THE WEEK: Ecospiritual: Across the Wide Universe

It’s time again for our Ecospiritual practice for this month – brought to you by Community UU’s Environmental Practices Social Justice Team: "Across the Wide Universe."

It all began back with the Great Radiance, the primordial flaring forth: the Big Bang. Our planet, sun, and solar system and the rest of what's out there are all connected by coming from that origin. Ultimately, not only are we kin to every living thing that shares our Earth, we are also kin to nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. Brian Swimme writes:
“There was no place in the universe that was separate from the originating power of the universe. Each thing of the universe had its very roots in this realm. Even space-time itself was a tossing, churning, foaming out of the original reality, instant by instant. Each of the sextillion particles that foamed into existence had its root in this quantum vacuum, this originating reality.”
It is beyond our comprehension: the vastness of it all and our own insignificance.

This immensity, and its unity, can help us recapture the wonder that gets lost in our technological age. Wide-eyed awe is our birthright as conscious beings. Each of us is a part of something much, much bigger than ourselves.

Ecospiritual practices for this month include some time gazing into a night sky, investigating photos of deep space, and a “drop in the ocean” exercise. For the details on these, as well as group activities for your Ecospiritual group, see the full post: "Across the Wide Universe."

For the complete list of spiritual practices see the SPIRITUAL PRACTICE DIRECTORY.

Here it is, your...
#118: The Moral Basis

Dogen (1200-1253), selecting from earlier sources, instituted the 16 Precepts of Zen: three Refuges, three Pure Precepts, and ten Grave Precepts. The Refuges and the first five Grave Precepts constitute the "Eight Streams of Merit" (Theravada Scripture, Angutarra Nikaya 8.39) common to all branches of Buddhism. The Brahmajala ("Brahma Net") Sutra -- a Mahayana text dating back at least to the 5th century CE -- includes the five Angutarra Nikaya precepts and adds five more to make ten Grave Precepts. The Pure Precepts also come from the Brahmajala Sutra. The 16 precepts are:

Three Refuges:
  • Take refuge in the Buddha
  • Take refuge in the Dharma
  • Take refuge in the Sangha
Three Pure Precepts:
  • Do not create Evil
  • Cultivate Good
  • Benefit Others
Ten Grave Precepts:
  • Respect life – Do not kill
  • Be giving – Do not steal
  • Honor the body – Do not misuse sexuality
  • Manifest truth – Do not lie
  • Proceed clearly – Do not cloud the mind
  • See the perfection – Do not broadcast others' misdeeds or faults
  • Realize self and others as one – Do not praise yourself by comparison with others
  • Give generously – Do not withhold
  • Actualize harmony – Do not vent anger
  • Experience the intimacy of things – Do not defile the Three Treasures
Zen has these precepts, and others (e.g. "The Four Bodhisattva Vows"). A precept is:
"1. a commandment or direction given as a rule of action or conduct. 2. an injunction as to moral conduct; maxim. 3. a procedural directive or rule, as for the performance of some technical operation" (Random House Unabridged Dictionary).
So Zen's precepts articulate the moral component of Zen.

A moral component isn't the same as a moral basis. The basis of Zen is direct experience of oneness, nonseparation, and impermanence. Precepts are upaya ("skillful means") -- tools for our practice.

Some questions for exploring the case below:
1. When Porcupine says, "empty," do you interpret him as agreeing with Raven (that Zen is empty of any moral basis)? Or is he disagreeing with Raven's answer, calling it empty?
2. Relatedly, if Magpie wouldn't say, "empty," do you think that's because Magpie believes Zen does have a moral basis? Or, rather, would it be because Magpie wouldn't see Raven's "none whatsoever" as empty?

Porcupine came by for another special meeting with Raven and asked, "Does Zen have a moral basis?"
Raven said, "None whatsoever."
Porcupine exclaimed, "Empty! Empty!"
Raven said, "That's not what Magpie would say."
Porcupine bowed down and touched his face to the ground.
Raven asked, "Why do you bow?"
Porcupine said, "Magpie is bowing."
Raven put her beak to his ear and said, "See me after the talk tonight."
The mountain pass is unexpectedly steep and icy.
Or maybe the car keys aren't where I was sure I left them.
Certain people are such blind fools.
The demands of the day surpass reasonableness.
This is me, bowing --
Bowing gratefully to the difficulty.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

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