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SOTOZEN.COM > Library > Sermons > Beneficial deeds - Rigyo 利行 by Rev. Jiso Forzani part 2


Beneficial deeds - Rigyo 利行 by Rev. Jiso Forzani part 2

Rigyo (in Sanskrit artha-carya) is a compound of two Chinese characters (here read with Japanese pronunciation): ri 利 which means "advantage," "benefit," "interest," "utility," "gain," "profit" and gyo行 "deed," "behaviour," "conduct," "to do," "to act," "to carry out," "to go." The overall meaning is therefore "beneficial deed," "profitable conduct," "beneficial behaviour," "to carry out in the interest of," "doing the interest of"...We should also notice that ri is the word used in many compounds to indicate interest (also in the economic sense) ability and efficacy, so that the general sense is something very concretely advantageous.

The sentences about rigyo from Shobogenzo Bodaisatta-Shishobo are translated here twice, with two different intentions and in two different styles. The first is, as much as possible, a literal translation, trying to render Dogen's words directly in English. It gives a taste of their power of expression, even at the risk of allowing some shadow, something that remains obviously obscure to us. The second is an interpretative translation, free from philological bonds. That is to say, it is a possible way to read and understand Dogen's words today in our cultural context, to render them meaningful for our everyday life. This corresponds also to Dogen's intention. He wrote what he wrote not as a literary exercise but to express his understanding of the Buddha Way and to communicate encouragement to follow it. This is particularly true in the case of a text like this one, which is meaningful only if it is actually practised.

The first translation needs the second one to be actualized, the second one is justified by the first one being its source.

Beneficial deeds means to utilize good skill to benefit human beings both noble and humble. For example, drawing the near and far away perspective, we run instruments to benefit others. Someone had pity for a suffering turtle, he fed a sick sparrow. Seeing a suffering turtle, when he sees a sick sparrow, without searching for any reward he acts only for their benefit. Foolish people think that if one put others' benefit first, one's own would be erased. But it is not so. Beneficial deed is one (complete) dharma, it benefits both oneself and others. An ancient man, while taking bath one time, boundhis hair three times.While taking meal once, he stopped eating three time.He only had the spirit to benefit others. It was never the case that he didn't instruct a person of the people.

Therefore we should benefit equally the hated and the loved one, and we benefit in the same way ourselves and others. If we get this spirit, the truth of the never receding and never changing of beneficial deeds (expanding) from oneself also to grass, wood, wind, water truly becomes operating benefit. We have only to take care of saving the foolish.

Now we try to express the same concepts in contemporary words in a contemporary cultural background, an exercise that each reader may easily do for him/herself, appreciating this text in his/her own situation.

We should ask ourselves what should be the principle inspiring the conduct of a person who wishes to follow the Buddha Way.What kind of goal should a bodhisattva pursue? I would answer that one should behave in the interest of all beings, acting with all one's skill for the advantage of any living being. To do so, one should first of all not be concerned about the status or condition of anyone, if one is rich or poor, well-educated or ignorant, smart or ugly. Concretely speaking, it means to utilize all useful tools for the true interest of all beings, looking both at the surrounding environment and at a broader context, at the immediate effect and at the faraway future possible consequences. We should not think that we will obtain some personal advantage or reward from this kind of behaviour. When we give some crumb of bread, some grain of rice to pigeons, when we put back on its legs an overturned turtle, we don't do it expecting to gain something for ourselves in return. The gesture is justified by itself; it is an expression of an attitude free from any search for personal reward.

Silly people think that putting others' interests first means to diminish one's own, but it doesn't work like this. In this sense we cannot say that we make sacrifices for others, that we are renouncing something for the benefit of others.Beneficial behaviour is an act complete in itself, the reward is in the act itself, it is profitable for oneself and others, it is the true interest of both me and. It is the deep encounter of me and you, where the true meaning of "myself and other" is realized. So, if someone requests our care and attention, even if we are a person with exalted public responsibilities and status, we should not care about the condition, the belongings, the status of that person, if he/she is a countryman or a foreigner, if he/she belongs to our group or is an outsider.Even if we are engaged in a very personal and private activity like eating or taking a moment to relax, we just stop and we take care of the other when someone is asking for our attention. We have to work for the benefit both of the agreeable person and of the hateful one, for people we like and people we dislike, in the interest of both ourselves and others. If I have such an attitude, then the benefit becomes operative all around me.It will reach surrounding living beings and all the so-called inanimate matter around.All our world will benefit. It is a matter of fact that never ceases nor changes. So the only thing to do is to save people from their silliness.