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SOTOZEN.COM > Library > Sermons > Beneficial deeds - Rigyo 利行 by Rev. Jiso Forzani part 3


Beneficial deeds - Rigyo 利行 by Rev. Jiso Forzani part 3

In the first part of this article we discussed the context of this text and in the second part we translated it. Now in this final part we want to see what it could mean for our actual lives.

The core of the issue is simple and clear - working for the good of oneself and others, which is a single and unique good, not two separated or even opposing "goods." But in saying so we have said everything and nothing. If we do not clarify the meaning of  "benefit" and how we can work out this benefit, these words are nothing more than a general call to do good, obvious as well as meaningless. Everyone always says that we must do good. Since everyone always says so to everyone, by now good should have prevailed everywhere. Clearly this is not the case. Why? One reason is that our conception of good is relative. What we consider good depends on our scale of values and the situational standards we apply. It depends on who applies them, the length of time that has passed, the place, and the precedents, etc. What is good for me might not be  good for you, what is good today might not be good tomorrow, what is good for the spirit might not be good for the body, what is good for a child might not be not good for an adult and so on. Each time human beings claim to establish an absolute value of good, to state the absolute good, only disasters and tragedies arise because to define the absolute is  nonsense which creates a short-circuit in reality. But then what does "benefit" mean here?

We can find a clue in the title of the text in which the expression rigyo occurs. It is clear that here "benefit" means something beneficial from the bodhisattva point of view. Let's consider the definition we gave at the beginning, completing it as follows: a bodhisattva is someone who steers his or her life towards the goal Buddha pointed at, looking at the world with the eyes of awakening. The bodhisattva world is the scene in front of the awakened eyes, in the moment of the Buddha's awakening. This is the bodhisattva point of view. The Buddhist tradition hands down few "descriptions" of the Buddha's vision at his awakening. There is one in particular which I have selected because it was certainly familiar to Dogen. There is a clear trace of it in the text we translated. According to the Chinese tradition, at the moment of his awakening Buddha made a proclamation which became afterwards a characteristic expression of the vision of reality in the awakened eyes. We can find this sentence in old Chinese texts like the Daijogenron, a Sui period (around 581-618) text. It also summarizes the thought of the Nehan gyo (Nirvana sutra) literature. In Japanese, this sentence says, "so moku kokudo shikkai jobutsu" 草木國土悉皆成仏. Freely translated, it means "Every living being, conscious and without consciousness, all come now to be Buddha." There is not the least trace of separation between Buddha and the world - in the very moment in which Buddha is Buddha, everything is Buddha. This is the position that a bodhisattva assumes towards him/herself and towards the world.

Common sense says that everybody lives her or his own life, so we should look to our own interest even at the expense of others. In the world seen with bodhisattva eyes it doesn't works like this. My life doesn't exist here without yours, nor yours without mine, and in no case could my interest be in conflict with yours. So, caring for the world is caring for myself. There cannot be something that is good for me and evil for others. The evil of the other in some way comes back to me.

This is the highest value. Rather, we can say it is the only value. It is the hidden treasure close at hand according to which we should shape our behavior.

"Beneficial deed" is to witness with our own behavior this understanding of reality, sharing in this way with other people, because here lies the fullest benefit. But "bodhisattva" means also knowing that I am not Buddha, that I am a human being conditioned by my own constitutive limits. The Buddha's vision for me is a vision of faith, which my human eyes don't grant to me. How can I inspire my behavior toward the vision described above without pretending to be what I am not, to see what I do not see?

I have at hand a simple and fundamental instrument which allows me to put myself in this position of faith - zazen posture. In zazen, discrimination between myself and other, between the world of awakening and the conditioned world doesn't come into play. Simply sitting silently, awake and released from any relationship, to sit zazen sitting is to be in the position of "working faith" 信行. The position of zazen is the beneficial deed standard, the basic attitude to which we return, bringing it into any moment, into any situation of our life.

If we get this spirit, the truth never receding and never changing of beneficial deeds (expanding) from oneself also to grass wood wind water truly becomes operating benefit. So really the only thing to do is to take care of saving the foolish, knowing that the first foolish one to save is me who is writing, is you who are reading.