Sila: Ethical Conduct I

March 5, 2016

Sila paramita is the practice of ethics or discipline. It is the paramita of the Zen Bodhisattva Precepts. So often we associate the word discipline with what we should not do. We  often associate it with restriction. There is some reality to that feeling.  We are agreeing to refrain from acting in certain ways, and yet in this discipline the seeds of freedom are also present.

Often we take these vows feeling somewhat daunted by a sense of gap between our ordinary life and the compassionate and wise person we aspire to be. We begin sensitive to what we see as flaws and failings.  These bodhisattva precepts encourage our compassion first for ourselves. We do not use these vows to judge ourselves as good or bad, succeeding or failing. We use them to come to know ourselves completely as full human beings. We include our human capacity for greed, anger, and ignorance. We include our capacity for awakening and compassion.

We begin each day with the Gatha of Atonement:

All evil karma ever committed by me since of old
On account of my beginnings greed, anger, and ignorance,
Born of my body, speech, and mind,
Now I atone for it all.

We suffuse this discipline with all-inclusive compassion.Breath after breath we work with the precepts, accept our effort, relinquish, and atone.W remember what we may have forgotten— that moving from beginner to experienced in so many of life’s arts and skills, we can shift from the movement of plodding  effort and self-consciousness to the movement of effortless and selfless grace, still held by the embodied discipline that makes grace possible.