Dogen Sangha Blog


Japanese / German

Monday, March 3, 2008

Precepts & Western Thought/ Morality.

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

It seems clear that there are some considerable differences between the Far Eastern and Western views of, and attitudes towards, morality.

In the West I think it may be fair to say that we generally have a more idealistic attitude to what is moral and that this is informed by our history and culture of idealistic religious tendencies. Also, we may be more prone to guilt as we have a culture of identifying our bad thoughts with ourselves more (we see ourselves as 'bad people' more). A culture informed by a Buddhist attitude to thoughts (i.e. the unreality of thoughts) and the illusion of 'self' may not perceive 'bad thoughts' in this way so much.

Bearing these cultural differences in mind, do you feel that Westerners should consider/study the Buddhist Precepts in a special way?

Is there the danger that we could misinterpret the correct meaning of the precepts given our historical cultural values?

Best Regards,



Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Harry San,

Thank you very much for your interesting question. However I am not so clear in the western civilization, and so I would like to explain the outline of Buddhst morals.

In Buddhism, we Buddhists think about everything on the basis of four philosophies.

The four philosophies in Buddhism are idialism, materialism, philosophy of action, and reality itself.

In the idealistic philosophy Buddhists think that the Buddhist precepts are the first step of our moralistic efforts, therefore we should make our efforts to follow them. How ever we have to feel usually that it is too difficult for us sometimes to observe the precepts.

In the materialistic philosophy Buddhists think that even we, human beings, are also a kind of animals, therefore it is almost impossible for us to follow the precepts.

But in philosophy of action we think that when we practice Zazen, we can make our autonomic nervous system balanced, and when we got the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system, we can get the freedon to behave by ourselves, and so by practicing Zazen we can arrive at the hunan freedom.

Therefore relying upon the practice of Zazen even though we, human beings, usually caught by our natural tendency, relying upon the practice of Zazen, we can have freedom to do good and not to do bad.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

9:49 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger HezB said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:57 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger HezB said...

Dear Roshi,

Thank-you very much for your reply.



11:45 PM, March 04, 2008  
Blogger Rich said...

Thank you for making clear right action and the 4 philosophies.

12:03 AM, March 05, 2008  

Post a Comment

<< Home