Appropriate Speech: It Is Right for All Worlds

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

Appropriate speech, along with action and livelihood, is a path of moral discipline (sila) on the Eightfold Path. Together they encompass the outward signs of a practice committed to the promotion of human flourishing (happiness, health and harmony). A moral voice arises in speech driven by positive intent, in speech grounded in the realities of causal conditioning. There are four divisions to speech, in one wording or another, in all Buddhist precept traditions: abstain from slanderous speech, from harsh speech, from false speech, and from meaningless speech. The adage that many schoolchildren are taught, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, they quickly learn is far from true. Words spoken or written can hurt, words can destroy, or words can heal, words can cause the arising of emotions from hatred to compassion. Along with words there is the “speech” of body language and facial expressions, and even of how we dress that we must also be mindful of. Lips do not have to move for others to recognize fear, joy, acceptance or tension that is loudly announced by how we physically present our dispositions.

Aphorisms; phrases that distill a wise idea into few words and sometimes vivid imagery are handy tools for memorization and for teaching moral ideals and ethical behaviors. Sayings such as “love thy neighbor” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” . . . have value when engaging socially with others, though a Buddhist might practice them a little differently with different intent . . . “loving-kindness to all living beings” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto others”. Some aphorisms are clear in their intent, others are not. A well-known Buddhist aphorism is “If you meet the Buddha on the road . . . kill him” can cofound Westerners. ” In the 9th century the Zen Master Lin Chi was making a valuable point about spiritual materialism. Gathering the trappings of Buddhism . . . statues, paintings and shelves of books, speaking the language . . . bowing, saying namaste, and worrying about karma in relation to rebirth are the ‘materials’ of Buddhism . . . they are not the practice of its encompassing philosophy. The essence of the Buddha’s teachings can be overshadowed when one “collects” the Buddha rather than practice his teachings.

Continue reading

Three Pure Precepts: Cleansing the Mind

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

Buddhist tradition teaches that the Three Pure Precepts came from the Dhammapada, Buddhavagga Sutra , verse #183 – To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one’s mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas. Translations have changed over the centuries and according to the culture, place and tradition, though they are all directed toward doing good as a fundamental part of Buddhist practice. They pay homage to the Bodhisattva ideal of the Mahayana tradition as they are as much a social contract, as a personal one.

Evil in Buddhism is not that of the Judeo/Christian worldview. Evil is not a thing, it is an effect of the bad choices that human beings make when they live a life ignorant of the causal nature of the Universe. They lack the realization that there are karmic consequences that go way beyond just one person’s view. Bad choices that arise from bad intent and action don’t just fall away. They tend to be the cause and effect of more bad choices.

Continue reading

Intent in Action: Manners Matter

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

Growing up with a Canadian mother and a father born and raised in America’s deep south, and who was in the U.S. Air Force, I learned early the power of the magic words . . . please, thank you, excuse me, and sorry. My parents came from different countries and different cultures but had the same worldview when it came to showing respect to other people by being polite. You say “please” when asking for something. You say “thank you” when given something or when something is done for you. You say “excuse me” or “sorry” when appropriate. For a child these words do have a sense of magic about them. “Please” was more likely to lead to getting what you wanted and “thank you”, while meant to convey appreciation was sometimes viewed as a way to get more later. You said “excuse me” when you wanted attention or bumped into someone. After a burp or fart “excuse me” was usually followed by a smile and a giggle. “Sorry” was meant to convey regret or repentance whenever you did something wrong. For me these words did seem magical, did seem to have power when they defused anger in adults or gave me access to something I wasn’t sure I’d get.

These words don’t hold their magical power for long though. Most children quickly learn that just because they say “please, please, please” it doesn’t always lead to satisfaction of desires and wants. “Thank you” becomes a rote phrase that is a cultural expectation after receiving something and so may become insincere. Saying “excuse me” wasn’t a license to interrupt other people’s conversations or to fart in a room full of people. Of them all the word “sorry”, which for many kids held the most magical power, no longer absolved them of responsibility.

Mother: “Did you hit your sister?”

Continue reading

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutra – An Awakened Mind II

Hello to all,

Here is the second in the series of talks given in the Deer Park at the Buddha Center in the virtual world of Second Life.  The first talk can found here.

We picked up the thread of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutra where we left off last week.


by Wayne Ren-Cheng

“The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha), monks, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering — in brief the five aggregates subject to grasping are suffering.

The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering is this: It is this craving which produces re-becoming (rebirth) accompanied by passionate greed, and finding fresh delight now here, and now there, namely craving for sense pleasure, craving for existence and craving for non-existence.

The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering is this: It is the complete cessation of those very cravings, giving them up, relinquishing them, liberating oneself from them, and detaching oneself from them.

The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering is this: It is the Noble Eightfold Path, and nothing else, namely: appropriate understanding, appropriate thought, appropriate speech, appropriate action, appropriate livelihood, appropriate effort, appropriate mindfulness and appropriate concentration.

This is the Four Ennobling Truths': such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This suffering, as a noble truth, should be fully realized': such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This suffering, as ennobling truths have been fully realized': such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.”

Continue reading

Schrodinger’s Dharma – A Cat Reveals Buddha-nature

by Wayne Ren-Cheng
The Buddhist concept that “form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form” found most famously in the Heart Sutra can be difficult to wrap the mind around. Emptiness is well . . . empty, and form has substance so how each can be both requires a thought experiment followed by a realization of experience. Today scientific research is proving aspects of Buddhism, in particular the changes that occur as a result of meditative practice to have beneficial effects on the bodymind. To better understand the conundrum of emptiness and form there is a scientific thought experiment that is useful.

In Buddhist philosophy everything, all dharma is causally conditioned. It becomes what it is in a particular moment as a result of the causal process of the Universe, of its interaction with other phenomena. This would not possible if all dharma had inherent and permanent form. It has neither aspect and until it is acted upon physically and/or mentally it has only potential (emptiness) to take on form. Causal conditioning, the who, what, when, where, why and how of the causal process enacts the transformation from emptiness to form. Very philosophical concept but it can be experienced if one is mindful. Still, for Westerners caught up in concrete definitions and concrete descriptions it isn’t an easy concept. Let’s look to a contemporary science model for help.


Continue reading

Five Instances: EATING MEAT

by Wayne Ren-Cheng Shi

Recently there has been a lot of activity on my posting “Buddhists Eat Meat”.  There are those who vehemently disagree with this point of view.  Here I offer why I, and many other contemporary/traditionalist Buddhists have attained this appropriate view of the intent of encompassing compassion, compassion that requires us to honor that which gives us strength to do good works whatever category it falls under.

Wayne Ren-Cheng — November 8, 2013


One of the most frequently asked questions about being a Buddhist is, “Do I have to be a vegetarian to be a Buddhist?” The answer is no. Yes, there are varying opinions, translations and commentaries that say otherwise but the Buddha teachings make it clear that it is a matter of personal preference that is founded in the Five Instances. Master Sokei-An offers a pragmatic view of the issue, backed by the words of Rinzai Zen legacy teacher, Soyen Shaku; perceptions that arise from the words of the Buddha and the Vinaya Pitaka.

Continue reading

From the Master’s Cushion: Being Buddhist

Engaged Dharma is honored to have our root teacher Dr. Jim Eubanks Sensei (Yong Xiang Shi) offer his wisdom on the meaning and practice of contemporary Buddhism. The pragmatic view and intent, and application of Buddhist practice, as taught to him by Rugen Fisher Sensei (Shen Leng Shi) and passed to Venerable David and I is at the core of what Engaged Dharma promotes through our website and teachings at the Buddha Center in the virtual world of Second Life, through one-on-one teaching via Skype, and how we approach the experiences and situations we encounter moment-to-moment.

Dr. Jim Eubanks Sensei (Yong Xiang Shi)

From the Master’s Cushion: Being Buddhist

by Dr. Jim Eubanks Sensei (Yong Xiang Shi)

When we talk about being “Buddhist” we mean two things. The first is that we are a member of a global group of people who ascribe to the elemental teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. Teachings which, in all their myriad forms, come back to the central role of causality, change, impermanence, selflessness and resolving the issue of unsatisfactoriness.

Continue reading