One of the more interesting developments in Korean Buddhism was the presence, and respect for the monk Jajang. He was called Jajang Ulsa, or Jajang “the precept bringer.” When I first heard of him, I was a bit dubious, to be honest. I didn’t understand what the big deal was about someone who brought you a list of do’s and don’ts.
But as time when on and my own practice deepened (I hope!), I realized that the precepts weren’t simply things you should or shouldn’t do. They were reflections of the underlying nonduality of all phenomena, and simple, basic guidelines for moving in harmony with the whole, with the reality of how everything around us functions. When we can do that, everything in our life goes smoother. So learning to function more in tune with the whole, people found their lives improving. Everything went a bit smoother, and they experienced fewer disasters, and often those weren’t as bad as they could have been. That’s why they were so grateful to Master Jajang, because he showed them the basics for moving away from self-sabotaging behaviors.
Just the (seemingly) simple guidelines of don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t engage in sexually inappropriate behavior, and avoid addicting intoxicants, made such a difference in the lives of people who didn’t know better, that they remembered him for centuries. How much more of a blessing will the further teachings about our foundation and inherent nonduality be?
(For what it’s worth, the simple reading of the precepts is the easiest for someone who’s caught up in those behaviors to remember. Even if you don’t think carefully about them, by making an effort to follow them, you will consciously or unconsciously become more aware of their deeper nuance, “revere live, treat others as yourself, treat their body and yours with respect, strive to maintain clear states of consciousness.”)
May these great teachings spread without cease,
may this land be at peace and harmony for generation after generation,
may the great light of the Buddha-dharma fill all realms.