22 December 2011

Dharma Rain

The Buddha said:
I look upon all things
as being universally equal,
I have no mind to favor this or that,
to love one or hate another.
I am without greed or attachment
and without limitation or hindrance.
At all times, for all things
I preach the Law equally;
as I would for a single person,
that same way I do for numerous persons.
Constantly I expound and preach the Law,
never have I done anything else,
coming, going, sitting, standing,
never to the end growing weary or disheartened.
I bring fullness and satisfaction to the world,
like a rain that spreads its moisture everywhere.
Eminent and lowly, superior and inferior,
observers of precepts, violators of precepts,
those fully endowed with proper demeanor,
those not fully endowed,
those of correct views, of erroneous views,
of keen capacity, of dull capacity –
I cause the Dharma rain to rain on all equally,
never lax or neglectful.
Lotus Sutra
The Dharma rain that falls of the Buddha's wisdom and compassion is of one flavor throughout: liberation.

That said, all receive as they are able, and only as they are able.  The superior plants, as the sutra continues, receive in superior measure.  The middling plants receive in middling measure.  The inferior plants receive in inferior measure.  Those who observe the precepts receive as precept observers.  Those who violate the precepts receive as precept violators.  Those who hold to correct views receive as correct view holders.  Those who maintain erroneous views receive as maintainers of erroneous views.

This is not a problem.  The Buddha cannot be reproached for the fact that superior plants receive in superior measure, that precept holders receive in ways that precept violators do not.  It is not done out of love or hate.  It is not done to reward or punish.  It's just the way things are.

I really bristle when I hear that we are not to exercise sound judgment in distinguishing the superior from the middling from the inferior.  "All are Buddha; all are fully enlightened," I hear in some quarters.  "Don't pick and choose," gets tossed about as a maxim of skillful action.  Well, as soon as those folks and I live in the realm of the absolute, I'll be more than happy to entertain such propositions.

Until then, we do reality and ourselves a disservice by pretending things are more equal than they are.  When I give a C for a C-quality exam to one student and an A for an A-quality exam to another student, I am not doing it because I like the one student more than the other.  When I ask a person with decent pitch to start us off in a round of "Happy Birthday" at the party, I am not being mean to the tone-deaf among us. 

I don't think any of this is controversial.

I do, though, think there's a misunderstanding afoot that equates a judgment of distinction with an act of praising or blaming, affirming or rejecting.  To say that the one apple is ripe and ready and the other apple is wormy and rotten is not to praise the one and disparage the other.  It is to be absolutely one with reality.  And to put the wormy and rotten apple into the pie for the holiday dinner in the name of "not picking and choosing" is a stupidity of the highest order.   I can love the wormy and rotten apple thoroughly as a wormy and rotten apple.  I can love the ripe and ready apple thoroughly as a ripe and ready apple.  This is not a zero-sum game.

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