(Shoaku-Makusa) Part 1
In this chapter Dogen explains that, from a Buddhist perspective, injustice does not naturally exist in this world and this universe. It is generated and contributed to by man through unjust actions. This is a remarkable point of view as most religions teach that evil is a part of man and this world, e.g. in the shape of the devil. Man needs to fight it with the forces of good.
But in Buddhist reality injustice as a form of evil or everlasting essence does not exist. There are only evil deeds and actions of man which do not comply with our moral principles and therefore violate the laws of the universe.
Nevertheless, wrong, unjust and criminal acts are in fact a part of the reality of mankind, which one should not rationalize and push aside.
In the Shobogenzo, Dogen warns us repeatedly not to become lost in illusions and not to be mistaken about reality.
In this chapter particularly, he emphasizes that moral principles and ethics, i.e. rightful actions, are inseparably bound up with Buddhist theory and practice.
That is why Buddhism is not a “value-free” philosophy or theory. It is the unity of body, mind, action and morality.
Rightful or wrongful actions in the Here and Now of the present moment are essential for the Buddha Dharma.
If people discuss the injustice of the world, in an outraged and abstract way, as one can often witness, this is therefore much too general and belongs to the realm of theory and philosophy.
One can have perfect discussions about injustice, one can argue about it and, afterwards, feel superior to others; but in reality often times you have done wrong yourself by arguing aggressively to hurt others. In this case, you have violated the social laws of Buddhism through causing conflict and trauma. Sometimes, such aggressive disputes grow into an open verbal fight involving one ego against another. This can, in no way, represent the Buddha-Dharma.
Dogen quotes an old Buddha, who taught that:
“The eternal Buddha says,
Not to to generate wrongs,
To practice the many kinds of right,
Naturally purifies the mind;
This is the teaching of the Buddha “
While translating the German edition of Dogen’s “The Treasury of the T*rue Dharma E*ye” (Shobogenzo), Mrs. Ritsunen Linnebach and I were considering thoroughly whether to use the often applied phrase Not doing wrong” or not.
We came to the conclusion that the precise translation from Japanese correlates better with the term “to generate” – and that that was exactly what Dogen meant.
This term shows very clearly that man generates injustice artificially – and that, naturally, it would not exist in this universe.
Would you choose another translation instead of “to abstain from evil” – one would get the impression that evil naturally exists as an essence in our world and we have to watch out for it – to abstain from it. From our point of view, this is exactly what Dogen does not want to say.
The proposition that injustice and evil are only created through action and do not exist naturally in the harmony of the universe may be surprising at first. But taking into consideration the fact that in Buddhism action gets most of the credit and therefore acting is assigned the qualities of reality and truth and not any abstract idea or imaginary essence – then this is of great importance for our lives.
It is just a question of not generating wrong – and of committing ourselves in our lives and in our actions to the many opportunities we have to do meaningful and good deeds – with care and respect. This is the way to independence and freedom. To generate wrong creates addiction.