Saving All Beings (part 2)
Recap of Part 1: The injunction to ‘Save all beings’ is one of the Zen Buddhist Precepts. But, according to these same teachings, we are already saved/awakened and there are no ‘other beings’ that are completely separate from ourselves. So how do we practice the Precept to ‘save all beings?’
Sometimes we get what we want, and sometimes we get what we don’t want. When we get what we don’t want, we have several choices, but not getting what we already have is not one of them. (This applies to whatever mind-state you are experiencing as you read this as well as to the identity of your President-elect.) We can spend our time complaining and wishing it were otherwise, but at some point we may choose simply to acknowledge what is already here—both in our inner world and in the world around us. We don’t even have to like what is here, but it is indeed here.
Saving all beings, is a vow to meet whatever arises without turning away. Rather than living a life of simply trying to get more of what we want and less of what we don’t want, we set an intention to meet what comes with an open heart.
In our inner world, ‘saving all beings’ means to be present with the many ‘beings’ that arise within our own experience. And we ‘save’ them by allowing them to come as they come, and go as they go. Rather than fighting and trying to manipulate our inner experience, we do our best to cultivate a basic friendliness. What is here? What is it like to feel what I’m feeling now? We don’t have to like it, but we do vow to set aside the usual complaining and resistance, to simply notice what is already present.
We take this same vow toward what arises in our outer world. Part of this is beginning to see that everything we encounter in the world is some part of us. The greed and ignorance we see in others, is actually a part of every human being (including ourselves). It is so easy to dismiss some people as ‘those kind of people.’ But this Precept of ‘saving all beings’ invites us to practice this basic friendliness toward everyone – omitting not one single person.
So saving all beings means to open our hearts to what is arising in the moment – the pain and joy, the wisdom and the folly. This is not to be confused with falling into a state of passivity, but rather an invitation to stop fighting the reality of human experience. From this place of basic friendliness, we can move from judgment and resentment to reconciliation and action. We see what is happening and are free to do whatever we can do to alleviate the suffering of the world. Where people are hungry, we can offer food. Where people are hurting, we can offer comfort. Where injustice appears, we can stand on the side of justice and dignity.