The Three Tenets

Zen Peacemakers community seeks to bear witness to the joy and suffering of the universe, and to realize and actualize the oneness and interdependence of life through study, practice and action for personal and social transformation. We are committed to nonviolence, inclusivity, free expression and experimentation.

Entering the stream of Socially Engaged Spirituality we commit to live a life of:

  • Not – knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe
  • Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world
  • Doing the Actions that Arise from Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness
 

The Three Tenets serve as the foundation for the Zen Peacemakers’ work and practice. Using the Three Tenets as an orientation transforms service into spiritual practice. Specifically, these practices suspend separation and hierarchy, and open direct encounter between equals as the spirit and style of service.

Not-knowing drops our conceptual framework from very personal biases and assumptions to such concepts as “in and out” “good and bad” “name and form,” “coming and going.” Not-knowing is a state of open presence without separation.

In this state we can Bear Witness, the second Tenet, merging or joining with an individual, situation or environment, deeply imbibing their essence. From this intimate “knowing,” we can then choose an appropriate response to the person or situation, described as “doing the actions that arise from not-knowing and bearing witness,” our third Tenet. This gives rise to the holistic, integrated, wrap-around style of service projects inspired by Bernie’s vision.

In speaking about the Three Tenets as separate practices and phases of consciousness, we are making deference to the discriminating mind. They are actually a continual flow, each containing and giving rise to the others.


Bernie Glassman on the Three Pure Precepts

Dogen Zenji says of the first pure precept, “Ceasing from evil is the abiding place of laws and rules of all buddhas.” This abiding place is the state of non duality, of notknowing and nonseparation. The Sixth Ancestor of Zen defines zazen as the state of mind in which there is no separation between subject and object – no place between you and me, up and down, right and wrong. So we can also call this precept “Returning to the One.”

It’s a very difficult place to be in, this place where we don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. It is the place of just being, of life itself. How many of us can say that we are open to all the ways of all lives? How many of us can say that we don’t have the answer? How many of us can say that every way that’s being presented is the right way?

The question for me is, what forms can we create in modern society that will be conducive to seeing the oneness of life? What are the forms that will make it easier for us to experience that state of nonduality?

Zen is a practice that pushes us to realize what is. To me, zazen is a form of bearing witness to life, of bearing witness to the elimination of the denial of the oneness of our life. As human beings, each one of us is denying something. There are certain aspects of life we do not want to deal with, usually because we are afraid of them. Sometimes it is society itself that is in denial.

Zazen allows us to bear witness to all of life. To me, that is the essence of the second pure precept, doing good. Dogen says, “Doing good, this is the dharma, supreme enlightenment. this is the way of all beings.”

Bearing witness to things we are denying or that society is denying, bearing witness to the things we don’t want to deal with – this is the second precept. When we bear witness, we open to what is, as we learn. The things that we are in denial about teach us. We don’t go to them to teach them. When we can listen, when we can bear witness, they teach us.

Photo by Peter Cunningham

Photo by Peter Cunningham

For me, the flowering of zazen is the third pure precept, doing good for others. Dogen says, “This is to transcend the profane and to be beyond the holy. This is to liberate oneself and others.”

What good is it if we just make ourselves more holy? What’s the point? The point is to serve, to offer, to be the offering. Of itself the fruit is born. So we don’t have to worry about what to do. If we cease from evil, if we become that state of unknowing, if we become zazen, the offering will arise. The fruit will be born.

The question always comes up: how do we bring our Zen into our life? But Zen is life. What is there to bring? And into what? The point is to see life as the practice field. Every aspect of our life has to become practice.

I was trained in a traditional monastic model whose forms are conductive to the state of not-knowing. The question for me is, what forms can we create in modern society that will be conducive to seeing the oneness of life? What are the forms that will make it easier for us to experience that state of nonduality? Almost anything we do will cause more dualistic thinking. How do we lead ourselves, our brothers, and our sisters into a state of nonduality? That’s the question. That’s the koan.

(Adapted from a dharma talk by Roshi Bernie Glassman as published in Shambhala Sun, May 2013)

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