Many years after the death of Shakyamuni Buddha (the historical Buddha), Buddhism continued to spread across the face of Asia, evolving in different ways as it moved. The beginnings of Zen as a distinct sect of Buddhism can be traced to a reformer who began teaching in China in the late Fourth century C.E., a time when Chinese Buddhists showed more interest in debating philosophy and reading complex texts than in finding the Truth within. This teacher, Bodhidharma, is remembered for his emphasis on disciplined meditation practice and the importance of direct personal experience. Zen continued to evolve, and by the time it reached Japan in the 13th century, there were several Zen schools with different styles of training. One of these was Soto Zen. This was the tradition Dogen taught, and the tradition which we follow today. Like Bodhidharma, Dogen reformed Zen in Japan during the 13th century.
An important teaching in Soto Zen is that every thought, word, and action is part of our spiritual life, whether or not we choose to acknowledge them as significant. The practice of Zen is fully developed when all aspects of life are integrated into a deep awareness and the wisdom of the Buddhist moral precepts guide us naturally. In Soto Zen, ongoing growth toward this integration comes from the continuous practice of the three pillars of “sila” (morality), “dhyana” (meditation), and “prajna” (wisdom). We cultivate these in everyday life with zazen practice, which strengthens concentration and opens the mind to the truth; work, which encourages vigor and develops capacity for mindful action; and the study of Buddhist principles and Precepts, which cultivates selflessness in thought and action.
Refuge in the Three Treasures:
The Three Pure Precepts:
4. Avoiding all evil acts
5. Doing all good acts
6. Embracing and benefiting all beings
The Ten Major Precepts:
7. Not killing
8. Not stealing
9. Not indulging in sexual greed
10. Not speaking falsehood
11. Not misusing intoxicants
12. Not talking of the faults of others
13. Not praising oneself nor slandering others
14. Not begrudging the dharma or materials
15. Not being angry
16. Not slandering the Three Treasures
The First Noble Truth is that life is characterized by suffering.
The Second Noble Truth is that attatchment to ego-centered desires is the cause of suffering.
The Third Noble Truth is that there is a way to end the suffering.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the path that leads to refraining from the things that cause us to suffer. This path is the path of Eight Right Practices.
The Path of Eightfold Right Practices:
1. Right View
2. Right Thinking
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration