Saturday, February 7, 2009

Austin Zen Center - Wining about Delusion.

I just went down to Austin Zen Center for the first time. I live on the outskirts of Austin and an obvious question is "why so late?" I've been mucking about with this Buddhism stuff for a year or so now, I'm glad I finally made it down to a local Soto group. The cool thing is that they now own a house that had been owned by Friends Meeting of Austin (Quakers), and I had attended that group when I was finishing up college at UT. I'm still on the books with them as a Quaker, and I guess that's fair enough. If Buddhism and Christianity have a cross over point, it's most probably at the Soto/Quaker border.

I was a little nervous but it all turned out well (who didn't see that coming?). I don't know why I stayed away for so long. I'm glad I went, and I plan to visit again. Maybe once a month or such, just to keep in touch with 3 dimensional sangha beings

{I put great stock in the virtual beings I interact with via this computer - It's the focus for a post of another day, but I really am not sure how to frame all of you out there that stop by from time to time. I know you are living, breathing people just like me, by I only get to experience you as words (ideas) on a screen... very strange}.

But what I saw down there that was really cool, really an eye opener for me, was in a small house across the street from the main building where they host their beginner's class on Saturday mornings. I has their library too, and some sort of resident someone (I'm no good with zen titles). In a little room where the run down the basics of sitting, I saw the precepts on the wall. It was a neat version that had the "negative" language in light blue larger font with a "positive" version in black between the blue lines. I thought, in itself, that was kinda cool. The traditional version preserved but a modern "positive" version presented as well.

But the cool thing was the wine precept. I've seen many translations of it, but all are about alcohol, or intoxicants, or something like that. This one said (for the old school large blue font, "negative" rendering)
"Do not sell the wine of delusion."
Finally, a take on that precept that make sense to me! I mean, it never quite jived as "Do not sell wine" or however its often presented. I mean of all the things you could do that are just a bad a wine, it didn't seem to really rank the top 10 of Buddhist practice. But as a poetic statement about the wine of delusion, it's really getting at something important. Don't go out 'there' and spin sweat tales of floating, or being one with all beings, or never having a worry again, or never needing to argue, or any of the other fluff that some interpreters say Zen offers.

Now, I don't know if there is any basis to this translation. The "will for the truth" detective in me is curious and will try to find some precedent for this interpretation, but even if it turns out this precept really is a warning against publicans*, it's 'accidentally' telling me something I think I was waiting to understand.


*Publicans - just in case you're not sure what I meant, is the title of someone who owns a pub... that is to say a seller of wines. It also happens to be a word from the old testament that means a person who collects taxes. There's probably an nice etymological story in that.


Jordan said...

This is probably not that important but:

Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

is usually translated as:

I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating substances which lead to carelessness.

Lauren said...

Thanks, Jordan. I think it *is* important.

So much of what a statement is purported to mean hinges on how it is translated, and translation is never perfect. Liberties/guesses are always taken.

For example, 6 words in the Pali (?) and 13 in English. It will be fun for me (but maybe not my readers) to see how this one precept is done up in different ways.


Jordan said...

I would be interested in what you come up with. Please share what you learn!

Anonymous said...

Been down that Quaker path myself not that long ago.

“If Buddhism and Christianity have a cross over point, it's most probably at the Soto/Quaker border.”

If you think this, you might want to check out this guy sometime:

Uku said...

Like Jordan, I would be also interested in what you discover!

Barry said...

Jordan is probably on-target, but I was thinking it had to do with:

The Whine of Delusions . . .

Which is where my head is at tonight.

Thanks, Lauren!