Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Buddhist I Ching: Reduction

Thursday has graced us with her presence again, so it's time for my second weekly Buddhist I Ching post. This week, my random I Ching hexagram is number 41, "Reduction."

From Thomas Cleary's translation of Chih-hsu Ou-i's commentary:

Once confusion is cured, from this point on one increases enlightenment and reduces mundanity. This is reduction in terms of contemplating mind. Those who contemplate mind believe that the realm of enlightenment is none other than all possible realms of experience; therefore "reduction with sincerity is very auspicious and impeccable."


Even though there are two bowls, they can still be used for presentation; it is only a matter of the right timing of each, it being important to go along with the time.

Folks who are students of the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch will recognize the solidly Ch'an Buddhist outlook that the enlightened mind is little more than the mundane mind bereft of the illusion that it is anything other the enlightened mind.

I've always been fond of the Platform Sutra, with its staging of an illiterate worker possessing the secrets of enlightenment that have eluded the most learned monastics. It's a pattern that I've seen in other sutras, namely the Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti, an Indian tantric text in which a householder tells it like it is to bodhisattvas and disciples of the Buddha.

Since part of the genius of Ou-i's commentary on the I Ching is the realization that spiritual insight and social awareness can nurture one another, I'm tempted to see the "two bowls" passage in both lights.

As a Buddhist blogger, I hold both bowls in my hands. One bowl is used, hopefully at the right time, to destroy (reduce) my own preconceptions about Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or what have you, so I can see the people I am blogging about for the human beings that they are. The other bowl is used to help (increase) others' understanding of my position, despite their preconceptions about me.

As a left-libertarian blogger, the two bowls are also important. I need to be able to keep my own mind clear of preconceptions about the people whose stories are told on the web, in order that I might be able to show others that my political point of view has validity.

The difficult part is discerning the right time to do either. Most of us need to do a lot more work on ourselves before we can try to do any work persuading others. I land solidly in that camp.



P.S. Thanks to these folks for making the I Ching graphics!