This week’s quote comes from the late John Daido Loori (1931 – 2009), founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order and Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in New York. Loori, who studied with Taizen Maezumi Roshi, was also an acclaimed photographer. You can see some of his breathtaking photos of the natural world here.
This quote comes from the book The Heart of Being: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism (which, by the way, is a wonderful book to read if you’re in the process of preparing to receive the precepts [ jukai]):
Because his experience as an astute social observer became interfused with his absolute wisdom, it is worthwhile to study [the Buddha’s] teachings about social and economic conditions in relation to spiritual practice and ethical life….
One of the central observations Buddha made about the breakdown of the social fabric is that poverty is the chief cause of immorality and crime. Theft, violence, hatred, cruelty, all result from poverty. It seems that ancient governments in India, like many governments today, tried to handle the problem of crime through punishment. They attempted to suppress it. Buddha said that attempts to control crime will ultimately be futile. This kind of control is like building a dam to hold back rising water. The barrier wil hold back the water, but the barrier will always need to be there, and there will always be the threat of the water’s spilling over or sweeping the dam away. Buddha said that if you want to eradicate crime, the economic conditions of people have to be improved.