When I took the Soto Zen Bodhisattva Precepts at the Zen Center of Philadelphia, my cohort of postulants read several books about the role of the precepts in our lives. On the list were books by John Daido Loori, Robert Aitken, Thich Nhat Hanh, and my personal favorite, Diane Rizzetto. It was a very comprehensive collection, but I wish I could add one title to the list, Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts by Reb Anderson.
This is the second book of Anderson's that I've read and really enjoyed (click here for my review of the the first, The Third Turning of the Wheel). What I admire and appreciate so much about his work is, in addition to his wisdom as a veteran Dharma teacher, his humility. Throughout his exploration of the Soto Bodhisattva Precepts, Anderson touches upon some of his own painful mistakes during his tenure as Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. It takes a lot of courage to do that, and given the book's title--Being Upright, meaning to sit with courage, openness, compassion and love for ourselves and all beings through all that life offers us--his life serves as a wonderful teaching.
My favorite example that he uses to demonstrate Bodhisattva love and action is a not about a Buddhist monk, but about a wildlife conservationist. This man dressed up in feathers to help with the mating process of a finicky whooping crane. When the eggs didn't hatch because they weren't fully developed, the man waited a year (whooping cranes mate only once per year) and then moved in and slept next to the whooping crane to keep her comfort! This time her eggs hatched and the chicks survived, all because of this man's love, commitment, and kindness to the preservation of this wonderful species. That is a true Bodhisattva.
For Dogen lovers, there are plenty of references to his work throughout the book. I recommend Being Upright to anyone about to take the Bodhisattva Precepts, regardless of the Zen tradition you practice; it was thorough, thoughtful, and extremely introspective.
I will close with a beautiful quotation from the book: "The teachings of all the buddhas is the teaching of the entire universe...It is to refrain from all evil, practice all good, and benefit all beings." I found this line very inspiring, and I hope you do too. May this article, like Anderson Roshi's book, help all beings.
Thanks to Linda Cogozzo at Rodmell Press for sending me a copy of the book to review.