Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Zen lesson for the day: Follow the rule of law

So, I got a traffic violation for doing a California stop through a stop sign yesterday - I had no plausible reason for doing it - the police officer even asked me if there was an emergency. I didn't have a good explanation other than it was habit for me, so he gave me a huge-ass ticket.

I was mad about it for about an hour afterwards, but when I got home and hit the comfy chair I had a chance to think on it, and realized that it was my responsibility to follow the laws as they are laid out for motor vehicles. There are a lot of pedestrians near that intersection - it is on a back road, though, so I think nothing of blowing through through the stop sign as I am turning into the Publix parking lot, which is right next to it. The cop was waiting across the street and had me dead to rights.

 So why do I consider this a Zen lesson? Because of something my precepts teacher, Thom Pastor, said about the precepts; know when to keep the precepts and when to break them. This is important, because I believe it is a fundamental philosophy in Buddhism. Buddhists may seem wishy-washy and opportunistic because of this, but really, it's because we are highly adaptable. So, "know when to keep the precepts" I think it means that we have sets of rules that we follow that benefit all beings - don't kill, don't get so drunk you do things that are harmful to yourself or others, and three others that I can't recall because I'm pulling this out of my butt (and welcome to my world). "Know when to break them" is the fail-safe we have for contingencies where not following the rules ultimately benefits all beings; if I had been blasting through the stop sign because I had a pregnant woman in the throes of labor who needed to get to a hospital, it might be considered understandable for me to break the law.

But there was no emergency; I was not helping to shepherd new life into the world. The cop, like I said, even asked me if there was an emergency. So, I broke the law when it was not of benefit to anyone, and may have endangered some pedestrian's life in the process. Moral? Follow the rule of law.