In many western translations Kye (계) is interpreted simply as strictly adhering to the five precepts of no killing, no stealing, no lying, no sexual misconduct, and no intoxicants. But this is a tragic oversimplification of Kye (계). In Zen, Kye is a living principle, not a list of rules.
Kye is freedom — Not freedom of choice, but freedom from choice.
Like someone traveling through the woods on a windy night would guard the flame of his lamp, a Zen monk is to always be on guard to protect the living flames of Kye from ever blowing out. This is what it means to hold one’s Kye — or to protect one’s Kye — or to not let go of one’s Kye.
So what is Kye? Kye is a framework for looking at any given situation from a multitude of viewpoints. Kye avoids killing, not because it is adhering to the five precepts of Buddha, but because it can see clearly that it is wrong. Kye sees that all living beings want to live. Kye sees that as a living being, “I too want to live.” And because I want to live, other living things must also want to live. Therefore, I will not take this person’s life. But there is more. Kye then asks, “How would his father feel, if he lost his life? It imagines the pain of a father who just lost his son, and says, “wow, that’s really awful.” Kye also speculates what it would be like being his mother, his brother, his best friend, his cousin, his seventh cousin, his girlfriend, his neighbor, and so on and so forth. Kye also considers how Buddha would feel about it. The reason why Kye doesn’t kill is because from every possible angle, his conscience says no. It is NOT because it’s against the law to kill, or because it is against Buddha’s teachings, but because that is what his heart says. In fact, there are some exceptional circumstances wherein the only way to keep Kye would be to kill. ‘Killing a mad dog to protect the school kids’ is an example that Baba uses in the Discourses. Here is a situation where, if a Zen monk was the only able adult there, you would have witnessed a brutal scene of a Zen monk beating a dog to death in a schoolyard. An onlooker might say, “Boy, that poor monk broke his Kye,” but he’d be wrong. Kye (계) is a living Spirit. It cannot be written down. This is what Paul means when he says, “the letter brings death.” The reason why Kye cannot be written down is because in order to write it down, one would have to account for all possible situations. Such a rulebook would take more than all the paper in the world. The only way would be for one to keep his ‘Kye-wits’ about him at all times, ready for any situation. This is what it means to keep one’s Kye about him.
Baba addresses this issue in the Discourses in the section on Violence. “Spiritual life is a matter of perception and not of mechanical conformity to rules, even when these rules are meant to stand for the highest values.” Likewise, Kye is a perceptual framework, not a rulebook. Kye is not something one adheres to but something one assimilates into one’s perception. Kye is not a code of conduct that predetermines one’s reaction to a given set of situations. It is a framework of perception, wherein it is the situation that spontaneously determines the conduct. For one to hold Kye, one must think for oneself. Those who have outsourced their thinking, who rely on rigid rules made by others, lack the instant response time that Kye enjoys. Kye adapts to the situation. It is not a blanket prescription for a blanket of situations. Kye, like the Zen monk who appeared out of nowhere to beat the mad dog to death, does not know what it is about to do from one moment to the next. Kye stands in the moment, unhindered by any prejudices. If the Zen monk were reliant upon rules, he would have hesitated, and a kid could have gotten hurt. We all know how Baba feels about hesitation. Love does not hesitate. Love is spontaneous. Holding Kye is like being a wise judge, a responsible jury, and a perfect executor all in one, right here, right now, always ready to reflect instant decisions into spontaneous actions.
To broaden our perspective on Kye, let’s look at some other examples. A 16-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl meet each other in school and fall in love.
“Take me into your arms. You can have me, if you want,” says Juliet.
Romeo reaches for her hand. Holding her hand to his lips, he says, “I can’t do that.”
“Why not, don’t you love me?”
“Yes, I do, but what about your mom and dad?”
“What about them?”
“If I were a father, I would want my daughter to wait till she is married before lying with a man. Juliet, how would you feel if some 16-year-old boy eloped with our 14-year-old daughter? Are we to tell our children that it was OK for us, but they must wait till they are married? This would be setting a hypocritical example, and you know I cannot do that. Thus I have decided that I cannot go any further than holding hands with you until our wedding night. I’m sorry, but I can even see that the Buddha is happy with my decision. If you really feel you need to get laid, perhaps you should look for someone else. Cause you ain’t getting noth’n here until we are properly blessed by our parents and married.”
“What if they never approve?” Juliet interjects.
Romeo takes a moment to gather his thoughts. “If they don’t approve, then we cannot get married. How would you feel if your daughter wanted to marry a man who you did not approve of? How can we ask our children to obey us if we are to ignore the wishes of our own? I want to be able to tell my son that I went straight up to your father like a man, and while facing him eye-to-eye, asked him for his precious daughter’s hand in marriage. If he disapproves of me, I would ask him to specify the conditions required for his approval. I would tell my son about how I satisfied said conditions to earn your mother’s hand in marriage. I will tell him about how I vowed to his Grandfather with my life that I would take good care of his precious daughter as if she were my very own daughter. I will tell my son about how Grandpa came to see that I loved his precious daughter indeed, just as much as he did. We will tell our son that the happiest man at our wedding was your father. Because I must treasure you as if you were my own daughter in order to deserve your hand in marriage, we will need your parents’ heartfelt blessings, for our marriage to start on a good footing. Don’t worry love, just because your parents don’t approve, that doesn’t mean it’s the end. My love for you can wait until our next lives. Maybe in that life, our parents will approve, and we will be “meant to be together.” But I assure you of this, I will take no man’s precious daughter against his wishes, because this is against my Kye (계).”
On an interesting note, this is the reason why in many cultures, during the marriage ceremony, right before the vows are sown, the community is asked if there are any persons out there who have objections. If someone (not just the father or mother, but anyone in the community) sees an objection, he can voice it. If an objection is voiced, the wedding is instantly placed in a state of suspension, contingent on said objection being resolved. If it cannot be resolved, the wedding is suspended. If it can be resolved, the wedding, now blessed by everyone can continue. For the groom, the man of Kye, knowing that no one is harmed by his actions is of paramount importance. It is a matter of principle for him, more valued than life. He is both upset by the objection and relieved, for it is possible there is something he might have overlooked. The lady at the fruit stand says, “You have to settle your bill with us.” The man sitting next to her asks, “How much is it?” “Five dollars!” The man next to her—her husband— hands her the $5 and yells out “objection resolved!” Objection after objection is resolved in a flurry of laughter. The whole town blesses the wedding, literally, with tears of laughter.
Before the advent of “rules”, everyone had no choice but to operate in their Kye. Kye takes the ownership stance. Those who hold Kye own their lives, think entirely for themselves, and live in the moment. One cannot hold Kye, who does not live in the moment.
The difference between Kye and the Western version of the 5 precepts is that in Kye:
sometimes it is not only permissible to kill, but required;
sometimes it is not only permissible to lie but required;
thus to the man of Kye all possible options must be left open;
thus rules of conduct cannot be accepted;
Kye hasn’t decided what it’s about to do in advance. Kye decides on the spot.
Kye is like the “zone” that Michael Jordan steps into when he’s really on.
Kye is freedom — Not freedom of choice, but freedom from choice.
Kye cannot be yours until you make it yours, all yours.
You make it yours, you own it, then you try to sustain it, alive in you.
At higher levels the man of Kye sees others as his own and his own along with others.
Suspended, the man of Kye’s feet never touches the ground.
Kye follows a certain rational framework that cannot be articulated as rules. These laws that govern Kye are referred to as Natural Law in the West.
During the 18th century Natural Law was a hot topic on the mind of people all over the Western world, especially in the Colonies. Today it is virtually unknown by the masses. Natural Law is the basis for Common Law, which is the actual law of the land here in the United States. Yet, almost no one has heard of this. Over the centuries, Natural Law has been effectively removed from the annals of public consciousness, to the point wherein now-a-days hardly anyone knows what it means. According to Mark Passio, Natural Law is the most important information occulted (hidden) from public awareness. Natural Law can be said to be the Western counterpart for what is Kye in the East. So let’s set aside our Eastern way of thinking for a while and step into our Western shoes to examine Natural Law.
Romans 2:14-15: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”
Gentile is a term used by the Hebrews to refer all peoples that are not of their faith. Gentile basically means: Non-Jew. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul asks the question:
How is it that the Gentiles, who have not even been exposed to the laws of Moses, are so good? These are some of the most awesome people I’ve met. Yet, they are not subject to any moral code like we are. How is it that they do by nature that which all our moral teaching has failed to get us to do?
He answers the question by saying that the laws of God were written in their hearts. For Paul, as well as Augustine, this law that is written in every heart — is Natural Law.
Natural Law is that which you cannot not know. It is the very basis of our conscience. Augustine says that this law is written in the hearts of even the worst person we can imagine. He says: For hence it is that even the ungodly think of eternity, and rightly blame and rightly praise many things in the morals of men. And by what rules do they thus judge, except by those wherein they see how men ought to live, even though they themselves do not so live.
If God is a dreamer in Hinduism, in Judeo-Christianity he is the Law. Mani once said something like, ‘the best way to approach Baba is to approach him as if one were a lawyer.’ The legal aspect of God cannot be understood without first grasping the basics of law. Law requires an Author. The creator of the Law is thereby referred to as the Authority. Authority comes from the Latin word ‘Autor’, which means originator or creator. The next important thing that one needs to know about Law is that: Law is all about jurisdiction. If opening a restaurant is all about “location, location, location,” when it comes to Law, it’s “jurisdiction, jurisdiction, jurisdiction”. Jurisdiction specifies who or what is Subject to the Laws created by the Authority.
So what makes someone or something subject to laws? Why is a rock subject to the laws of gravity? Why are ghosts not subject to the laws of gravity? What is it that determines subjection? Subjection is a function of dependence. A rock is subject to the laws of gravity because it is dependent on gravity, while the ghost is not. In a household, the children are subject to the jurisdiction of the parents’ authority due to their dependence on the parents for survival. In Judeo-Christianity, because everything and everyone in the Universe depends entirely on God for its very existence and sustenance, this dependence justifies and establishes our subjection to God’s authority. Because everyone and everything depends on God for its existence, God’s jurisdiction is Omnipresent. When Baba speaks with what he calls his “Divine Authority,” what we have is a legitimate basis for authority, justified by total dependence of his subjects, establishing his jurisdiction — the Universe.
For our topic, the laws of nature can be divided into two parts: ‘the laws of nature’ and ‘natural law.’ The laws of nature automatically govern the behavior of what we call matter and energy. The laws of nature are understood as things like gravity, thermodynamics, quantum physics, etc. The laws of nature are Universal, inescapable, immutable, automatic, omnipresent, and eternal.
Natural Law is a bit different. It does not apply to animals, plants, or rocks. It only applies to human beings who have free will. Unlike an animal whose behavior is entirely governed by instincts, humans have the ability to think about it and chose a variety of actions. It is this ability to override our instinct and to freely determine our actions that brings morality into existence. Free will is what brings Karma into play. Animals don’t have Karma because they cannot choose their actions. But we can. According to this view, it would not have been fair for God to give us free will without giving us a way to know right from wrong. So he imprinted it in our hearts, so that no one couldn’t possibly not know it. This imprint is Natural Law. It is because Natural Law is inherent to us that we have a conscience. Without Natural Law, we couldn’t know right from wrong.
Like the Laws of Nature, Natural Law too is also Universal, immutable, omnipresent, and eternal. However, like the Laws of Karma, its jurisdiction only applies to beings endowed with ‘free-will.’ Natural Law is the basis for Karmic Law. Without Natural Law, Karmic Law would have no grounds for enforcement. It is the very root principle of Karmic Law, which then automates the delivery of consequences for all our deeds.
Baba says, “The operation of karma is the moral law of the universe, holding each individual accountable for his or her actions. It follows, then, that the fabric of the universe has an inherent rationality, and the law of karma is not an oppressive law, but the self-created condition of responsibility.”
The presence of this ‘inherent rationality’ in us is what Augustine refers to Natural Law. And it is the freedom to chose that brings forth the condition of responsibility.
Natural Law is simple—Very simple. So simple that any kid can think it through on his own and get it by himself, without ever being taught. There is no one who doesn’t understand Natural Law. Cicero, one of Augustine’s heroes says that ‘Natural Law is a moral principle we cannot not know, for it is written in our hearts.’ Natural Law is hardware — not software. It is the same in Athens as it is in Rome. It is the same today as it was a thousand years ago, and will be the same a thousand years from now. It is the same for man or woman, rich or poor. Unlike political law, which are the arbitrary rules made by man, Natural Law is the real law, the actual law, with real consequences, from which there is no escape. Natural Law is not something that can suffer modification or alteration. Everyone at all times is subject to natural law irregardless of whatever political law is dominant at that time. In fact, all man-made political laws that violate Natural Law are in fact null and void. The founding fathers who were Natural Law experts went as far as to say “it is a duty – a responsibility and a necessity – to overthrow any government that violates Natural Law.” FYI: Currently our government, and indeed all governments in the world are in clear, absolute, total breach of Natural Law in almost every possible way. So the question becomes, is it our duty to overthrow our government? For me the answer is yes and no. Yes, because it makes sense and I understand it; but No in the sense that God’s will is exactly the current state of the world, and God doesn’t need my help.
Now that we have a basic understanding of Natural Law, let’s dive deeper into its depths.
Natural Law should never be written.
In Corinthians Paul says, “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” So how is it that the letter kills? During his time Cicero saw the precarious tension which existed between the perspective of following the letter of the law and the ambiguous application of the spirit of the law. He argued that because the written letter of the law had a way of always superseding the very spirit of the law, that it should not be written. For example, Baba says that it is OK for a mother to steal if, having exhausted all her options, she is left with no choice but to steal in order to keep her child alive. Under the letter of the law, this is a punishable act. But under the ‘spirit’ of the Law, stealing in this case becomes a moral imperative, a necessary act, a duty for the mother — not at all a punishable act. Even a child knows this.
This was a hot topic for Augustine who wrote:
“I was delighted to hear Ambrose(Augustine’s Master) often asserting in his sermons to the people, as a principle on which he must insist emphatically, ‘The letter is death-dealing, but the spirit gives life.’ This he would tell them as he drew aside the veil of mystery and opened to them the spiritual meaning of passages which, taken literally, would seem to mislead. (Conf. VI.4.6)
Natural Law is that which that should not be written because, if taken literally, which is exactly what happens in every courtroom, it would mislead. In the same vain Lao Tzu says the “Tao that can be spoken (written) is not the Tao.” Having said this, let’s now try to capture the SPIRIT of Natural Law, in dead LETTERS. Natural Law is more or less:
1. Do what you say you are going to do.
2. Do not infringe on others or their property.
The first one is the basis for all contract law. The second one is the basis for all criminal law. Very simple. This is the basis for Common Law. In the US, Canada, England, and India, Common Law based on Natural Law is the “law of the land.” But what happens when you write it down is that over time, the dependence on the letter of the law ends up mowing over the spirit of the law. This is why we now live in a world where countless man-made laws upon laws that no longer make any sense to anyone rule over all aspects of our lives. By writing it down, we had lost the very spirit of Natural Law. The Spirit is not something that can be bound up in rules and regulations—the Sprit just IS.
Lao Tzu puts it this way:
The more laws and restrictions there are, the poorer people become.
The sharper men’s weapons, the more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are, the more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers.
Once I understood this, I found myself asking Baba: But what about Moses? Why did he deliver the Ten Commandments in writing? Didn’t he know the letter brings death? In Lord Meher, it is written:
In another private interview, Baba gave Dana an idea of the difficulty in following him: “Moses and Peter served me imperfectly, and you will too. They doubted and denied me, and you will doubt and deny me. Although Moses prepared the way for Jesus, he did not control his anger, and Peter literally denied his beloved.”
I couldn’t help but ask the question: could the Ten Commandments be part of that imperfection? When Jesus came, he immediately sacked the Ten Commandments with: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Then he made sure Paul understood exactly why. Having lost favor with God, Moses was told that he was no longer to lead the Jews. Put simply, he was fired, and then grounded. He was to live out the rest of his life in solitude, until, according to Baba, he received God-realization upon death. In Moses’ defense, while watching the movie “The Ten Commandments”, which Baba enjoyed, Baba said that Moses did indeed receive the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. In other words, it was God’s will that the Commandments were written.
Now that we’ve examined Natural Law from the subject’s point of view. Let’s take a look at it from the Author’s point of view.
For God, Law means Automation
For God, Law is all about automation. Gravity works automatically, instantly, with no error, and no lag time. Modern science has seen firsthand how awesomely accurate, consistent, and precise the movement of planets as well as sub-atomic particles are. For example, a modern astronomer could easily tell you exactly where Jupiter’s third moon was, at 4 A.M., on March 15, 500 B.C. This is because of the precision of automation inherent in God’s laws. Under Karmic Law, there is no so-called crime that can go unpunished. All actions will eventually and naturally reap exact consequences. Karmic Law is what automates Nature’s (or God’s) justice. God’s justice does not need our help. In God’s Universe, justice is something that is always (eventually) served. Injustice is, in essence, impossible in God’s Universe. Automation means that there is no operator necessary, because it runs automatically. Baba says, “Although the whole universe is illusion, yet it is governed by a law, a definite law; and that law deals with every detail. We cannot escape from the law of karma.”
In the same way the man of Kye is just responding to a set of circumstances automatically. He does it without pondering the results, his heart unhindered by the mind. Eruch was taught how to give speeches about Baba by Baba. Baba told him to go up on stage and while holding Baba’s name to open his mouth. Then the words will just come out spontaneously — automatically. And Eruch tells us it really worked every time. When we live in the Spirit of God, our actions naturally conform to God’s will, and our very lives become God’s will automated on earth. The man of Kye does not take the law into his own hands, but instead he becomes the living law —the very embodiment of God’s law on earth—like the Gentiles of Paul. In Taoism, this is referred to as ‘bringing the Tao down to Earth’.
Unlike man-made arbitrary laws, which are not laws anyway, God’s laws are laws because they can never be broken. If they can be broken they wouldn’t be laws. However, these laws can be supervened by higher laws, in quite the same way a higher court can overrule a lower one. Thus God’s laws are fractal in nature.
The mystery of the universe is hierarchic in structure. There are graded orders, one supervening upon the other. The spiritual panorama of the universe reveals itself as a gradient with laws upon laws.
For example, the Law of Karma supervenes over the Laws of Nature. This is obvious because Karma’s determination of where and when you are to be born must precede your birth. According to Baba, Impressional determinism is not an exception to causal laws, but is their finer and higher form. It supervenes upon mechanical causal laws. In other words, the laws of physics are supervened by Karmic law.
Baba speaks of an even higher law that supervenes Karmic law. He calls it the Law of Love. For God, even Love operates according to Law. Law means automation. For Him, love is automatic, i.e spontaneous. Yet, Baba speaks of “the lawless law of love.” Its a lawless law. Even a lawless law, technically is still a law. I love how Baba cooks our noodles. It is the mischievous mixture of spontaneity and automation. Such Automation gives us a perspective on existence wherein all of God’s laws, layer upon layer, work together automatically until all its dependent subjects are duly realized. We can imagine a totally automated process governing everything right up until the end, the likes of which only an infinitely intelligent being could possibly design. Every rock will eventually be realized — it is as good as done — for God is automation perfection. Baba adds:
It is through the systematic connection between cause and effect in the world of values that the moral order of the universe is sustained. If the law of karma were to be subject to any relaxation, reversals or exceptions, and if it were not strictly applicable in the domain of values, there would be no moral order in the universe.
To recap, Subjection is derived from dependence. If you are dependent on a king for your sustenance then you are rightfully subject to his authority, and thereby his authority has jurisdiction over you — provided he does not breach Natural Law. If you are no longer dependent on that king for your sustenance, then you are rightfully no longer subject to his authority, and thereby no longer subject to his jurisdiction. In Judeo-Christianity, which is the dominant paradigm for almost every legal system in the world today, we are subject to God’s authority and fall under his jurisdiction because we depend entirely on Him for our sustenance. And His Law, conveniently imprinted in our hearts, is called Natural Law, which is none other than our conscience, and the basic principle that governs Karmic Law. We discussed how Natural Law cannot not be known, and that even the worst among us cannot help but know right from wrong. We also saw that this Law should not be written, because the letter brings death, by superseding the Spirit of the law — which, like the Tao of Lao Tzu, cannot be written. We also saw that the Law of Karma is immutable, and, like gravity, will deliver with infinite precision exact consequences for all possible deeds automatically — because God’s laws work automatically without fail, without the need for human assistance or intervention in the form of political law—rendering all political law unnecessary.
The Letter bringeth death
The man of Kye is not adhering to Natural Law motivated by favorable consequences. He does not care for the results. He does what he does because that is what his conscience tells him, or what his heart tells him at that moment. Day and night, all he is doing is following his heart — spontaneously. Written Laws that specify consequences and punishments are where the Letter brings death at a whole new level. The “Be good or else you will reap the consequences” method of raising a child runs the risk of the child growing up to display symptoms of goodness, motivated primarily by fear — the worst possible reason. The child is essentially guided to “emulate the symptoms in order to bring about the cause.” No amount of emulating the symptoms can EVER bring about the cause. The child is behaving ‘good’ primarily out of a sense of duty. Baba says: “Sense of duty comes to the individual as an external constraint on behavior, but in divine love there is unrestrained freedom and unbounded spontaneity.” The external sense of duty constrains love from springing out from within. “Why were the Gentiles so good? They had no moral code. No sense of duty to be good. How could they be so moral?” asked Paul. It’s as if they were good for no reason at all! Baba says that the best reason for loving God is for no reason at all. The Gentiles were good because they felt like it. Because they wanted it. Not because they were taught to be good — or because they were forced to be good. They were good, not in order to gain favor with anyone, not even God. But most of all, they were good, not because they feared the retribution of unwanted consequences, but because they were just being themselves. As far as Paul could tell, they were good, for no external reason at all, but because the law was written in their hearts. This is precisely the point Paul is making in Romans 14-15.
This begs the question: If you just left your kid alone, will he grow up to be a good person? Will he be able to discover right from wrong, without being taught? Will he be able to find his way into becoming a wholesome person? Paul testifies in the Bible that the answer is yes. Natural Law is not written, it is revealed. It is inherent to all individuals. It need not be taught, forced, coerced, enforced, or even recommended. Lao Tzu would say doing nothing would be the best way to preserve it. I’m not saying we should ignore questions from our children about morality. Surely we can answer their questions by expressing our opinions, when asked. I see nothing wrong with this. But in my book, enforcing a moral dogma on a child robs the child of his sincerity. Once sincerity is lost, love becomes a burden, a duty, a heavy load, instead of what it could be: which is light, freeing, spontaneous, and thereby sincere. The child has lost the Spirit of love. Any reason we might have for loving someone can be deducted from how sincere that love is. Only when it has become reasonless can love be totally sincere. The “be good or else” method of childrearing robs the child of the very sincerity that love requires. He may try his best to Love but it will be of no avail. Baba says, “Love cannot be born of mere determination; through the exercise of will one can at best be dutiful. Through struggle and effort, one may succeed in assuring that one’s external action is in conformity with one’s concept of what is right; but such action is spiritually barren because it lacks the inward beauty of spontaneous love. Love has to spring spontaneously from within; it is in no way amenable to any form of inner or outer force. Love and coercion can never go together, but while love cannot be forced upon anyone, it can be awakened through love itself.” It couldn’t have been said better. The child, now grown up, must first see clearly his own absence of sincerity, and then come to understand clearly the cause of its absence to be coercion. He will see clearly that self-coercion can never bring about spontaneous love. He will see that he must stop coercing even himself to love God. He will see clearly that those who coerce themselves cannot help but coerce others; and that those who do not coerce themselves naturally do not coerce others. He will see clearly that moral codes imbued with consequences inevitably cage sincerity.
In a letter to the principal at the Catholic School Baba attended Baba states:
” These days there is too much stress everywhere on religion. Religion is the root-cause of all strife, both internal and external, and is the cause of all wars in the world.”
Religion in the form of ‘the letter’ is the ‘death-dealing’ at the root of all wars; and the ‘claims of the spirit’ will end all wars and bring forth to life Baba’s New Humanity.