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How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life (His Holiness the Dalai Lama)by Dalai Lama
Chapter One: Three Ways to Practice
Buddha's Enlightenment as a Model
According to some Buddhist schools, Shakyamuni Buddha first became enlightened in India in the sixth century b.c., through practice of the path. Others, however, believe that Shakyamuni Buddha had achieved enlightenment long before and that in his sixth century b.c. incarnation the Buddha was merely demonstrating the path. In Tibet, we take the latter view, and followers learn from his example how to practice in order to achieve enlightenment themselves.
In either case, we need to notice that:
In the Buddha's life story we see the three stages of practice: morality comes first, then concentrated meditation, and then wisdom. And we see that the path takes time.
Developing the mind depends upon a great many internal causes and conditions, much like a space station depends on the work of generations of scientists who have analyzed and tested even its smallest components. Neither a space station nor an enlightened mind can be realized in a day. Similarly, spiritual qualities must be constructed through a great variety of ways. However, unlike the space station, which is constructed by many people working together, the mind must be developed by you alone. There is no way for others to do the work and for you to reap the results. Reading someone else's blueprint of mental progress will not transfer its realizations to you. You have to develop them yourself.
Cultivating an attitude of compassion and developing wisdom are slow processes. As you gradually internalize techniques for developing morality, concentration of mind, and wisdom, untamed states of mind become less and less frequent. You will need to practice these techniques day by day, year by year. As you transform your mind, you will transform your surroundings. Others will see the benefits of your practice of tolerance and love, and will work at bringing these practices into their own lives.
The Three Practices
Buddha's teachings are divided into three collections of scriptures:
In each of these scriptures, the main practice is described as an extraordinary state that is created from the union of (1) "calm abiding" (concentrated meditation) and (2) "special insight" (wisdom). But in order to achieve such a union, first we must lay its foundation: morality.
Order of Practice
Morality, concentrated meditation, and wisdom — this is the essential order of practice. The reasons are as follows:
In my own experience, taking the vows of a monk called for fewer external involvements and activities, which meant that I could focus more on spiritual studies. Vows to restrain counterproductive physical and verbal activities made me mindful of my behavior and drew me to inspect what was happening in my mind. This meant that even when I was not purposely practicing concentrated meditation, I had to control my mind from being scattered and thus was constantly drawn in the direction of one-pointed, internal meditation. The vow of morality has certainly acted as a foundation.
Looking at the three practices — morality, concentrated meditation, and wisdom — we see that each serves as the basis for the next. (This order of practice is clearly demonstrated in the Buddha's own life story.) Therefore, all spiritual progress depends on a foundation of proper morality.
Copyright © 2002 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Jeffrey Hopkins,
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