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1 Hawthorne Religion Eastern- Tibetan Buddhism

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life (His Holiness the Dalai Lama)


How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life (His Holiness the Dalai Lama) Cover

ISBN13: 9780743453363
ISBN10: 0743453360
Condition: Standard
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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:

  • Shakyamuni Buddha was born into a life of pleasure as a prince in an Indian royal family. At age twenty-nine, upon seeing the suffering of the world, he gave up his royal position, cut his own hair, left his family, and took on the morality of a monastic, adopting a system of ethical behavior.

  • For the next six years he engaged in ascetic meditation for the sake of achieving concentrated meditation.

  • Then, under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, he practiced special techniques for developing wisdom, and achieved enlightenment. He went on to teach for forty-five years, and at age eighty-one, he died.

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.

Gradual Change

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:

  • The discipline of morality

  • The discourses on concentrated meditation

  • The manifest knowledge that explains the training in wisdom

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 order for the wisdom of special insight to remove impediments to proper understanding, and to remove faulty mental states at their very roots, we need concentrated meditation, a state of complete single-mindedness in which all internal distractions have been removed. Otherwise the mind is too fractured. Without such one-pointed concentrated meditation, wisdom has no force, just as the flame of a candle in a breeze does not give off much illumination. Therefore, concentrated meditation must precede wisdom.

  • Single-minded meditation involves removing subtle internal distractions such as the mind's being either too relaxed or too tight. To do so we must first stop external distractions through training in the morality of maintaining mindfulness and conscientiousness with regard to physical and verbal activities — being constantly aware of what you are doing with your body and your speech. Without overcoming these obvious distractions, it is impossible to overcome subtler internal distractions. Since it is through sustaining mindfulness that you achieve a calm abiding of the mind, the practice of morality must precede the practice of concentrated meditation.

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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megcampbell3, November 7, 2007 (view all comments by megcampbell3)
There are many levels of guidance and understanding in His Holiness The Dalai Lama's "How to Practice the Way to a Meaningful Life", making it more than practical. Since it is brought to us by HHTDL, this volume is also at turns as playful as the Dalai Lama himself, and, by his instruction, we couldn't possibly take it all too seriously and upset the balance of the nature of human spiritual practice. Even if you're not going to commit to a path toward enlightenment, this book offers, in steps of clarity, meaningful action that would improve anyone's existence.
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Product Details

Dalai Lama
Atria Books
Hopkins, Jeffrey
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Hopkins, Jeffrey
Dalai Lama, His Holiness the
Hopkins, Jeffrey PH. D.
Lama, Dalai
Jeffrey, Ph.D. Hopkins
Buddhism - General
Inspirational - General
General Religion
Religion Eastern-Buddhism
dalai lama; tibet; meditation; eastern; yoga; buddhism; his holiness; new age; spiritual; wisdom; religion; monk
Edition Description:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Publication Date:
August 2003
Grade Level:
7.12 x 5 in 7.525 oz

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How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life (His Holiness the Dalai Lama) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 240 pages Atria Books - English 9780743453363 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , His Holiness the Dalai Lama--Nobel Peace Prize winner and "New York Times" bestselling author--guides readers on a revitalizing journey toward wholeness in this wonderfully lyrical and practical volume.
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