BEHAVIOUR IN DAILY LIFE
"Do not commit any unwholesome actions,
Accumulate virtuous deeds,
Tame and train your own mind."
WHY LEAD A SPIRITUAL LIFE?
Once the Buddha addressed his diciples thus:
"Monks, it may be that ascetics belonging to other sects
will ask you what is the purpose of leading a spiritual life
under the Buddha.?"
The monks remained silent.
Then the Buddha himself gave the answer: "You should answer
them: it is to understand things that should be fully understood
that we lead a spiritual life under the Buddha. So what things
should be fully understood? They are the five aggregates of
clinging: material form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations
From this incident we can see that the path laid down by the
Buddha is essentially a path of understanding. The understanding
aimed at is not merely conceptual knowledge or a collection
of information. Rather, it is an insight into the true nature
of our existence. This understanding brings liberation, the
release of the mind from all bonds and fetters and issues in
the cessation of suffering (Dukkha).
The Buddha offers us the teachings (Dhamma) as a search light
that we can focus on our own experience, in order to understand
it in correct perspective. To understand our experience or our
existence, involves two steps:
We have to look into the makeup of our being to see what
our existence consists of, we have to take it apart mentally,
to see how it works, then put it together again and see how
it holds together.
We have to examine our experience in order to discover its
most pervasive features, the universal characteristics of
From: The True Nature of Existence
- By Bhikkhu Bodhi (slightly edited)
The basis of Buddhist practice is not merely sitting in silent
meditation, but common sense. If we behave arrogant and selfish,
what can we expect from the people around us?
A nice explanation from Taming
the Mind by Thubten Chodron:
"After your morning meditation, have breakfast.
Greeting your family in the morning is also part of Dharma practice.
Many people are grumpy in the morning. They sit at the breakfast
table, pouring over the newspaper or reading the back of the cereal
box for the umpteenth time. When their bright-eyed children greet
them, they grunt and, without looking up, keep reading. When their
partner asks them a question, they don't respond, or they glance
at them for a moment with a look that says, "Don't bother
me." Later, they wonder why they have problems in the family!
.... It's easy to bark orders at your children, "Get up!"
"Brush your teeth!" "Why are you wearing that?
It looks terrible! Change clothes!" "Stop playing around
and eat breakfast." "Hurry up and get to school. You're
late." Many children will react as unruly subordinates when
treated in this way. But if you greet your children with love
and firmly help them navigate everything in their morning routine,
they'll be happier and so will you."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama from A
Policy of Kindness:
When we practice, initially, as a basis we
control ourselves, stopping the bad actions which hurt others
as much as we can. This is defensive. After that, when we develop
certain qualifications, then as an active goal we should help
others. In the first stage, sometimes we need isolation while
pursuing our own inner development; however, after you have
some confidence, some strength, you must remain with, contact,
and serve society in any field -- health, education, politics,
There are people who call themselves religious-minded,
trying to show this by dressing in a peculiar manner, maintaining
a peculiar way of life, and isolating themselves from the rest
of society. That is wrong. A scripture of mind-purification
(mind-training) says, "Transform your inner viewpoint,
but leave your external appearance as it is." This is important.
Because the very purpose of practicing the Great Vehicle is
service for others, you should not isolate yourselves from society.
In order to serve, in order to help, you must remain in society.
ETHICS AND VOWS
Many of us may be hesitant to read about ethics
and morality, but according to Buddhism, our lack of self-control
is the very thing that leads to our problems. Hopefully, the large
amount of rules and vows will not stop you to investigate what they
are all about; they should not just be accepted and followed, they
must be understood and then you may automatically find yourself
living according to them.
The main practice in Buddhism evolves around transformation
of one's own mind. The main means to accomplish this is via meditation
as one needs to know the 'enemy' inside before one can efficiently
subdue it. However, without the causes for positive results in terms
of karma, spiritual progress is impossible. For example,
you may plan to do a meditation retreat, but you fall sick instead
because of some negative karma ripening, and no retreat will happen
at all. Hence, the practice of ethics and positive behaviour prevents
us from creating negative karma and will enable our spiritual progress.
Ethical behaviour is said to be at the basis of
any spiritual path. A life filled with killing, stealing and lying
is certainly not very conducive to inner peace and the generation
The Buddha explained the 8-Fold Noble Path (correct thought, speech,
actions, livelihood, understanding, effort, mindfulness and concentration)
as a guideline to proper conduct.
If you desire to achieve Buddhahood in order to help all others,
then you can also try the practices of a Bodhisattva: the
6 Perfections ( the perfection of giving, ethics, patience,
effort, concentration and wisdom).
In other pages of this website more details can
be found on the various sets of Buddhist vows (see the pages on
Precepts and Tantra).
Vows are intended to keep ones' mind focussed on mindfulness of
our mental and physical actions. Moreover, keeping to vows creates
a large store of positive energy (karma) which allows progress on
the spiritual path. For example, if one does not kill without having
taken a vow, one simply does not create any karma. However,
when one has taken a vow not to kill, one accumulates positive karma
24 hours a day, as long as one does not kill.
The bottom line for all these practices is to control
our mind and intentions; to change our behaviour into not harming
others, but helping them instead.
"Conquer the angry man by love.
Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.
Conquer the miser with generosity.
Conquer the liar with truth."
The Buddha (The Dhammapada)
BUT I NEVER DO TERRIBLE THINGS...
"Please don't hurt others...
Please try to work with people and be helpful to them.
A fantastically large number of people need help.
Please try to help them, for goodness sake, for heaven and earth.
Don't just collect Oriental wisdoms one after the other.
Don't just sit on an empty zafu, an empty meditation cushion.
But go out and try to help others, if you can.
That is the main point...
Your help doesn't have to be a big deal.
To begin with, just work with your friends and work with yourself
at the same time.
It is about time we became responsible for this world."
Chogyam Trungpa, from "Great
Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala"
Two psychological/sociological experiments
1. Please take some time to reflect on a famous
scientific experiment done in 1963 by Stanley Milgram:
Test persons came after an advertisement: "Join a memory experiment,
one hour for 4 dollars". It was explained that the people were the
"Master" of the experiment, and the "real" test person
was in another room, connected to electroshock equipment. The research
was to verify if people learn better when being punished. Whenever
the other gave a wrong answer to a question, the Master should push
a button to give a shock. To clarify what the other person was undergoing,
the Master was given an very unpleasant shock of 45 volts. Every
time when the other person would answer wrongly, shock must be given,
15 Volts higher than the previous one, from 15 to 450 Volts. The
other person could be heard, and would be screaming and banging
the walls at shocks over 300 volts. At the highest voltages, the
other could not be heard anymore.
The crux of the experiment: the "other person" in the room next
door was an actor, not receiving any shocks at all, the real test
persons were the masters giving the shocks and the experiment was
about how far they would be prepared to go.
The truly shocking about this experiment was that two-thirds of
the test persons would continue (though often sweating and nervous)
after some simple assurances from the test leader that they should
continue in order to make the test work, until the maximum shock
of 450 Volts was given. This means that as much as two-thirds of
people are potential torturers who merely need a little encouragement
and 4 dollars per hour! The experiment did not clarify if people
are really bad, or just easily convinced by a man in a white coat,
but it does make one think....
2. If you think the above is not representative
of normal human behaviour; please reflect on the following equally
disturbing experiment. (Recently a German movie; 'Experiment' was
made inspired by the findings of this
About 30 years ago, Professor Philip Zimbardo carried out this experiment
in Stanford University.
24 Students were put in a fictional prisonward (set up in the university)
and divided into two groups. The 'guards' became a uniform, a batton,
handcuffs and dark sunglasses. The 'prisoners', merely dressed in
shirts were put into cells. The professor intended to observe them
for 2 weeks via videocameras. However, already after 6 days the
experiment needed to be stopped, as the guards treated the prisoners
awful - the experiment had become dreadfully serious.
To quote from the conclusion: "We had created an overwhelmingly
powerful situation -- a situation in which prisoners were withdrawing
and behaving in pathological ways, and in which some of the guards
were behaving sadistically."
"Do your best and do it according to your
own inner standard - call it conscience - not just according to
society's knowledge and judgment of your deeds."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
THE EIGHT WORLDLY
The 8 worldly Dharmas are also known as 8 worldly
concerns or 8 worldly concerns. Avoiding these 8 mental states is
considered quite important in Buddhist practice. They describe the
ceaseless activities we develop towards short-term pleasures, which
often not even result in pleasure...
The Eight Worldly Dharmas are being concerned with:
Getting what you want, and avoiding getting
what you do not want
Wanting (instant) happiness, and not wanting unhappiness
Wanting fame, and not wanting to be unknown
Wanting praise, and not wanting blame.
From the point of view of karma, we usually behave
contrary to our goals, because in order to receive what we
want, we need to give others what they want. To avoid getting
what we do not want, we should avoid giving others what they do
not want and so on.
This is a very good subject for meditation; you can ask yourself
- Do I often give others happiness or unpleasant
- Do I help others who are unhappy?
- How often do I blame people instead of praising them?
- What can I do with fame, what will it really bring me?
- What will be useful when I am about to die?
"Spiritual practice is difficult in the
beginning. You wonder how on earth you can ever do it. But as
you get used to it, the practice gradually becomes easier. Do
not be too stubborn or push yourself too hard. If you practice
in accord with your individual capacity, little by little you
will find more pleasure and joy in it. As you gain inner strength,
your positive actions will gain in profundity and scope."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
A story by Ven Master Hsing Yun, from Merit
"The Eight Winds Cannot Move Me
Su Dongpo (a famous Buddhist poet) of the Song Dynasty was assigned
to an official post at Guazhuo, which was situated at the northern
shore of the Yangtze River. Across the river, on its southern
shore, was Jinshan (Golden Mountain) Temple where Chan Master
Foyin presided. One day, Su Dongpo, feeling quite advanced in
his practice, wrote a poem and asked his attendant to send it
to Chan Master Foyin for verification. The poem went as following:
"Bowing with my highest respect
To the deva of devas,
Whose fine light illuminates the whole universe,
The eight winds cannot move me,
For I am sitting upright on the golden purple lotus blossom."
("The deva of devas" here figuratively refers to "the
Buddha", who is actually not a god, but surpasses all the
gods and is "Teacher of men and gods." The "eight
winds" are the eight worldly conditions - gain and loss,
fame and defame, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. "The
golden purple lotus blossom" is a symbol of purity and a
"throne" of spiritual attainment.)
After receiving the poem from the attendant and reading it, Chan
Master Foyin picked up the brush and wrote down one word as his
comment. When the attendant came back with the poem, Su Dongpo,
expecting words of praise from the Chan Master, quickly opened
it to read the comment. However, on that page, nothing was written
except the word "Fart!" ("Pi" in Chinese,
which means "utter nonsense") Upon seeing such an insult,
Su Dongpo was ablaze with the fire of anger. Immediately, he boarded
a boat and crossed the Yangtze River to argue with Chan Master
Before the boat even pulled onto the shore, Chan Master Foyin
was already standing there waiting for Su Dongpo. Upon seeing
Foyin, Su Dongpo said, "Chan Master, we are such intimate
Dharma friends! It is fine that you do not compliment my practice
or my poem. But how can you insult me like this?"
Innocently, as if nothing had happened, the Chan Master asked,
"How have I insulted you?" Without saying another word,
Su Dongpo simply showed the word "Fart" to Chan Master
Laughing wholeheartedly, the Chan Master said, "Oh! Didn't
you say that the eight winds cannot move you? How come you are
sent across the river with just a fart?" Hearing what Foyin
said, Su Dongpo was extremely embarrassed."
NO TIME TO PRACTISE...
"Your Holiness, it is a well known fact
that you are a very busy person with many demands on your time. Could
you advise a lay person with a home, family, and work demands
on how to develope a systematic pattern of Dharma practice."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
"My Western friends often ask me for the
quickest, easiest, most effective, and cheapest way of practising
Dharma! I think to find such a way is impossible! Maybe that is
a sign of failure!
We should realize that practising the Dharma is actually something
that needs to be done twenty four hours a the day. That's why we
make a distinction between actual meditation sessions and post
meditation periods, the idea being that both while you are in
the meditative session and also when you are out of it, you should
be fully within the realm of Dharma practice. In fact, one could
say that the post-meditation periods are the real test of the
strength of your practice.
Durning formal meditation, in a sense you are recharging your
batteries, so that when you come out of the session you are better
equipped to deal with the demands of your everyday life. The very
purpose to recharged batteries is to enable it to run something
isn't it? Similarly, once you have equipped yourself through whatever
practices you engage in, as a human being you can't avoid the
daily routines of life, and it is during these periods that you
should be able to live according to the principles of your Dharma
practice. Of course at the initial stage, as a beginner, you do
need periods of concentrated meditation so you have a base from
which you can begin. This is certainly crucial. But, once you
will be able to adopt a way of life where your daily activity
is at least in accord with the principles of the Dharma. So all
this points to the importance of making an effort. Without some
effort, there is no way we can integrate the principles of Dharma
in our lives. For a serious practioner, the most serious effort
is necessary. Just a few short prayers, a little chanting, and
some mantra recitation with a mala (rosary) are not sufficient.
Why not? Beceause this cannot transform your mind. Our negative
emotions are so powerful that constant effort is needed in order
to counteract them. If we practise constantly, then we can definitely
SECRET GOOD DEEDS
"When we are humble everyone is a potential
best friend and our generosity naturally grows. We want to do
things, to help out. A wonderful Zen tradition is called "inji-gyo,"
or secret good deeds. The virtue gained through performing a secret
good deed is believed to be immense. So, in a monastery, if one
watched closely, you might see a monk secretly mending another's
robes or taking down someone's laundry and folding it before the
rain comes. In our temple I often find chocolate spontaneously
appearing in my mailbox, or a beautiful poem, unsigned. This year
the Easter Bunny visited our Sunday service, leaving chocolate
eggs under everyone's cushions, even the one prepared for a visiting
Zen master. Sometimes the bathrooms are miraculously cleaned overnight.
And flowers spontaneously appear in a neighbor's yard, thanks
to the children in the temple. Secret good deeds. They are so
much fun. In their doing you can't help but smile."
Geri Larkin in "Tap
Dancing in Zen"
Modesty is the foundation of all virtues.
Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known
A noble heart never forces itself forward.
Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.
MEDITATE ALL THE
Ma, The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master:
"Practice now. Don’t think you will do
Dipa Ma stated firmly that if you want peace, you must practice
regularly. She insisted that students find time for formal meditation
practice every day, even if only for five minutes. If that proved
impossible, she advised, "At least when you are in bed at
night, notice just one in-breath and one out-breath before you
More importantly, in addition to formal sitting on the cushion,
Dipa Ma urged students to make every moment of their lives a meditation.
Some of us are busy people who find it difficult to set aside
any time at all. "If you are busy, then busyness is the meditation,"
she tells us. "Meditation is to know what you are doing.
When you do calculations, know that you are doing calculations.
If you are rushing to the office, then you should be mindful of
‘rushing.’ When you are eating, putting on your shoes,
your socks, your clothes, you must be mindful. It is all meditation!
For Dipa Ma, mindfulness wasn’t something she did, it was
who she was - all the time. Dipa Ma made it clear that there is
nothing wrong with lapses of mindfulness, with the mind wandering.
"It happens to everyone. It is not a permanent problem."
"There is nothing ultimately to cling to in this world,"
Dipa Ma taught, "but we can make good use of everything in
it. Life is not to be rejected. It is here. And as long as it
is here and we are here, we can make the best use of it."
... "Live simply. A very simple life is good for everything.
Too much luxury is a hindrance to practice."
... "If you bless those around you, this will inspire you
to be attentive in every moment."
Practising Dharma in Daily
Life - a teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Do have a look at the Frequently Asked Questions
page, I have tried to collect a fair number of ractical questions
Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others.
September 11, 2011