All Our Practice Efforts, Directed to the Cessation of the Taints
A Way of Living
“Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, ‘Fully released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'” (‘Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānātī’ti. 我生已尽, 梵行已立, 所作已作, 不受后有。)
The practice toward liberation is an arduous journey of individual transformation. It is also a sophisticated art to firstly build a foundation based on personal strength and weakness, and then work step by step for a strong and balanced personal development, which includes healthy eating, appropriate exercise, effective body energy flow, fine mind mastery, and strong concentration and wisdom. With commitment, patience, acceptance, and determination, we can challenge the powerful old habits that we develop over past lifetimes. We are capable of containing even the most intense fear and anxiety. Commit to practicing meditation regularly, and have enough energy and discipline to make the practices a part of our lives, we will begin a process of profound transformation, a journey down a path of awakening.
While long periods of silent retreat are wonderful, most of us don’t spend our lives in this mode—and even those who can go on retreats generally have to return to a normal and busy life between them. It is most powerful and most effective when practicing a way of living rather than a technique. It is not something we do; it is something that we are. In this way, we develop ourselves to the extent that it becomes our natural way of being. We will experience life fully and directly. This will transform our lives at every level with a deep sense of wholeness and potential for healing and transformation to be free. We will be able to experience emotions more directly and more purely, such as deep joy in small, everyday, ordinary things, in every moment.
Establishing a daily meditation practice is one aspect to make mindfulness a way of living. The training we provide will work best if you are willing to set aside regular time—ideally, every day—to cultivate the practices and principles it contains. While it’s great to go to a guided retreat, there’s no substitute for a personal home practice in which you can explore your body and mind at your own pace, under your own direction.
The practice is a natural interiorization of our attention from the denser, more easily felt and guided layers of our being to the more subtle energetic, emotional, and mental dimensions. Although we attend to the body and mind as a whole, that they are not separate entities, but are different aspects of an interpenetrating continuum of experience, fluidly exchanging moment by moment. We have to remind ourselves the training of mind goes first, and the physical/body second, just to support the training of the mind, as a baseline sense of groundedness and ease that supports a deepening meditation practice. On another extreme, we don’t adopt some hard-core Buddhist practitioners’ look on training on body as excessively sensual and body obsessed. We see moderate training on body and health as a support for and expression of meditative presence and awakening. Indeed, such training can always release knotted anxiety and melt fear and anger in the body accumulated not only through this life, but past lives as well. This practice can also teach us to embrace imperfection, to have compassion for all the ways things aren’t perfect, for our body and our lives. We learn to accept and to be present for exactly what is. Only when we can have compassion toward ourselves, so we can have genuine compassion toward others.
As we more and more venture into the territory of our inner consciousness, we will have intuitive knowledges and visions. This is natural and is the essential nature of the concentration strength of the mind. When it reveals certain knowledge and wisdom and can even be confirmed in real life, we tend to trust it. But be careful not to fully trust it, and don’t follow your vision. They are information relayed and interpreted by your subconscious mind. Just treat it as advice from your best friend, who is your subconscious mind in this case. This is because your subconscious mind contains all the kammas, the gravitational forces that pull us to the samsara world. It is against our goal of liberation to fully trust and follow them. Our training tries to emphasize important aspects of the mind training that can induce a happy life, and also lead to the cessation of taints to gain liberation from samsara. But they are not meant to be all inclusive and there is room to improve as well. Work on these suggestions, but don’t be rigid. Feel free to begin with whatever is calling you most. Be flexible. Let your unfolding practice guide you from inside.