Buddhism is a path to be practiced, rather than just a philosophy to spend time thinking about while giving wise-sounding answers to other people’s problems. On the most basic level, the practical approach of the Buddhadharma is known as the threefold training. The three folds are Sila, Samadhi and Prajna (Virtue, Meditation and Wisdom, respectively).
As to Virtue, it is trained by practicing various sets of precepts (which are practices rather than commandments), ranging from around 250 precepts for full Vinaya monks to just 3 “universal” precepts in some approaches. It all basically comes down to one – Don’t be an asshole. Keeping the 5 lay precepts is a good “compass” for most in times of moral doubt. If you find yourself in a dilemma, thinking back to these can give you a clear direction as to the best course of action.
Wisdom is a more complex matter. Prajna, the perfection of which is considered the highest achievement among all perfections, is not mere knowledge. It is not about intellectual understanding. Rather, it is the realization of the nature of reality as it is, and the simultaneous manifestation of perfect activity (the stage of “natural precepts”) that springs forth from this.
But how does one get there?
One must train in Meditation and achieve stable Samadhi, the only adequate tool for looking at reality in such a way that we can see it with perfect and utter clarity. Meditation is actually not quite a good enough word, as in our linguistic context many use it in the sense of “to meditate on something” or “X (e.g running, hiking) is my meditation” , which has nothing to do with the Buddhist yoga of mind.
To understand it better, we may look at two other cultures. In the Chinese, meditative practice is often spoken of as “Cultivation” (修行; Xiūxíng), and this is a very useful term. It brings up the image of a garden, where one cultivates what one sows. Sow positive seeds and nourish them, while plucking the weeds and preventing them. Mind training follows the same principle. The Tibetans, on the other hand, use the term “Familiarization” (སྒོམ; Gom) for the practice of meditation. It is the practice of familiarizing ourselves with reality as it is. The reality of our mind, the reality of existence.
Importantly, this shows us that success in meditation is not a matter of successfully stopping all thoughts and becoming a humanoid cactus. Rather, we learn to watch all that arises without immediately fusing with it, without attaching to it. What we do is watch how the mind moves from thing to thing.
Incredibly, we don’t actually have to fall into every little thing that arises, to react to each stimulus like a wild monkey. We can learn to rest our attention right in the “eye of the storm”, so to speak.
There are many techniques for achieving this, and here I share some of them. Most importantly, once you find a practice that speaks to you – stick with it. It won’t always feel good, but it is a cumulative business, so be consistent.
Doing a little each day is better than doing a ton once a week.
Here is a basic introduction and guided meditation practice you can do to get started:
When you’re ready to deepen you practice, start by reading about the Buddhist Training Program offered at the Bodhi&Bass Hermitage.
You can also take a deep dive into the following techniques and see which one speaks to you deeply:
If you need any support or guidance with your practice, always feel free to get in touch through the contact form. You will always get assistance, that’s my promise.
Enjoy your practice!
Rev. Mark Gilenson (ShenYun)