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Home Our Founder The Mentor of Master Cheng Yen A Glimpse into His Thoughts - The key points in practicing Buddhism:this moment, this place, this person

A Glimpse into His Thoughts - The key points in practicing Buddhism:this moment, this place, this person

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Article Index
A Glimpse into His Thoughts
The key points in practicing Buddhism:this moment, this place, this person
The key points in spiritual cultivation:the Three Immeasurable Studies ofprecepts, contemplation, and wisdom
Facing social chaos:doing your best
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The key points in practicing Buddhism: this moment, this place, this person

Master Yin Shun's Teaching:

Many Buddhists have learned to focus on chanting the holy name of Amitabha Buddha in the hope of reaching the Western Pure Land. They seem to believe that the sooner they exit this earthly world, the better everything will be.

The truth is that, in practicing Buddhism, we must capture and advocate its true essence right at this time, in this place, and for all people. Do not forget to put what we have learned from the Buddha's teachings into practice in the very place we live and at this very moment.

No one is an island in this world. All of our lives are intertwined. Thus, learning to behave as the Buddha in our everyday lives will bring benefits to ourselves and everyone around us.

When you compare this society with the ideal one described in the Buddhist sutras, how do you feel?
As recently as 70 years ago, the practice and expression of Buddhism in China was flawed and distorted. Most spiritual cultivators of the time were concerned only with their own spiritual advancement. They practiced Buddhism to enrich themselves, admired recluses searching for enlightenment apart from society, and worshiped those purporting to possess supernatural powers. Many also believed and engaged in such activities as praying and consulting oracles, building temples, attending repentance rituals and other Buddhist ceremonies, and seeking blessings from the "divines." Some monks with little or no understanding of the Buddha's teachings even led the same lifestyle as laypeople.

I knew they were not following the Buddha's teachings. Their practice of Buddhism was not what the Buddha had intended and I felt uneasy about it. I wanted to find the source of their misconceptions and their misguided behavior. Buddhism is so wonderful, but what had led these people to behave that way, so far off the mark? Did such deviation originate in China or had it already occurred in India? I wanted to find out. I wanted to rectify these misunderstandings so that the true teachings of the Buddha could manifest themselves again.

I was very touched when I read in the Ekottara-agama that, "Many buddhas attain buddhahood in this world. They do not accomplish this in heaven." [Heaven is just another destination in the cycle of reincarnation, and heavenly beings also eventually die and are reborn in another life. Since there is no suffering in heaven, residents cannot earn merits by helping each other and thus cannot attain buddhahood.] In other words, you shouldn't practice Buddhism with the hope of rising to the heavens. Only in this world can you practice Buddhism and eventually attain buddhahood [thus breaking free from the cycle of reincarnation].

It follows that Buddhist practice cannot be solely limited to meditating and attending Buddhist ceremonies to the exclusion of everything else. Other legitimate approaches to living as the Buddha intended include vowing to seek a bodhi mind (bodhicitta), engaging in acts of charity, abiding by the precepts, demonstrating tolerance, showing diligence in all things, and seeking wisdom.

The correct spiritual practice of Buddhism can start from cultivating a deep vow of altruism, showing strong compassion for all living things, and trying your best to do things that benefit others.

How can "humanized Buddhism" be realized by monks and nuns as well as by the laity at home?
Those practicing Buddhism should benefit themselves with meditation and the search for wisdom, and benefit others with benevolence and compassion. Benefit yourself by using wisdom to purify your mind and tame your worries. Benefit others with all sorts of good deeds; however, do so without expecting any merits or blessings in return.

The work of promoting the Buddha's teachings is not reserved for only monks or nuns. Laypeople who have a profound understanding of Buddhism can also do so. You should help your family members believe in Buddhism first. After that, you can reach out to influence your friends, and eventually people in all of society.

For example, laypeople practicing Buddhism at home should keep their own families in harmony. It runs against the Buddha's teachings for husbands and wives to bicker and quarrel. Practicing Buddhism means walking on the Path of the Bodhisattvas--offering material goods to the poor, comforting the sick who have lost hope, and cheering people up when they are tortured with worries and hardships. Play the role that is appropriate for you and help however you are able. Gradually your merits will accumulate to the point of attaining the buddhahood.

Many people who study the Buddha's teachings have only one objective in mind--to reach Amitabha Buddha's Western Pure Land. This approach is fine, as far as it goes. However, their lives there will be dull because there are no good deeds to perform in that realm.

Are temples the only appropriate venues for practicing Buddhism?
The Buddha's teachings are omnipresent in this world. Thus, observing proper manners in society is in itself a way of practicing Buddhism. This includes respecting our parents and being courteous to our brothers and sisters.

Imagine someone who devoutly helps others and volunteers at temples but returns home and throws temper tantrums with his family for no apparent reason. Although this person practices Buddhism quite rightly in the temple, does this give him an excuse to behave inappropriately at home? This is an example of forgetting to be always humble and respectful once we start to behave like the Buddha. Buddhism should be appropriately practiced wherever you are, not just in a temple.

A taxi driver once asked me how to practice Buddhism, and I told him to act like a good Buddhist by driving mindfully. Perform your own duties earnestly. It is just as simple as that.

You once said: "You should derive a proper faith from the Three Treasures and Right View. This belief leads to Right Behavior, which in turn leads toward the Buddha's Way. You should promote and protect Buddhist dogma, and help others as you help yourself." Many people use this to guide their practice of Buddhism. Can you elaborate on this?
Those practicing Buddhism need to have a devout belief in the Three Treasures: the Buddha, the dharma (his teachings), and the sangha (the assembly of monks or nuns). This belief comes first from a proper knowledge and understanding of the law of cause and effect [everything that happens to us is the result of something we did before], followed by a realization of the proper ways to cultivate spirituality.

Without the guidance of Right Understanding, you can easily lose sight of the real object of your belief. In the absence of a Right View of the Buddha's teachings, you can only blindly follow the crowd, worshiping busily and aimlessly at certain temples or following certain monks simply because they're the latest fashion. In this case, your faith becomes nothing more than superstition. This approach is misguided from the beginning because of the lack of Right View. Right View leads to Right Behavior. Only in this way can you truly vow to seek a bodhi mind in order to cultivate yourself and benefit others.