Divided into a series of distinct steps that will lead spiritual seekers toward enlightenment, How to Practice is a constant companion in the quest to practice morality, meditation, and wisdom. This accessible book will guide you toward opening your heart, refraining from doing harm, and maintiaining mentaltranquility as the Dalai Lama shows you how to overcome everyday obstacles, from feelings of anger and mistrust to jealousy, insecurity, and counterproductive thinking. Imbued with His Holiness' vivacious spirit and sense of playfulness, How to Practice offers sage and practical insight into the human psyche and into the deepest aspirations that bind us all together.
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About the Author
His Holiness frequently states that his life is guided by three major commitments: the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness, the fostering of interreligious harmony, and securing the welfare of the Tibetan people, focusing on the survival of their identity, culture, and religion. As a superior scholar trained in the classical texts of the Nalanda tradition of Indian Buddhism, he is able to distill the central tenets of Buddhist philosophy in clear and inspiring language, his gift for pedagogy imbued with his infectious joy. Connecting scientists with Buddhist scholars, he helps unite contemplative and modern modes of investigation, bringing ancient tools and insights to bear on the acute problems facing the contemporary world. His efforts to foster dialogue among leaders of the world's faiths envision a future where people of different beliefs can share the planet in harmony. Wisdom Publications is proud to be the premier publisher of the Dalai Lama's more serious and in-depth works.
Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D., served for a decade as the interpreter for the Dalai Lama. A Buddhist scholar and the author of more than thirty-five books and translations, he is emeritus professor of Tibetan and Buddhist studies at the University of Virginia, where he founded the largest academic program of Tibetan Buddhist studies in the West.
Read an Excerpt
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.
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,
Table of Contents
Foreword by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.vii
Introduction: The Need for Peace and Kindness
I. THE BASICS
1. Three Ways to Practice
II. PRACTICING MORALITY
2. Identifying the Scope of Suffering
3. Discovering How Trouble Starts and Stops
4. Refraining from Harm
5. Extending Help
6. Aspiring to Enlightenment
III. PRACTICING CONCENTRATED MEDITATION
7. Focusing the Mind
IV. PRACTICING WISDOM
8. Examining How Beings and Things Exist
9. The Middle Way
10. Mind and the Deep Nature of Mind
11. Deity Yoga
VI. STEPS ALONG THE WAY
12. Overview of the Path to Enlightenment