Practical Companion – 23


So far, we have contemplated and reflected upon the imperfections of Samsara. Such reflections are meant to develop Right Views. (also known as Right Understanding). Similarly, understanding that our life is impermanent is to develop Right understanding. It helps us to recognize the Truth of our existential situations. This helps us re-prioritize our affairs on Earth.

In the same manner, recognising that our human existence is precious, encountering Buddha Dharma is rare, etc are Right Understanding or Right Views. This is one of the spokes of the Dharma Wheel. One of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Accompanying Right Understanding is Right Thought. These pair contribute Wisdom to our practice. Thoughts are not random and they are not uncontrollable. Our thought pattern is greatly driven by the experiences of our sensory organs. In that manner, if we expose ourselves to violent words, violent sights, etc, then we will probably have more violent thoughts. Similarly, exposure to lustful inputs will trigger lustful thoughts in our minds. Therefore, we have to manage our sensory inputs carefully. If we wish to be more inclined towards practice, then we should position ourselves to have more encounters with Dharma activities. As we can see here, it is an informed decision and we decide who we want to become. This may inevitably mean cutting ties with people of bad influence. For example, friends who encourage us to drink alcohol or consume drugs.

Managing the thoughts in our minds also requires conscious effort. When good thoughts arises, we want to encourage them. Thus, we think more along that line of thought. If bad thoughts arise, we want to stop thinking in that direction.

For a beginner, managing thoughts can be quite challenging because we lack the skills. Thoughts are likened to a flood of water where we found ourselves being swept away. Thus, we need the skills to stay afloat and swim ashore.

That skill is mindfulness and a focused mind. Without mindfulness, we won’t even be aware of the flood of thoughts sweeping us away. In other words, we do not know what is going on in our minds without mindfulness. For example, we can be swept away by lustful thoughts and without even realizing it, we are already at the stage of an incontrollable urge to act upon it. Thus, it seems like we cannot control ourselves. This is because our mindfulness is not there and by the time we are aware of our thoughts, it has already accumulated into a tsunami.

In order to have mindfulness, we have to practice meditation. When we practice concentrated meditation, it helps us understand or become aware of what it is like to have a thought-free mind. That will help is become mindful of thought arising in our minds. That way, we can manage our thoughts better.

Therefore, the Trio combination of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, is the skill that we need to develop. Just like any other skill, we need practice to perfect it. This process can be long and tedious. That is why we need patience with ourselves.

To develop patience with ourselves, we need to learn how to accept ourselves and deal with ourselves. Thus, we practice Metta Meditation. In that way, Metta is like a loving mother trying to discipline her child without losing her love and patience.

While all this is happening, we observe the 5 major precepts to prevent ourselves from doing anything extremely bad. For example, the precept of abstaining from Killing says, we should simply not kill another living being.

If we take a step back and examine the above, the practice of Buddha Dharma is a conscious effort based on an informed decision to change ourselves for the better.

May all be well and happy.

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