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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
SPRING 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 27 “Don’t eat a lot, don’t sleep a lot, don’t talk a lot,” because eating, speaking, and sleeping are the dangers for indulgence in monastic life. He wouldn’t let you have the chance to sleep, eat, or talk as much as you wanted, simply so you could see the craving for that kind of indulgence and release. This is not a sadistic practice, but one in which you have to be able to say, “Yes, I’m suffering. Why? Because of craving. Because I want something, or I want something I’m not getting, or I’m getting something I’m not want- ing.” This is the value of coming to monasteries and being with monastics, and having groups of friends who give energy to each other and act as kalyana mitta, or wise friends. We had this sense of going against the grain, just a little bit—not so much that it felt heroic or unsustainable but just going outside our comfort zones a wee bit. It’s in these situations that some real progress can take place. If you think of meditation as being confined to a particular posture, it can be very frustrating. So what, then, is our practice today? Well, our prac- tice in any day, whether we’re alone, with family, or at work, is to take care of the mind and protect it as best we can. This is why I recommend seeing practice in terms of what the Buddha called the four right efforts. First, we practice to prevent the arising of unwholesome dhammas that have not yet arisen. Second, we make the effort to deal with unwholesome dhammas that have arisen by skillfully and constructively reducing and elimi- nating them. The third area of work is to seek ways of instilling and manifesting wholesome dhammas that have not yet arisen in our hearts. Lastly, we don’t take those wholesome dhammas that have arisen for granted but seek to develop them as much as possible. The Buddha said that prior to his enlighten- ment, the two virtues that he depended on more than any others were unremitting constant effort and a lack of contentment with the wholesome qualities he’d already developed. Meditators need to be contented with material supports and discontented with the spiritual virtues and accomplishments they have already attained. In daily life, this is something that can be applied anywhere. For instance, when you have to go to a meeting or you have a particular task to per- form, you can consider in advance what kinds of unwholesome dhammas tend to arise: perhaps there’s a particular person you find selfish or conceited, so whenever you meet him, you feel irritated. This becomes your meditation. Your practice that day is asking the question, how can I spend an hour with that person with- out getting irritated with him, without feeling contemptuous of him? But in the case where you actually do get upset with somebody, you then consider what strategies you have. What practi- cal means have you developed or should you be developing to deal with that? Ask yourself: In the particular situation I’m going to face today— with family, friends, colleagues—what are the wholesome dhammas, the particular kinds of virtues I can be working on? Right speech, patience, kindness, compassion? Where should I be applying those qualities? How? And those qualities that I have developed—how can I take care of them, nurture them, and lead them even further onward? These aspects of dhamma mentioned above give a very wide and comprehensive grounding and structure for practice. Formal meditation techniques are essential in that they are a con- centrated form, one in which you temporarily put aside all distractions, and they give a power and an uplift to the mind that will enable the application of the four right efforts in daily life to be successful. But at the same time, the more you put effort into these four areas in daily life, the more you’ll enjoy and benefit from meditation. Thus you are finding ways of fine-tuning your motivation so you begin to trust that the results of that right wise effort will manifest in your practice as a natural consequence.