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Some Basics

Buddhist living is rooted in thought of Buddha as given in ancient texts. A twofold basis is meditation and moral, sound living for happiness, thriving and development. Moral living is regulated by don'ts and dos. Some principles are for all, that is, for lay people, monks and nuns alike. In addition some are part of stricter codes of living for monks. There are many such regulations of old.

Five Precepts

By observing precepts, you may even cultivate your moral strength -

  1. Abstain from taking life;
  2. Abstain from taking what is not given;
  3. Abstain from sensual misconduct;
  4. Abstain from false speech;
  5. Abstain from liquors, wines, and other intoxicants, which are the basis for heedlessness.

In other words, abstain from wanton killing, from stealing; sexual misconduct; false speech; and intoxicants. These are wise main precepts for all to live by. Further details tend to be added in the expositions, and renderings and translations differ too.

Ten Good Deeds (Don'ts)

  1. Do not kill
  2. Do not steal
  3. Do not indulge in sexual misconduct
  4. No lying
  5. No double-tongued speech
  6. No abusive speech
  7. No irresponsible speech
  8. No greed
  9. No hatred
  10. No illusions

Greed is often a cause of wealth - and wealth is there to share and give away.

We had better not lose temper wrongly - but try to be calm and patient.

We could do ourselves much good by tactfully observe and think in an objective and rational manner, and thus avoid prejudice and misunderstanding.

If something is not given, one may not take it away by stealing, by force or by fraud. Bad effect of stealing include misery and much worse.

Sexual misconduct causes enemies, and union with undesirable mates too, in time.

Lying is basically a violation.

To take refuge in the Buddha, sincerely and voluntarily, is for getting fit inspiration and proper understanding. It is fine to study sutras and keep good company too. These three - getting lighted with inspiration from Buddha teachings; learning fine sutras; and keeping good company - are called the three jewels.

"Tame little" should be into the basics too. If the development from within is unhampered, results may be good. That is how seeds turn into seedlings, and seedlings into bushes. Plants, animals and human have inner patterns of unfoldment. Giraffes illustrate how different those built-in patterns of growth are among animals. In the human world, many differences reside within, and faulty conformism stultifies the seedlings of growth, that is, the inborn interests. Some may be kindled and rekindled, but better let the river flow freely, for: "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful," says the Udanavarga 5:18. That is the Golden Rule.

In similar veins, in the Apannaka Sutta Buddha teaches against mowing the lawn, but let bushes and grass unfold itself - and as for animals and other human beings, apply the Golden Rule to get on the way or see what the outcomes are.

If you really love flowers, why not let them live instead of being cut down and put in a vase where they shrivel and die prematurely, without setting seeds? Buddhist monks are enjoined not to cut down trees and grass. "You should not cut down grass or trees," says Buddha to the monks in ◦Buddha's Last Bequest (2.1). Better heed that than see the whole neighbourhood getting deranged by getting machines and mowing, cutting, and trimming such "body hairs of self-presentation" by a long and psychodynamic sort of look askance?

Also, Buddha also encouraged the planting of fruit trees along roads to offer both shade and food for travellers (S.I,33).

Various standards of morality are found in the

Dhammapada
Sigalovada Sutra
Vyagghapajja Sutra
Mangala Sutra
Mutta Sutra
Parabhara Sutra
Vassla Sutra
Dhammika Sutra.

Some To-Do's (from a list of ten)

  • Fit giving, charity (dána)
  • Sound morality (síla)
  • Meditation (bhávaná)
  • Paying due respect to those who are worthy of it (apacáyana)
  • Helping others, and doing other good deeds (veyyávacca)
  • Straightening one's own views

In the Adiya Sutta, Buddha also outlined several ways in which people could put their righteously gained wealth to good use. Sharing is a key note, and keeping a sense of proportions is another. In Sigalovada Sutta the advice is to use a quarter of one's [yearly] wealth for one's own wants, which include what is wisely spent on good works; gifts to the wise and contemplatives, charity, and further. Spend about half of the [yearly] gains on one's business, and keep a quarter for times of need. On this basis one tries to put fairly won earnings to good use:

  • It is good to provide pleasure and satisfaction to oneself, one's parents, children, spouse - and servants, and assistants - and friends and associates [etc.].
  • It is wise to ward off calamities coming from fire, flood, kings, thieves, or hateful heirs, and keeps oneself safe.
  • It is wise to be good to guests.
  • It is wise to offer well-intending gifts to worthy ones; they should include priests (brahmins) and contemplatives (monks).

Mt. Kailash, Adapted from WM photo by Phurbutsering

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TAO STUDY

Buddhist Living

There is a lot to learn in order to live well. A good idea is like a seed, for example a fir seed. When it has matured and fallen to the ground, it sprouts in time, strikes root and heads for light. A good thing with hardy fir seeds is that they thrive and grow on barren and rocky soil too.

The main thing: Just imbibing ideas is far from enough. Plant them with tact and enough care and help them to sprout. You may have to weed out something for your pines to grow too, after giving them a period of rest (incubation time) in your mind, and then see what comes up after that kind of rooting - in the garden of your mind and life. If you look after them now and them, it happens that the results may be better than otherwise. By and by the results (trees) had rather be lovely and can largely take care of themselves, ever so often. This is the gardening view of dealing with teachings.

In other words, to put good ideas work like a gardener, makes them pay handsomely in the long run.

Gladdened by the way of life Buddha delineates, not everything that comes in our way should be welcomed. Those who can make the best of everything, know a lot. Knowledge should be a boon and make fit for living. You don't have to be a Buddhist to draw benefit from its handy and handed-over self-help knowledge. The basics are:

  1. The self-help practice, rooted in Buddha's counsel and old meditation methods;
  2. The teachings for benefits that are not too short-sighted (first-class seeds handled for optimal results through three stages Buddha speaks of: the first, the middle; and the long-range stage - try them out.);
  3. The surroundings (some help, others hardly, so shield your tiny sprouts for a long time. Less than ideal surroundings may call for involvement in an organisation);
  4. The fellowship, sangha; (an uplifting, informing gardener circle would be fine too)

Below are Buddha sayings aimed at supporting one's stream of life in the long run too.

Twig

Buddha sayings

Man should make himself a lot of good karma. [Buddha]

The accumulation of good work is joyful. [Buddha]

Not even death can wipe out our good deeds [Buddha]

The best weapon is wisdom. [Buddha]

The most precious treasure is virtue. [Buddha]

Attraction is wholeness. [Buddha]

Friendships are broken off by envy and selfishness. [Buddha]

Blessings enlighten the whole world. [Buddha]

A clever man guards his attention as his most precious possession. [Buddha]

He who has concentration, understands. [Buddha]

Strive with earnestness. [Buddha]

Give attention to what is worthy of you. [Tibetan wisdom]

In this world beings are bound by attachment to mere rule and ritual, and by conceit. [Condensed from The Ten Fetters].

LoSeek to get free from destructive agents, events, thoughts, and sulks - and welcome their great opposites

WHEEL OF FORTUNE

In the third chapter of the Lotus Sutra we find the passage, "The sons at that time danced for joy, mounting the jewelled carriages . . . delighting and amusing themselves." Hence, Buddhism encourages us to step confidently into enjoying ourselves at ease.

On the other hand, the idea of "work hard, play hard" is a tradition in our culture, and cannot be done away with for most people. And some perceive Buddhism as having little to do with fun or enjoyment. To such people, advancing happiness and ease - the good life - might come as a surprise.

The purpose and goal of everyday prayers and practices, and of our activities to teach Buddhism to others, is deep enjoyment and ease. However, Buddhism does not teach that life is free from old age, pain or health troubles, or that life should be just a succession of favourable circumstances. But try. For this world is a place to enjoy. We can do much by filtering - saying no to decadent events and people on the one hand, and welcoming constructive events, helpful things and equipment, and good persons on the other hand - as well as guarding our loved ones and assets well enough. There is much we can do to improve our living, even in somewhat cramped conditions.

Hence, it is possible to develop the enjoyable sides of life and hinder less desirable sides of life to gain the upper hand. These are aspects of the long art of living, in a nutshell. When this is somehow mastered, there is more to enjoy, and health benefits can accrue too, even till a ripe old age.

LoGo for as little encumbrance as possible

By adhering to basics and learning well, we have what it takes to handle our work with energy and composure, which is good. Then we may develop more leisure time to study for mutual benefits. Given such conditions, let it be mentioned in passing that Buddhism embodies deep philosophical thinking about life, but the basics the Buddha teaches are simple, and demand practice and practice, and not so much speculation. Still, there is room for training, and you don't have to become a monk to get the benefits of Buddha's counsels to followers, to monks and lay people. You can just adhere to them to your ability, putting your mind on Gautama Buddha's teachings and see how to apply them in the everydays. For one of the functions of the teaching of Buddha is to enable people to enjoy life with as little encumbrance as possible, having ease of living. We should not swerve from it. The hidden point lies here: Nichiren Daishonin associates "enjoyment and ease" with enlightenment.

This suggests that one side of Buddhism is to stepwise bring forth the innate condition of Buddhahood, the source of "enjoying oneself at ease". And this goes along with the purpose of enabling each individual to establish his (her) own identity.

LoFrolic and joy, but adjust to the circumstances too

For most people living in this world contains both suffering and joy. Some joys are had by play and sports. It may be encouraged, depending on what is slowly developed thereby. But since youth, play finds few opportunity in the struggle for grades and the living. Still, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". Some variation may be good for some, in addition.

Nichiren Daishonin writes in favour of frolic or play for young ones (WND, 412). "Frolic or play" here suggests a state of life in which, whatever the circumstances or conditions, we can enjoy life with confidence and vitality.

Surely, play or enjoyment with dignity has its value and its place in Buddhism. Such diversions may prepare for future successes, may preserve health. If so, try to make it integral. Go for golden opportunities to ease some stress by artistic outlets, fine sports and whatever that gladdens deep inside. But recurrent stress needs to be handled thoroughly, and preferably at its source(s).

To a seeing lad the world where we live is a "Buddha Land." Live and work, eat and sleep to enjoy and be at ease, finally.

Gist

IN SUM
  1. Seek to get free from destructive agents, events, thoughts, and sulks - and welcome their great opposites.
  2. Go for as little encumbrance as possible.
  3. Frolic and joy, but adjust to the circumstances too.
IN NUCE

If you get free from thoughts and other encumberances in deep meditation, great inner joy may rise.

Unemployed

ANECDOTE

Two workmen watched with awe the performance of a huge steam shovel which took up many tons of earth in one bite.

Said one of them, "If it wasn't for that scoop, five hundred of us might be working with shovels."

"Yes," replied the other, "and if it wasn't for our shovels, a million of us might be working with spoons."

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On Happiness

These verses are from the Dhammapada teaching poem, all processed on top of F. Max Müller's translation. One can see from other translation and the original, that what Müller translates into 'thoughts', is the mind. If you replace 'thought(s) with 'mind' below, you do no great offence. Find the statement that suits you. Also observe that the happiness that is spoken of, comes from within, through a rectified or purified mind. The mind has many levels, but at bottom it is happy. That is the basic teaching. Attuned to it for great benefits and successes throughout life, then.

IF a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him. [Dhammapada v. 2]

If happiness follows him, it may not blossom and bear fruit in a life anyhow. This is explained by Buddha in his karma teachings. A wide scenario is often needed for understanding the ancient utterances, and superficial shortcuts of the understanding will not do for verses like this one. Some of the verses leave out reservations to be desired, to say the least.

The virtuous man is happy in this world, and he is happy in the next; he is happy in both. He is happy when he thinks of the good he has done; he is still more happy when going on the good path. [18]

In fact, Buddha teaches that the virtuous man may suffer here while the rascal may have good time, till their karmas ripen, which may require many lives altogether in some cases. All this and more Buddha tells in his instructive karma teachings. What Buddha says, is that it may take time for the effects of good deeds to blossom and bear fruit, and what happens before that, differs according to how skilfully we live, how well we guard ourselves and our happiness, among other things.

Wise people, meditative, steady, always possessed of strong powers, attain to Nirvana, the highest happiness. [23]

It takes time in some cases . . . Be alerted to that as you stick to meditating deeply by the best, congenital method(s) available to you, and neither overdo it nor meditate too shallowly and little.

Thoughts well guarded bring happiness. [36]

"Mind well guarded" his a deeper, better content here. Thoughts are more like ripples on the sea of the mind, waves of feelings are to be reckoned with there too, and so on. 'Mind' encompasses thoughts and feelings.

If a man does what is good, let him do it again; let him delight in it: happiness is the outcome of good. [118]

This is a karma teaching. As mentioned above, it may take time for deeds, thoughts, and moral shown to ripen. See next verse.

When his good deed has ripened, then does the good man see happy days. [120]

Let us live happily then, free from ailments . . . [198]

There is no happiness higher than rest. [202]

The verse seems to refer to the deep happiness that wells up inside during the deep rest of meditation. Ordinary rest far from always cases high happiness, you should know.

Health is the greatest of gifts, contentedness the best riches; trust is the best of relationships, Nirvana the highest happiness. [204]

One again, the verse leaves out something to be desired. Instead of the superlative stand in the verse, it is more accurate to tone it down and say something like "Health is a great gift in a life", "Who is contented may be rich enough," "Relationships of mutual trust are all right." That Nirvana is happiness is unknown to many today, but there are many other passages attributed to Buddha where he says Nirvana is the greatest happiness, and worth training one's mind for throughout life.

To live with [the elect] is always happiness. [206, partial]

Do not be naïve, do not depend all too much on shortcut sayings like this one, and do not fall victim to them either. History shows that it is not true, not even in the case of Buddha. However, it should be far better to live with better humans than yourself, at their cost - but when you do, you may also come to understand you are something of a burden, at least to some of them. Just learn to judge the benefits for those close to you too; do not be too selfish and immodest. Some superiors may actually want you to be near them, for your good. Relax in the matter, according to "What will be will be," for example.

Company with the wise is pleasure. [207, partial]

Not always. A Christian may see how Judas Iscariot lacked in it. Among the close followers of Buddha all were not successful either.

And one should avoid the company of fools. [cf. 206, 207, paraphrased]

As in the Old Testament's Book of Proverbs, 'fool' has a fundamental meaning. Who does what is not good for her or him, acts foolishly.

Examine yourself by yourself, thus self-protected and attentive you will live happily. [379, partial]

More goes into happy living than mere self-examination, of course. It is a total, much-encompassing way of life, soundness, care, development of skills, and so on, that eventually yields the desired boons and success.

Contents


Buddhism, Buddhist living, Literature  

Müller, F. Max, tr. Dhammapada. In Sacred Books of the East, Volume X, Part I. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1881. On-line.

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