The Way and its Application in the General
Affairs of Daily Life
As we know, the dharma explained by the Awakened One differs from theistic religions which stress faith. It is a rational, moral and hu-manistic teaching. Thus buddhadharma deals only with the regulation and purification of body and mind so that both can attain liberation and freedom. You are not trying to get something from outside (which implies material desires and the saving power of a god) when you trust the buddhas and emulate them. Instead, you begin with the cultivation and heal-ing of your own body-mind while realizing the ideal of benefiting both oneself and others. If you can practise faithfully in accordance with the Buddha's teaching it is only natural to infuse everyday life with dharma. Someone who trusts and practises buddhadharma will definitely hold correct views, have pure motivation, and increase both wisdom and loving kindness-compassion without interruption.
However, in the course of its long dissemination from India to China, buddhadharma developed mystic, formalistic, and intellectual tendencies be it in order to comply with the secular world or as a means to attract the dull-witted. As a result, the understanding and actions of those practising the teaching gradually lost contact with the world of real life. This is a virtual problem which should be paid more attention to. We have to understand that the infusion of dharma in our daily lives does not mean that we have to be busy reciting scriptures and performing repentance ceremonies or rites for the dead all the time. Nor does it imply to study the scriptures, lecture or write on them, recite the Buddha's name or mantras, eat only vegetarian food and liberate animals every
day. You need not run around to participate in religious functions and make financial contributions, nor do you have to build temples, establish Buddhist seminars, arrange cultural or humanitarian activities, or spend your days in a hermitage practising.
All these may conform with buddhadharma but it is also possible that they degenerate into mere formalities. They are quite often found in present day Chinese Buddhism. Reciting the Buddha's name or mantras and erecting big monasteries and huge statues has become rather fashionable within the last twenty years. However, those who trust and practise buddhadharma should regulate and purify their bodies and minds or moreover attain unimpeded liberation as a function of good qualities. If you forget this real meaning, despite being engaged in cultural, humanitarian, educational or international religious activities in order to spread the teach- ing for the benefit of sentient beings you are still far from infusing everyday life with dharma. Right here in this place and time, I feel it most worthwhile for our Buddhist friends to pay attention to this specific topic“how to infuse everyday life with dharma”.
To infuse everyday life with dharma means that the practice of buddhadharma is able to function as regulator, purificator and liberator for body and mind. Buddhadharma is not an abstruse, unfathomable theory or some mysterious, exotic practice. The common man can understand and practise what the Buddha taught. When the Awakened One said that the things he spoke about are like the dust on a fingernail while those he didn't mention equal the soil of the earth he wanted to make clear that he only taught proper things which are based on the right conduct of human life and lead to the absolute. There are many more worldly theories and practises which, though perhaps beneficial in a worldly way, where not expounded by the Buddha because they neither deal with
the cultivation and healing of our body-mind nor do they lead to the ideal of liberation. (There will be anyway people who spread these teachings which are called “worldly wholesome phenomena” in Buddhist texts.)
The Awakened One dealt only directly with the human body-mind (or that of sentient beings) pointing out the confused floating and turning around in samsara as well as the possibility of being liberated in conformity with reality. Thus he encouraged and induced people to go and practice. He taught the methods concerning the five aggregates, the six sense organs and the six sense realms which are confined to the body mind (while also relating to the material world) but from different standpoints he offered different approaches. Buddhadharma has the two aspects of understanding and practicing. While these cannot be separated, it is among them understanding which is both guide to and accomplishment of practice. The texts referred to it as “right view,” “right decision,” “right insight,” “knowing in accordance with reality” etc. and the Buddha said that the activities of body and mind, which are mainly governed by consciousness, no matter whether they have yourself, others or inanimate phenomena as object, no matter whether they belong to the past, present, or future, are all arising from conditions: “I am expounding and declaring the causes.” The Buddha understood the world and dealt with it through the principle of arising and existing in dependence of causes and conditions. And thus he also taught: “because this exists that exists; because this arises that arises; because this does not exist that does not exist; because this perishes that perishes.” Avoiding to fall into the two extremes he expounded the middle way of neither being nor non being, neither eternal nor not-existing, neither the same nor another, neither coming nor going, neither being born nor dying. Whatever arises due to conditions is bound to end in dissolution
wherefore it is impermanent; whatever is impermanent cannot be peaceful in an ultimate sense and thus is unsatisfactory; whatever is impermanent and unsatisfactory is not-self (since “self” implies “real, unchanging and blissful”). Sentient beings are unable to realize that the world is arising in dependence on conditions, in other words they have no correct understanding of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, not-me and not-mine, and cannot reach the liberation of nirvana. This is called “ignorance” (which basically indicates the lack of understanding in regard to the cause of unsatisfactoriness and its cessation). All mental afflictions arise from it. They have “me” and “mine” as their root. Scheming with me and mine is “view”, attachment to me and mine is “lust”, relying on me and mine is “arrogance.” To follow one's mental afflictions and engage in self-centred thoughts and actions, e.g. to go against the principle of mutual interdependence and do something harming others -other people, other nationalities, other countries- and benefiting oneself, is non-dharma or an unwholesome action. Conversely, if you follow the principle of dependent arising helping and benefiting other people then this is dharma, a wholesome action. Happiness and suffering are the respective results of wholesome and unwholesome actions. But since we do not have a correct understanding of dependent arising what we do is not thorough enough, tainted and binding us life after life in samsara. If we were to have a proper view of dependent arising and practice in accordance with dharma, we would engender disgust with regard to the impermanent and unsatisfactory and desirelessness in regard to what is not me or mine (i.e. we would remove ourselves from afflictive emotions) and finally achieve liberation realizing the cessation of both mental as well as physical pain and distress. Buddhadharma is nothing but the middle way which is based on
the dependent arising of a mental consciousness governed mind-body and expounded in terms of the causation and cessation of unsatisfactoriness. If you want to emulate the buddhas you must have this profound correct view. Right view does not equal knowledge. It means to transform correct understanding into one's own view. If you possess right view you will have right trust. As to trust, it is defined as the purity of the mind because it resembles the water purifying jewel which can turn muddy water into clear one. The time a thought of clear trust arises it is impossible to have mental afflictions or distress and suffering. On the contrary, one's heart is filled with purity, peace, and joy. Only then are you a true disciple who has taken refuge with the triple gem.
The “pure trust” Buddhism speaks about differs somewhat from the worldly understanding of trust which is generally referring to the acceptance of what other people say or write as true. It is only a kind of identification, for example believing that “one plus one equals two”. Also, if you are sympathetic towards a statement by someone else or agree with it and are willing to accept it, it is usually called “belief”, like believing in a certain ideology or political leader etc. All these are “accepting believes” in a worldly sense. What is referred to as “trust-ing one's inspiration”, “belief in one's fate” or “faith in geomancy” etc. all belongs to one of the two above mentioned categories. The “pure trust” talked about in the Buddhist context, however, arises deep in one's heart in dependence upon the triple jewel and is connected with the experience of purity, joy and so on. It is peaceful since it derives from right understanding and right view and has weathered the test of rationality, and though it is similar to the faith of theistic believers it cannot degenerate into fanatic blindness.
The number of Chinese Buddhist is actually not that small. Most of
them believe in the Buddha and the Sangha, both arhats and bodhisatt-vas, but those with trust in the dharma seem limited in numbers. Due to this lack of knowledge about and trust in the dharma no distinction is made between gods and Buddha (recently someone went so far to suggest that those who trust the Buddha should also believe in gods!) and the faith in buddhas, arhats and bodhisattvas is usually a mystical one, not different from the mentality of one who is believing in God. On one hand, there is belief in the supernatural powers of Buddha and noble sangha and prayer for blessings. On the other hand most believers engage in religious activities like removing karmic obstacles for the sake of avoiding disaster and creating merits in order to prolong their lives because they are only concerned with worldly benefits in this and future lives -health, longevity, wealth, a happy family, successful business, avoidance of the lower realms and so on.
We could call these conventional methods appropriate for conversion but with all emphasis on praying to outside forces one does not look critically at one's body-mind and no pure trust can arise. How could one then infuse everyday life with dharma? In these times when materialistic desires are so emphasized and everybody's search is directed outward, it is of course not easy to gain a profound understanding of dependent arising and then develop disgust, be desireless and attain extinction. However, everyone who wants to emulate the buddhas should be able to give rise to trust which encompasses a knowledge of conditioned phenomena the existence of which depends on each other and a firm belief in the inevitable law of cause and effect governing past, present and future according to which good actions will reap a happy result and negative act-ions a suffering one.
The special characteristic of the concept of positive and negative act-
ion (karma) and fruit is that creation happens through one's own power not someone else's, opportunities are equal and there are no privileges, the future can be bright and there is no reason to despair, and the relationship between positive and negative (actions and results) is definitive. A person firmly believing in this principle holds the strong conviction that reasonable actions based on correct view are the power to improve what was done in the past and open up a bright future. He will not impute all faults on others but will exert his strength to improve himself. His present fate, as unfortunate as it may be, will not shake his determination to get rid of the negative and devote himself to what is good. If you infuse your daily life with a profound conviction about the law of cause and effect you will be able to manifest the true spirit of Buddhism.
After its introduction to China, the Buddhist idea of cause and effect valid through the three times was accepted only on the surface. Gene-rally, people want to circumvent it. The majority is not willing to act in accordance with the principle and practice properly avoidance of the negative and execution of the good. Moreover, traditional Chinese customs like drawing lots, geomancy etc. have severely crept into Buddhism and are accepted by most of the venerable elders. A Buddhism which is praying to some external force and filled with mediocre activities which resemble witchcraft is degenerate and impure. To have proper trust in the triple jewel and be profoundly convinced of cause and effect are the basis for emulating the buddhas. Thus, if you want to infuse buddhadharma into your daily life, you have to cultivate an unsullied trust and get rid of superstition.
Pure trust is based on correct view, and correct view arises from deep knowledge which is without fault. Correct understanding of Bud-
dhism comes from listening -in the beginning, it was the World Honoured One teaching and then the disciples instructing each other in succession, only after the compilation of the texts and their fixation in written form it was possible to study from sutras (or shastras). After prolonged discussion among the disciples who strove to clarify the meaning of the dharma well structured treatises appeared which also answered the need to gain a profound understanding of the contents of the teaching in order to deal with disputes instigated by non-Buddhists. However, these treatises became more and more detailed, and with the appearance of individual schools the explanations of the meaning began to differ, not to mention that Buddhism in the course of its long spread was trying to adopt itself to different settings and employed countless expedient means. Both the Buddhism coming from India and that propagated by the ancient Chinese masters were vast in content and displayed a philosophical bias. Of course, it is unavoidable that Buddhism is changing in this world but with all those manifold and complicated scriptures it was indeed a perplexing question for the beginner to decide from which text to get direct access to the essence of Buddhism and then, based on correct understanding, to develop correct trust. No wonder the virtuosi emerging themselves deeply tended toward the incomprehensible, and study of the meaning became the province of a chosen few while the general believer had faith in the Buddha without understanding the necessity to trust the dharma (some with trust in the dharma just believed that some specific text was marvellous and they recited it in order to gain merits), getting unavoidably lost in expedient means and striving exclusively for the material benefit of this life! At the time of the Buddha, Cuu.lapanthaka attained arhatship though he was very dull, and Hui-neng of the T'ang dynasty had profound realizations
despite being illiterate. In my mind, purity of attainment, the harmony of trust and wisdom, which is arrived at in accordance with correct view as understood in Buddhism does not necessarily derive from study of and discussion about the countless meanings of the teaching. The only problem is that spiritual friends are hard to find in these times, so one has to rely on sutras and shastras.
In order to spread the good teaching and lead sentient beings to the right trust, the essential instruction on the correct meaning of buddhadharma (the basic teaching common to all buddhadharmas) is of utmost importance. At the same time, the study of the texts and academic research, which was introduced recently, of course have their value though they not necessary are in a position to lead people from a correct understanding to real trust, to plant the dharma deep in people's hearts and let them infuse their daily life with it. Especially in regard to those who teach or do research, if they are teaching for the sake of teaching and researching for the sake of research without giving themselves rise to proper trust it is, from the viewpoint of emulating the buddhas, without any special value. But as far as the meaning of the dharma is concerned, whatever can be used in practical life is well worth being paid attention to.
In terms of practice, the hearer's path is the noble eightfold path while the bodhisattva's path consists in the six perfections and the four means of attraction. Generally speaking, work benefiting oneself comprises mainly ethics, samadhi, and wisdom, work benefiting others mainly charity, morality and patience. According to buddhadharma, practice begins with pure trust which in turn comes from correct view. “Trust is the condition for the wish, and the wish is the condition for energetic work.” If you have pure trust you will engender a wish and aspiration
to practice vigorously in accordance with the dharma. This trust-aspiration is the very nature of the “refuge” of the three vehicles and “bodhicitta” of the bodhisattva's path. Having an aspiration, you make a decision. Then you can push yourself to go ahead with all strength and practice strenuously in order to let your ideal materialize. Giving rise to pure trust through correct understanding is thus the gateway to the teaching for every Buddhist disciple.
When one is practicing, it is morality which constitutes the foundation of the noble path. People tend to think that morality is something like law -“this you must not commit,” “that is not allowed to do” etc. These, however, are only items to be observed and are not the nature of morality. So what is morality? “Ethics” is the translation of the Sanskrit term “`siila”. “`siila denotes a love for the practice of the good path and being free from negligence. No matter whether you have taken precepts or not, doing good is called `siila.” Thus morality is natur-al goodness, a natural goodness induced by repeated training. It is not “good deeds” in the common sense. Those are introduced by parents, teachers or friends, or are devised by oneself while dealing with situations. The latent power of natural goodness, on the other hand, is awakened by one moment of being moved or touched. It has the courage to do good and the strength to oppose the performance of evil deeds. If there is a chance to do something bad, an opposing force automatically arises in one's heart.
This natural goodness is latent and usually growing day and night. In case of a minor transgression, its force is still there, but if the mistakes are repeated again and again the power of morality will decrease, and in the case of committing a grave offense, it gets lost altogether. This is meant by “breaking a precept”. The moral quality of natural
goodness is called “restraint.” The Buddhists refer to it also as “the essence of the precepts.” This moral goodness can be developed even in an age where there is no buddhadharma or where there is dharma but one doesn't know about it. Nevertheless, buddhadharma offers the support and guidance of right view so that the avoidance of negative and performance of positive will become even more definite and forceful without falling into extremes. Based on the virtues of natural goodness, one's everyday bodily, verbal, and mental activities will be in harmony with dharma.
Responding to differences in life style, social relationships, and communal rules, you find all kinds of precepts (lay, monastic, etc.) within buddhadharma but there is no difference in bringing the qualities of benefit for both oneself and others to perfection when applying this power of natural goodness. Even without taking precepts or keeping only the five precepts of a layman, this natural goodness becomes the foundation on which one proceeds towards liberation. If it is lacking, however, you do not necessarily plant the good roots of liberation though you might keep the monk's vows or bodhisattva precepts in a very pure way. Thus, in terms of taking precepts and keeping them, the most important point for a student of Buddhism is the morality of natural goodness which arises deep in one's heart. For the last three decades, there have been yearly transmissions of the monastic vows. Although they were ritually correct, it is very rare indeed to find someone who is able to put their energy into keeping the rules under all circumstances. Thus it is not astonishing that people are not in a position to infuse their daily lives with dharma.
Pure trust is trust in buddha, dharma and sangha which cannot be corrupted; morality of natural goodness is accomplishment of morality which is loved by the noble ones. Having perfected the fourfold incor-
ruptible trust which encompasses both trust and morality, one will under no circumstances retrogress but, conversely, progress toward three types of bodhi or right awakening. If one practices in addition samadhi and wisdom, one will be able to reach liberation in this life. Pure trust a mounts to entering the door to buddhadharma, and good ethics are the foundation for emulating the buddhas. Without trust and morality, the further practice and realization of samadhi and wisdom is impossible.
It has been said in one scripture that “you will have no regrets if you keep the vows, and you will be filled with pleasurable feeling if you have no regrets; you will experience joy if you are filled with pleasurable feeling, and you will accomplish calmness if you are experiencing joy; you will know bliss if you accomplish calmness, and you will attain samadhi if you know bliss.” To practice samadhi on the basis of morality is a sensible progression and makes it easy to reach one's goal like a boat which follows the water. This is meant when saying that before practicing samadhi one has to keep away from the objects of the senses and negative phenomena.
There are some people who practice meditation in order to be healthy or to get some mystic experience etc. Neither keeping away from pollution through sense objects nor cutting off negative phenomena, they pay great attention to the breath and the body. Even if they achieve one pointed meditation it would be hard for them to avoid falling into perverse trances or becoming a member of Mara's retinue. This is not the pure (tainted or untainted) samadhi which is practised in Buddhism.
As to awakening through wisdom, Nagarjuna said that “the emp-tiness grasped at by a mind without the basis of trust and ethics is perverted emptiness.” How could it be possible for someone lacking in trust and morality to accomplish the realization of equality and emptiness!
Everybody is talking about trust and ethics but the actual situation looks different. This is the reason why people are unable to infuse their daily lives with dharma. Since I became a monk I've spent all my time trying to find my way through the pages of the canon. Professing to study for the sake of sentient beings, to find the essence which could be offered to others, I am filled with shame. Boundless is the ocean of the teaching. Yet how limited is what I managed to get! I always felt that buddhadharma is something simple and practical but “the noble ones excel and the dull ones fail” and thus buddhadharma is day after day degenerating while it is thriving! But I am just explaining my views here so that I might encourage myself and everybody else who really wants to emulate the buddhas.