How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life

by Dalai Lama

ISBN: 9780743453363

Publisher Atria Books

Published in Christian Books & Bibles/Christian Living

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Book Description

As human beings, we possess one common desire: the need for happiness and a meaningful life. According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the ability to find true fulfillment lies within each of us. Now, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, Nobel Prize winner, and best selling author helps listeners begin the path to enlightenment in a very special audiobook - an easy-access reference for daily practice as well as a stunning new illumination of the timeless wisdom of His Holiness.

How to Practice will guide you toward nurturing compassion, refraining from doing harm, maintaining mental tranquility, and how to develop wisdom. Divided into a series of distinct steps that will lead spiritual seekers of all faiths toward enlightenment, this accessible audiobook is a constant and daily companion in the quest to practice morality, meditation, and wisdom. The Dalai Lama shows us how to overcome our 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 the Dalai Lama's own sage and practical insight into the human psyche and what binds us all together.


Sample Chapter

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.

Gradual Change

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,


Excerpted from "How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life" by Dalai Lama. Copyright © 2003 by Dalai Lama. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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