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.
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.
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:
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
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.