Most people consider themselves as Buddhists, but do not know how to practice. They
do whatever other people suggest. Not only this makes them become superstitious, it
is a reason for other people to criticize Buddhism as it is unbeneficial and mystical.
To correct this error, we need to know which basic method to practice and which method
of emancipation to attain. We need to apply Buddhist dharmas in our real life to prove
that Buddhism can truly relieve sufferings and bring happiness to human being. If
we can do that, we won't feel regretful for disgracing Buddhism as Buddha's disciples.
The Basic Practicing Method
At the beginning of the practice, Buddhists must learn how to "transform their three
karmas from bad to good." These three karmas are the body, mouth, and mind. When we
were unaware of the practice, we unrestrained our body, mouth, and mind from malicious
and atrocious acts. These actions have caused sufferings to us, other people, families,
and society. Robbers and killers will soon be apprehended. Their love ones at home
are in despair as well as the victim's family. The government has to put so much of
effort to capture them. Just some crazy and cruel actions of several people could
mess up the society's system. Such actions are called "Making bad deeds." But now
that we know to practice, we should transform our body, mouth, and mind to make good
deeds. Seeing a victim with no caring from his/her relatives, we should have a compassion
to console, care, and take him/her to the hospital. These actions are called "Making
good deeds." These good deeds will bring us happiness, ease the victim's pain, and
get people's consent. They are also the practical development of a good society. An
iteration of a bad deed is a karma, which is a habit that is hard to change. Let use
drinking as an example. Taking a few drinks once in a while would not be a problem
to a person. However, if he/she drinks every day, then for sure he/she will become
addicted. This addiction is a "bad habit" or "bad karma." Instead of drinking, he
likes to help people and keeps doing so. This will create a "good habit" or "good
karma." In both cases, they are habits; But one will lead him/her to sufferings and
the other one will lead him/her to happiness and peace. It is why Buddhists should
evade the habits of suffering and maintain the habits of happiness and peace. This
is a transformation of the three karmas from bad to good. An ignorant person will
find happiness from others' sufferings, while a bright person will find happiness
from helping others to liberate from sufferings.
Many Buddhists have taken a refuge in the Three Jewels just because they want peace
and their wishes to become true. Thus, when a negative occurrence occurs or someone
is ill in the family, they will ask the monks/nuns to pray for them. If the monks/nuns
are busy, they immediately get upset and stop attending the temple. When facing with
many dissatisfied matters in life, they blame for not having the Buddha's bless. If
someone says there's a holy shrine somewhere, they will rush to be there. Attending
the temple with a purpose of praying for peace and blessings, it is so easy for these
type of people to give up if their wishes don't come true. There are numbers of people
who have designated their life to the monks/nuns after taking a refuge in the Three
Jewels. It is common that they ask the monks/nuns to find a good date for their children's
wedding, to recite for their health recovery, to pray for the liberation of their
deceased family members. If the monks/nuns don't accept these requests, they immediately
stop attending the temple. This type of taking a refuge in the Three Jewels is like
paying life insurance for themselves and their family.
It's no surprise that there are many people who would practice inconsiderably by just
knowing when to chant, to pray to the Buddha, and to eat vegetarian foods. Other than
those times, they are no different from other people. They will get even on any issue.
How good would it be when we can only practice one to two hours of the twelve hours
that we have per day? We make bad deeds in ten hours and reserve only two hours for
good deeds. This is too little. Sometimes we become vegetarians to practice in the
six days of the month and leave 24 days without practicing. This is not enough. When
someone insults us during these days, we would say, "If I am not a vegetarian today,
I will show you." This type of practice is quite inconsiderable.
It is even worse when people afraid that the more practice they do, the more karmas
will come. Like if a negative incident occurs in the family during their time of reciting
Lotus suttra, they will claim that recitation has caused the karma to come. I wonder
if the existence (coming) of the karmas is the lessening of the karmas or the development
of the karmas? If the coming of the karmas is their lessening, then we should recite
more to diminish the rest of them. But if it is the development of karmas, then it
is unreasonable because our three karmas are pure and peaceful during the recitation
The body is erected means the body karma is pure and peaceful, the mouth is chanting
the Buddha's words means the oral karma is pure and peaceful, and last, the mind is
focusing on the recited words means the mind karma is pure and peaceful. How can bad
karmas develop? This belief or reason to be afraid is groundless. As Buddhists, we
should be smart to disbelieve this type of ridiculous matters.
Practice Is A Combat With Evils
People who arise their mind to practicing are like the soldiers who are in combat
with evils. Thus, we should fight bravely. First, we have to fight with our own karmas
and evils of afflictions. Like a person, who has just vowed to practice endurance,
gets angry when someone insults him/her. Right at this moment, if he/she could control
the anger, he/she would win. But if it exposes through the speech or body, he/she
will loose the control. A former alcohol addicted person has just ordained the Five
precepts and vowed to quit drinking. If he/she has a courage to quit drinking, he/she
is a winner. Otherwise, he/she is a looser. Being able to control the anger is a victory
over the evils of afflictions, while being able to control the addiction is the victory
over the evil karmas. Our afflictions and karmas are so many and deep. Only being
warriors, we can defeat them. Those two examples above are called "Internal evils."
All difficulties and obstacles that are caused by outer objects are called "External
evils." A married man at the age of thirty after his ordainment of the Five Precepts
is attracted by a pretty lady. Defeating this immoral passion is a tough battle for
him to do. If he is unbrave and undetermined, he will violate the third precept. Another
example is a person who has vowed to quit drinking after taking a refuge in the Three
Jewels. During his relentless battle with his addiction, his friends have tried different
mischievous ways to convince him to drink. In this case, if he doesn't have a strong
mind, he won't be able to win the situation. The external obstacles are innumerable,
therefore, as Buddhists, we should bravely fight for the victory and never let the
External evils surrender us.
Once we accept fighting, we have to face them. So, we cannot be coward to plead for
peace. The encounter with the enemies and the winning of the battle will advance a
soldier's rank and give him a wreath on his neck. It is the same for us, the practitioners,
to defeat the Internal and External evils in order to be in the glorious place of
a complete virtuous person. As a soldier, our eye sight should be bright and our hearing
should be sharp to constantly observe each move of the enemies. A split second can
cost our life. As practitioners, we should recognize each of our thoughts and actions.
A split second will allow the invaders of afflictions to revolt and that will cost
our body (discipline) and life (wisdom). Thus, not only we practice during the time
of chanting, praying to the Buddhas, and eating vegetarian foods, we have to practice
in each moment and hour. If we can do it, we will have a chance to win the evils.
A practice is a termination of the bad habits. It is easy for youngsters to practice
because they have not yet influenced with the bad things. An undrinking person will
have no problem to practice not drinking, while an addicted person will find it's
tremendously difficult to quit. If we know to practice in our childhood years, it
is much easier. Don't wait until we carry so much of illnesses and so many bad habits
to practice because it's quite difficult. But with a determination, anyone can do
it no matter how difficult it is.
Actualize The Basic Practicing Method
To actualize this basic method, the Buddha had forced the Buddhists to exercise the
Five Precepts, after taking a refuge in the Three Jewels. All five are used to restrict
us from making bad deeds The first three are for the body and the last two are for
the mouth. So far, the Buddhists have only transformed two karmas, the body and mouth.
Though, the effect is great. Like a person, who is not committed to killing (except
in military services), stealing, adultery, lying, and drinking, is considered to be
a good person. He/she has reduced so much of worriness and fear in his/her life and
brought much of happiness and peace to his family. Besides, the society doesn't have
think much about him/her. Let's imagine a village, where its people are exercising
the Five precepts. Do you think killing, stealing, deception, adultery, and vandalizing
can occur? Most likely not, except these are done by invaders. Nowadays, we are always
afraid to go out. Why? Isn't it because we are afraid of being harmed, robbed, or
deceived by someone? The law officials have to put so much of effort to investigate
just because the people don't care to practice. If they know to practice and are willing
to practice, the government will have less problems to deal with. Because everyone
has bad habits, the government has to enforce the rules; otherwise, lots of demoralized
incidents will occur and much of sufferings that people will cause to each other.
From his compassion, the Buddha had to force his disciples to abide the restrictions
so that they can reduce the bad habits and develop good ones. From here, the sufferings
are diminished and the happiness and peace will grow. This is the goal of relieving
all beings from sufferings of Buddhism.
For us to become a better person, the Buddha had taught the practice of the "Ten Good
Deeds." This method is a true way of transforming our three karmas body, mouth, and
mind. The three deeds of transforming the three evil karmas of the body are "no killing,
no stealing, and no adultery." The next four deeds are used to transform the four
evil karmas of the mouth: "No lying, no slandering, no harsh speech, and no idle talk."
The last three deeds of transforming the three evil karmas of the mind are "no greed,
no hatred, and no illusion." These ten good deeds will make a perfect person. Analyzing
them from inside out, we will see how effective the "Ten Good Deeds" are. A person,
who cannot be controlled by greed, will have a control of himself/herself when facing
with all temptations in the world. If materials, beauty, fame, and benefits cannot
influence him/her, he/she is completely pure and noble. If the anger cannot affect
him/her, he/she will have a clear mind to solve all incoming problems. Being able
to control the anger, he/she will never say evil and do ruthless things. Thus, he/she
will never have a regret, while gaining his/her family's love. Remember that only
when we can solve problems with a clear mind, we can take over bigger or more important
tasks. By looking at all concepts or matters with an unbiased view, we will gain people's
understanding and compassion. False views are always the cause of conflicts and hatred.
Having no false views is having an open, generous, bright, and pure mind. In addition,
by having no false views, we can live in harmony with other people, who have different
views from ours. The life of sufferings or happiness is started from the understanding
or conflict. Having no false views, but right views is a real happiness for a human
life. The body and mouth become good or bad depend on good or bad thoughts. The reason
that the "Ten Good Deeds" can make a perfect person is its focus on the mind karma.
The Five Precepts can only transform our body and mouth. Therefore, to be more completed,
we need to advance ourselves by practicing the "Ten Good Deeds."
Transforming Our Three Karmas
Is The Rudiment Of Buddhist Dharmas
During Tang dynasty, a Chinese Zen master had found a good place on a tree for a self
practice. He used woods and tree branches to build a seat, which was similar to a
crow's nest, on that tree. Later, he became enlightened. The residents called him
Zen master "Chao Ya" (the master who sat in the crow's nest). At the time, a famous
poet named Bai Ju Di had just been promoted as an official of this district. The popularity
of the Zen master got his attention so he immediately made a visit with many questions.
His last question was "What is the main idea of the Buddha's teachings?" Sitting on
the crow's nest, the Zen master replied, "Never do evil, always do good, and keep
the mind pure are the Buddhas' teachings." Official Bai smiled and said, "An eight-year-old
kid can remember that by heart." The Zen master replied, "Yes. An eight-year-old kid
can remember it by heart, however, an eighty-year-old man still cannot do it." Official
Bai made a bow to the Zen master and left.
This story gives us an idea that the focus of Buddhism is to teach its followers to
transform their three karmas from bad to good. "Never do evil" means to terminate
the three evil karmas. "Always do good" means to practice the three good karmas. "Keep
the mind pure" means to put more focus on the mind karma. If the mind karma is good,
the body and speech should be good and pure. The mind karma is the most important
one because it's the motivator of the body and mouth. All Buddhas and Sakyamuni had
taught us this method of transforming the three karmas. Therefore, Master Chao Ya
said, "It is the Buddhas' teachings." Another significant point that we should know
is the underestimation of official Bai when he said, "An eight-year-old can remember
it by heart." The Master struck him by saying that "An eight-year-old can remember
it by heart, but an eighty-year-old still cannot do it." Remember that religion is
a practice not a thorough study. Asking religious questions for a purpose of remembering
the answers is a vain joke. Only when we apply the Buddha's teachings in life, we
will see their effectiveness. Doesn't matter how good a drug is, if people just know
the name, read the label, and study the formula without taking it, their illness will
never be healed. On the other hand, if they practice the Buddha's teachings like taking
medications for their illnesses, then their sufferings will decrease. Studying Buddhism
for an understanding and elaborating purpose is like a person who is still hungry
even though he brags about his taste in different kinds of drawn cookies. Only a person
who applies his/her study in practice is a true Buddhist.
To summarize this chapter, I would like to say that we need to realize the focus of
Buddhism, which is "to transform our three karmas from bad to good." This is the basic
step that everyone should do. If everyone is fully good, then the society is perfect.
By practicing the transformations of our three karmas, we are moving forward on the
path of morality, contributing the joy to our family and society, and building a perfect
civilized society. This civilization is the civilization with morality, of love, compassion,
and noble people. Therefore, in the suttra of the "Ten Good Deeds," it stated that
a person who achieves the practice of Ten Good Deeds will be reborn in Deva realm,
which is called the Deva Vehicle in Buddhism. To me, a person who practices the Ten
Good Deeds is a perfect person and a society of many perfect people is a perfect society.
This is the Buddhas' teachings in this sentient world.