Praxis: Part I



Part 4 

On Faith and Practice 

Having already discussed interpretation, we will now present a discussion of faith and practice. This discussion is intended for those who have not yet joined the group of beings who are determined to attain enlightenment. 

Suzuki: This part of the discourse is intended for those beings who have not yet entered into the order of constant truth (samyaktvaniyata-rāśi-spiritual steadfastness)

As is indicated this part of the discourse is not “directed towards” those who (for example the Lankavatarians of the Ancient Observance) have already risen through the Ten Bhūmis and who now await anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (complete and unexcelled perfection in Undivided Bodhi—Supreme Enlightenment). The Lankavatarians of the Ancient Observance refers to those who have had a lifetime of accumulated merit (such as thoroughly living-out the Six Paramitas); have ascended through the Ten Bhūmis; have perfected complete and unexcelled dhyana; have incurred untold benefits and blessings from devotedly immersing themselves in the Sūtras, and who continually practice and perfect *Deep Samadhis in the Strict Observance of the Buddhadharma.

*This Samadhis refers to Patañjali’s *nirbīja samādhi* THE Samadhi that fulfills all others as ‘Seedless Contemplation’ is incurred thus erasing the effects of all defiled-garbha seeds originating in the Alaya-receptacle. In effect, all is now sublimated within the Amala-consciousness of the Tathagatas. Later we shall see that this is also referred to as the “Samadhi of Suchness”.

On Four Faiths 

Question: What kind of faith [should a man have] and how should he practice it? 

Answer: Briefly, there are four kinds of faith. The first is the faith in the Ultimate Source. Because [of this faith] a man comes to meditate with joy on the principle of Suchness. The second is the faith in the numberless excellent qualities of the buddhas. Because [of this faith] a man comes to meditate on them always, to draw near to them in fellowship, to honor them, and to respect them, developing his capacity for goodness and seeking after the all-embracing knowledge. The third is the faith in the great benefits of the Dharma (Teaching). Because [of this faith] a man comes constantly to remember and practice various disciplines leading to enlightenment. The fourth is the faith in the Sangha (Buddhist Community) whose members are able to devote themselves to the practice of benefiting both themselves and others. Because [of this faith] a man comes to approach the assembly of bodhisattvas constantly and with joy and to seek instruction from them in the correct practice. 

It’s important to note here that all of these qualities are still part and parcel of the spiritual discipline, let us say, of the Lankavatarians of the Ancient Observance. It’s primarily meant, though, for those novices who are still in the process of perfecting the six paramitas and advancing gradually through the stages of Dhyana (meditation) and vipaśyanā (discernment).

On Five Practices

There are five ways of practice that will enable a man to perfect his faith. They are the practices of charity, [observance of] precepts, patience, zeal, and cessation [of illusions] and clear observation. 

Question: How should a man practice charity? 

Answer: If he sees anyone coming to him begging, he should give him the wealth and other things in his possession insofar as he is able; thus, while freeing himself from greed and avarice, he causes the beggar to be joyful. Or, if he sees one who is in hardship, in fear, or in grave danger, he should give him freedom from fear insofar as he is able. If a man comes to seek instruction in the teaching, he should, according to his ability and understanding, explain it by the use of expedient means. In doing so, however, he should not expect any fame, material gain, or respect, but he should think only of benefiting himself and others alike and of extending the merit [that he gains from the practice of charity] toward the attainment of enlightenment. 

Question: How should he practice the [observance of] precepts? 

Answer: He is not to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, to be double-tongue, to slander, to lie, or to utter exaggerated speech. He is to free himself from greed, jealousy, cheating, deceit, flattery, crookedness, anger, hatred, and perverse views. If he happens to be a monk [or nun] who has renounced family life, he should also, in order to cut off and suppress defilements, keep himself away from the hustle and bustle of the world and, always residing in solitude, should learn to be content with the least desire and should practice vigorous ascetic disciplines. He should be frightened and filled with awe by any slight fault and should feel shame and repent. He should not take lightly any of the Tathāgata’s precepts. He should guard himself from slander and from showing dislike so as not to rouse people in their delusion to commit any offense or sin. 

Question: How should he practice patience? 

Answer: He should be patient with the vexatious acts of others and should not harbor thoughts of vengeance, and he should also be patient in matters of gain or loss, honor or dishonor, praise or blame, suffering or joy, etc. 

Question: How should he practice zeal? 

Answer: He should not be sluggish in doing good, he should be firm in his resolution, and he should purge himself of cowardice. He should remember that from the far distant past he has been tormented in vain by all of the great sufferings of body and mind. Because of this he should diligently practice various meritorious acts, benefiting himself and others, and liberate himself quickly from suffering. Even if a man practices faith, because he is greatly hindered by the evil karma derived from the grave sins of previous lives, he may be troubled by the evil Tempter (Māra) and his demons, or entangled in all sorts of worldly affairs, or afflicted by the suffering of disease. There are a great many hindrances of this kind. He should, therefore, be courageous and zealous, and at the six four-hour intervals of the day and night should pay homage to the buddhas, repent with sincere heart, beseech the buddhas [for their guidance], rejoice in the happiness of others, and direct all the merits [thus acquired] to the attainment of enlightenment. If he never abandons these practices, he will be able to avoid the various hindrances as his capacity for goodness increases. 

Question: How should he practice cessation and clear observation?  

Answer: What is called “cessation” means to put a stop to all characteristics (lakshana) of the world [of sense objects and of the mind], because it means to follow the śamatha (tranquility) method of meditation. What is called “clear observation” means to perceive distinctly the characteristics of the causally conditioned phenomena (sasāra), because it means to follow the vipaśyanā (discerning) method of meditation. 

Question: How should he follow these? 

Answer: He should step by step practice these two aspects and not separate one from the other, for only then will both be perfected…

A long litany of regulatory disciplines that adjust spiritual principles with sound moral precepts, all especially aligned with the Six Paramitas; of particular interest here is how a person of faith can still be hindered from Karmic-Seeds within the Alaya-receptacle. As such one is still troubled from ‘Mara the tempter and his demons’. Also, the affairs of samsara still take a premier position, ruining any chance of spiritual liberation. Our next blog will explore the deeper dimension of the ‘practice of cessation’; it’s touched upon here as loosening phenomena through vipaśyanā—discernment meditation.

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7 Responses to Praxis: Part I

  1. a friend says:

    This is a sincere question. If one is visited by something rather terrifying during intense solitary meditation, what is the proper way to deal with this?

  2. n. yeti says:

    Only once, and actually I think it was a trick of the mind, something dredged up and spit out so to speak, but I am curious how this kind of thing should be dealt with in a traditional way. I generally pay no attention to thoughts that arise in meditation ( in fact almost always I experience only bliss, but don’t pay attention to that either). I’m quite ok, not going nuts, not under attack! Sorry if I alarmed you, just curious if you had insight on the matter, and this series inspired me to ask.

    • Vajragoni says:

      You are right not to give any undue focus on any of them. Praxis Part II (last blog post) has a specific section that deals specifically with your query. This is the portion that runs in part:

      “Sometimes these beings will appear in dreadful forms while he is sitting in meditation, and at other times they will manifest themselves in the shapes of handsome men and women. [In such a case] he should meditate on [the principle of ] “mind only,” and then these objects will vanish and will not trouble him any longer.”

      I would encourage you to meditate on this section.

  3. n. yeti says:

    I will indeed. Thank you!

  4. Paragate says:

    Who are these Lankavatarians who have “ascended through the ten bhūmis”? Arya Nagarjuna is said to have been on the first bhumi, and Arya Asanga on the third, if I recall correctly, which says something about the sublime height of even the first bhumi.

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