“How to cultivate spirituality successfully as beginners?” We often hear this question among the Buddhist laities, even among those who have been following Buddhism for decades. While this seems to be a simple question, in truth, it takes a few “ingredients” to actually begin cultivating spirituality successfully.
In this article, we will touch on the 3 basic traits we can put into practice as the first approach towards a successful cultivation – and these are fundamental, whether as a beginner in the field of spiritual cultivation or already an experienced spiritual cultivator.
The Need to Understand Fundamental Concepts of Buddhism
Buddhism is regarded as a way of life rather than a religion. Despite this fact, many actually do not understand the fundamental concepts of Buddhism – the philosophy on deliberating on its teachings beyond our scope of rigid thinking and dogmatic beliefs. Much to its contrary, we find many Buddhists being fixated on whatever Buddhist texts and scriptures they have studied, and this ends up being one of the greatest shortcomings and hindrances to their spiritual cultivation.
As a true Buddhist, we should always learn to examine, filter and ponder on the orthodox teachings, which existed more than 2,500 years ago. This is because for any Dharma to be practical and fruitful, the belief must be suitable to our present time, favorable to our current living conditions and lastly, ideal in terms of the place to propagate this Buddhist teaching.
Bear in mind that most of the Buddhist sermons that are imparted to us over the years were originally accorded towards the ancient people who lived simple, meagre and frugal during that period. In short, the Buddhism of yesteryears cannot be ideally imbibed into our present times, unless these sermons are filtered, examined and modified to adapt to our present generations while still retaining the basic tenets of the Abhidharma.
This is because the ancient times of living conditions were extremely obsolete and given the context of the teachings that were crafted towards the ancient society, many of these teachings may no longer hold their practicality in today’s world of advanced technology and sophisticated living, especially since our mental culture is now entirely focused on different priorities.
The Sad Trend of Chasing After Wealth, Rank and Materialistic Gains
In our advance world of electronic innovations, modern people are no longer living a decent and meagre livelihood but flooding their lives with all the utilization of electronic gadgets and instruments that greatly altered our traditional lifestyle. Due to the trend of chasing after the shadow of wealth and rank, many parents are forced to work overtime, leaving a cold home to the children.
These children brought up in such sad conditions tend to be absent of informal education at home, such as the Confucius teachings of respect, good manners and obedience in law and order. When these modern generations of people lack moral behaviour, this will lead to an absence of Principle in life, Responsibility in tasks and Integrity in character.
Without these three golden traits of manners, humans will become unethical and inhumane, as everything is centered around the clouds of wealth, glory, power and position at the expense of neglecting the important basic development of moral values and virtues. Once moral decadence sets in, then all these Buddhist teachings become irrelevant and lost in dissemination among our Buddhist laities.
Therefore, whenever a Buddhist goes into cultivation, one needs to be mindful of the glamour of materialistic gadgets, which could easily sway us towards unending lust, greed and cravings of sensual activities.
The 3 Key Ingredients to A Successful Spiritual Cultivation for Beginners
We’ve talked about the importance of contemplating on the Abhidhamma to ensure the teachings can be practically applied in our daily living. We have also discussed the observations on today’s society of people who are overly keen on chasing after materialistic items to the point of forgoing the basic moral values and virtues.
But what does this mean when it comes to ensuring a successful cultivation for beginners?
In order for us to begin cultivating spirituality successfully, it is crucial to understand that we need to apply the Buddhist teachings we have learned or studied based on their practicality and sensibility in the current situations. Above that, the most important of all is our awareness into procuring the golden traits of Principle, Responsibility and Integrity in our character – these are the 3 key traits one must possess for one’s spiritual cultivation to achieve success.
Similarly, our three golden traits of Principle, Responsibility and Integrity is a pre-requisite to open our gateway to Simplicity in living, Moderation in our needs and lastly humility in our character. Unfortunately, many Buddhists believe only in observing the five and eight precepts when the real basic foundation to our natural path to cultivation is our three golden traits of character. The observation of five and eight precepts are of moral values but does not sharpen our values of upholding Principle in life, Responsibility in tasks and Integrity in character. On contrary, any Buddhist who possesses these three golden traits of character will automatically imbibe the values of morality.
How to Achieve The 3 Golden Traits Required for A Fruitful Cultivation
So how to achieve these three “ingredients”? We can only achieve these golden traits by gaining more profound exposures and wider experiences in our course of living, for example, by interacting with Samaritan clubs and social worker associations. Through all these interactions, one will learn the meaning of hardships and sufferings as well as being insinuated and slandered by the public. Only then we will come to realise that people without principle, people who are irresponsible and people who lack integrity will always assault other people without any form of empathy and consideration for others.
The more exposures and experiences we have, the more we have undergone all the bitterness and painful memories of unjust treatments and partial judgment upon us. This will humanise us with more humility in our character, in which our golden traits of character is then born.
Without Principle, Responsibility and Integrity, it would be extremely difficult for any Buddhist to practice any fruitful cultivation except superficial reverence to the Triple Gems and Bodhisattvas. The greater our suffering, the more frictions we will encounter in life, which helps to polish our Bodhi seed, hence fastening our emancipation or liberation.
It is a true revelation that when one honours one’s father and mother, one would be undergoing the traumatic experience of painful period of tolerance, patience, endurance and perseverance in withstanding the constant grumbling and fussy characters of our parents. It is through this trying period of enduring all forms of inconveniences and unbearable demands, that will eventually give rise to the ripening of our golden traits of Principle, Responsibility and Integrity in our character.
Upholding Principle, Responsibility and Integrity isn’t impossible as long as we remain mindful of our actions and keep a healthy distance from worldly temptations. Unfortunately, the world is retrogressing with deterioration of selfishness, inhumane attitude and being lackadaisical towards others. One such example is the mushrooming of private homes of nursing, which is testimony to our human’s degeneration, of unfilial piety towards most parents – the reflection of human’s lack of Principle, Responsibility and Integrity in character.
This is why informal education at home is the only way to rejuvenate our failing society into gaining back the glory of our golden character of Principle, Responsibility and Integrity in our behaviour. Parents play a huge role here in educating children informally since young to nurture these values, making them not only become responsible people in the society but also, paving the way for them to embark on spiritual cultivation much easily later in future.