Buddhism is often deemed as a simple teaching yet profound in so many ways. One of the important aspects of Buddhism include spiritual training and spiritual cultivation.
However, many Buddhists are often confused about the right Buddhist practices for spiritual training. Driven by blind beliefs and lack of analysis, many Buddhists merely follow certain ways of practising Buddhism without questioning about the appropriateness, practicality as well as the logic behind their actions.
And because of such misguidance, many Buddhists fail to have a good spiritual foundation before proceeding with spiritual cultivation.
In this article, you will learn about:-
- what is spiritual training and cultivation in Buddhism
- the essence of spiritual training & cultivation
- common misconceptions on Buddhist training and cultivation
- what you should do to practise spiritual training & cultivation the proper way
Understanding Spiritual Training
We’ve mentioned the term “spiritual training” a lot but you may wonder, what is spiritual training? Spiritual training (Hokkien: siew heng) is the first step in the right direction to reform ourselves through refining our characters and manners.
It is the most basic step in preparing ourselves for the betterment of our spiritual cultivation later. Without spiritual training, we are like a beast behaving savagely, being rude and crude in our attitudes.
Spiritual training involves the basic factors in enhancing our morality, which in turn drives us to practise higher levels of spiritual cultivation. Spiritual training indirectly moulds our mind to have characters of Principle, Responsibility and Integrity because they revolve around our daily chores and activities, even in simple activities such as waking up before sunrise and returning home after sunset from work.
The Difference Between Spiritual Training “Siew Heng” and Spiritual Cultivation “Siew Lian“
Many people tend to confuse between the spiritual training vs spiritual cultivation. This is understandably due to the subtle differences that makes these two activities distinct on their own.
As we have learnt earlier, spiritual training is about character improvement or refinement, or in simple words, actions that continue to build towards good character, attitude and morals.
Spiritual cultivation is on a more advanced level though. Spiritual cultivation covers practices in relation to gaining instinct, wisdom and intuition. This includes performing more contemplation and meditation in the effort to attain Jhanas and elevate one’s spiritual level.
Five Aspects of Spiritual Training That You Can Easily Practise In Your Daily Life
So what constitutes spiritual training? Here are the 5 things that fall under the category, which you can adopt and practise in your everyday living:-
Chanting of sutras and mantras
Each day, we need to regulate our daily chanting in the morning as well as in the evening before 7.00 p.m. The most ideal duration of chanting is around 45 minutes but if you are rushing to work, then 20 minutes of incantation will suffice.
All these chanting of sutras and mantras are called opening and closing of incantations. By our daily chanting of sutras and mantras, we build up our confidence as well as protection onto our mind and body.
However, there are rules pertaining to our daily chanting. First of all, we should make it a habit of doing daily chanting in the morning before going to work. We need to plan our time to ensure we have enough time of 20 minutes approximately to perform our incantation, taking into consideration of our travelling time to working place. In the evening, we need to recite our prayers longer to compensate the short time of chanting in the morning.
Needless to say, it is necessary to focus and concentrate whenever we chant any sutras or mantras. Thus, if we chant Amitabha Buddha’s mantra, then we must focus our visualization of the image of Amitabha Buddha and not about debt repayment, money making schemes or worrying over payments of groceries bills. All these worrisome thoughts should be put into cold storage for a while when performing all these daily chantings.
Only by activating our mind and body through chanting could it helps us to overcome all these human shortcomings. Chanting of sutras and mantras is actually a kind of recharging process of spiritual energy onto our mind and body so that our mind become stable, calm and serene. When we constantly practice daily chanting , we also indirectly fortify our mind and body to have better protection from any unforeseen disaster and calamity through our power of intuition and sixth sense formation.
Having good manners and behaviour
The second step we should start to practice is nurturing good manners and behaviour. We must learn to greet people automatically in the morning as well as upon departing back home. We need to pay respect to our parents and elderly people sincerely whenever we meet them. We also have to ensure all our parental needs are fulfilled.
However, in this present time, we are more likely to see the other way round where actually the parents are still taking care of the needs of their grown-up children. This is a very degrading trend now in our society, even among the supposedly good Buddhists.
Furthermore, a lot of grown up children abandon their old-aged parents for convenient ways of living and they are unwilling to sacrifice their time, effort and money for their old folks. Parents, on the other hand, are too afraid to antagonise their “successful” children and simply conform to their children’s wishes. This is another cause of degeneration in our society.
Another common feature of today’s parents is they perform their responsibilities in the wrong way. As young parents, our duty is to nurture the infant children to become good adolescents. Upon their graduation, our task is finished and we should vigorously start to practice our spiritual cultivation with full throttle because we are reaching the last chapter of our life.
Instead, we continue to bear the children’s responsibility by becoming their children’s babysitter and end up wasting their time taking care of their grandchildren. This is a very retrogressing step in our last stage of life.
We should always love our children but never pamper them because if parents keep on taking care of them until old, then we are just feeding them and do not really guide them to become responsible adults.
Thirdly, we should possess discipline in ourselves. If we do not have discipline, then we will never succeed in our spiritual training because through discipline, one refrains from doing anything which is immoral or unwholesome in action subject to punishment by law.
Discipline is our observation of following law and order in this world. Discipline reflects our responsibility and integrity, such as having road courtesy, good manners, being hardworking, honest, obedient and respectful of parents and elderly people or superiors.
Living life the proper way
Fourthly, the proper way of living is equally important. This is in regard to our means of earning a living in an honest way and not involved in any kind of unscrupulous transactions. Without patience of enduring hardship in earning a simple living, then we will never able to practice spiritual training in our life.
Immoral means of earning fast and easy money is becoming more and more visibly seen such as internet scams, SMS scams, lucky dip scheme, Casanova ways of cheating women and other vices like gambling, drug related activities and ecstasy pills business. All these unwholesome activities are going to destroy mankind. This is the reason why “clean up” of this world is necessary in order to wipe out all these “overgrown weeds”.
Nowadays, people want fast money, fast delivery and fast development leading to all sort of human defilement and entanglements. No longer do we go according to proper procedures and regulations but only to manipulate the quickest means of acquiring materialistic gains regardless whether the actions are immoral, suicidal or detrimental to the people.
Mankind is going towards the status of “wealthy and rich” achievement because they believe being rich, money can buy everything. It is indeed a very savage statement and crude ideology. No amount of money in this world can buy happiness, just like money can never buy true love and sincerity. Money also cannot buy loyalty and integrity. Only crude and immoral people can be bought but only for a brief period of time.
There is no doubt in this world; money is a necessity to make us survive but not a luxury to corrupt our mind with all kinds of leisure, comfort and luxuries. We must always remember this world is only a temporary place for us to stay and whatever we do, create or achieve, we will bring back only one thing upon departure from this world: the asset of knowledge we have acquired.
Using time wisely
Lastly, the wise usage of time plays another important part in our spiritual training. Time is money in the world of commercialisation but it is like gold, precious in the spiritual realms when utilised for the benefits of mankind and all sentient beings.
These days, most people on Earth spend their time loitering in supermarkets and shopping complexes while others drift away their time talking, chitchatting and gossiping over the coffee shop tables on topics which have no relevance to their life.
Some others even spend their time gambling away their money at casinos or other gambling outlets and horse-racing betting. Many others would glue to the TV programmes for hours or even install special TV station channels for all-day viewing.
All these bad actions and wrong attitude in utilising our time will lead to setbacks and weaken our spiritual training .When our spiritual training is zero or fragile, then our spiritual cultivation will be difficult to adopt in the future.
If we were to analyse, there are only 24 hours a day and taking away our sleeping time of 8 hours approximately, plus 8 hours of working duration, we will be left with only 8 hours, not forgetting we need to brush teeth, bathe, eat our breakfast, lunch and dinner, not forgetting that others also include tea time and supper at night Some allowance should also be given to the time of traveling to work.
Therefore, the actual time available in our spiritual training is less than 6 hours. If we still do not know how to value our precious limited time, then no amount of vigorous teachings or shortcut sessions are going to help us succeed in our spiritual training.
We do not forbid anyone from watching TV programmes, dancing, singing at karaokes, lounges, dining at restaurants, touring or swimming or any other recreational activities. It is just that we should take a hard look at our limited time available and pick up the most favorite activity we enjoy and at the same time optimize our spiritual training to ensure we have obtained the maximum benefits.
We should always remember there is time for everything we do but there is also a limit for everything we do in life.
When we have exercised all these imperative measures to cultivate our spiritual training, then we are moving onto the right track towards a successful achievement in life. This successful achievement is immeasurable, priceless, and most of all, blissful in contentment.
This is the reason why today the younger generation of people are gullible to all kinds of wrong beliefs and incorrect spiritual training. This is due to their wrong way of brought up.
Thus, in this present generation, people are easily agitated, impatient, gullible, egoistic, ill-mannered, greedy and ignorant.
In this case, both the parents and their children are practicing wrong concepts of responsibilities and affections. If the parents are really sincere in their spiritual training, then they need to forgo the task of doing babysitting for their children and make full use of their free time to practice their spiritual training of giving services to others, listening to proper dharma talks, observing moral precepts and finally spending more time on their chanting and meditation.
At the same time, children should be taught to be independent in their life, collecting responsibility for themselves and finally moulding themselves to become people of principle, responsibility, and integrity.
With the above correct Buddhist practices in place, this will pave a better future of obtaining a successful spiritual cultivation in their life.