We are always taught that in life, we are given the power of choice. However, when it comes to cultivation, you don’t get to choose and do as you please though.
We will discuss on the choice-making aspect on cultivation concept in Buddhism.
In many instances, cultivation is a simple concept of practising straightforward and simple steps of undoing our tensions, worries, restlessness, bad motives and selfishness. It is also an act that helps to calm our wavering mind towards dealing with the shortcomings in our daily life.
When embarking on the path of cultivation, there is a hidden rule – there is no allowances of choosing likes and dislikes in our practices. We cannot simply discard what we think is incompatible and inconvenient to us, when all the things we don’t like doing or the obstacles we have to go through are necessary to fulfill our basic foundations of training.
Choosing Cultivation Paths Out of Own Convenience
We are often subject to taking the easy way out when it comes to cultivation concept in Buddhism. We are always looking for a shortcut in everything we do, and it seems even the religious paths are not spared from our bad habits.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as choosing your cultivation paths, ways or methods out of your own convenience – just because you are feeling lazy, or find them too difficult to your liking.
For example, we cannot simply pick and select any sutras and mantras we like to chant because in the first place a Buddhist should learn to be humble and start incantation of simple sutras and mantras. Basic sutras and mantras must be chanted daily on the homage to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha followed by incantation of forgiveness.
In the Mahayana teachings, we should start off with chanting of “Namo Amitabha” 《南无阿弥陀佛》 followed by “Tai Pee Chum” 《大悲忏》 and “Ta Pei Chou” 《白衣神大悲咒》. Another simple and important incantation in the Mahayana school of Buddhism is the “Phu Men Phin” 《妙法莲华经观世音菩萨普门品》chanting.
These combinations should be good enough for any Buddhist who want to cultivate successfully in their training. Contrary to popular belief, there should not be any complicated or advanced level of chanting such as the “Om Mani Padmi Hom” verse or the “Heart Sutra“《般若波罗蜜多心经》. Only when we have truly practise for decades and possess a steady mind, then we can continue to upgrade our chanting to these higher level of incantations.
Why You Shouldn’t Do Advanced Chanting for Cultivation
As mentioned earlier, we discourage against chanting difficult or advanced level sutras and mantras, and for good reason too.
Let’s take a look at this simple analogy. We cannot simply read anything unless we have gone through basic education in primary school of learning alphabets, and order plus pronunciation of words. Everything starts from the basic ground zero.
Likewise, we cannot simply chant any advanced and complicated sutras and mantras just because you think these high-level sutras and mantras could help speed up your cultivation. That is an absolutely wrong idea!
There is no shortcut in cultivation.
Without basic foundations in learning, we will surely create an unsteady mind in the future without gaining anything useful to our living, much less in cultivation.
Important Daily Cultivation Requisites
Like many other activities, there are requisites that you shouldn’t ignore when it comes to daily cultivation, which is to chant daily in the morning and one in the evening. We cannot disregard such practice to adopt an attitude of practice chanting whenever we feel appropriate to do incantations.
If we choose to chant only as we feel like it, this leads to the meaning of choosing our likes and dislikes in our cultivations – there isn’t room for us to do as we please.
Daily chanting indirectly helps us build up discipline in our character. Oftentimes, we will always say we don’t have the time and that it is inconvenient to chant at any time of the day due to work or household chores. However, this is just a flimsy excuse – it goes down to seeing the needs to do it.
If we have the heart to do daily chanting, we only need to arouse our time management properly and effectively apply chanting into our daily schedules. It is always easy to say “I can’t do this or that”, simply because you don’t like to do it or don’t see the importance of the task. Ironically, when it comes to your liking and preferential wants, you will no doubt say it can be done, and this should not be the way of life.
Challenges in Cultivation When People Cannot Follow Simple Rules
In this modern era, many of us could not even follow simple rule of living decently and properly in our daily living. These include:
- Practising correct time to sleep
- Eating proper meals
- Having good rest
- Ensuring good balanced diets
Many will utilize their time gazing at computers or handphones for hours without proper time to rest and eating their meals properly, let alone go into cultivations to purify our mind, heart and body.
Today, mankind is too engrossed with earthly gadgets and worldly activities that one is oblivious of spending some time beneficially for our spiritual cultivations. This is partly because modern generations of people no longer believe in life after death.
If there is no life after death, then why do we still pay respect to our departed relatives since there is nothingness to observe in anyone existence? If it is indeed true that there’s no life after death, the practice of observing All Souls’ Day and practising the Chinese belief of Cheng Beng/Qing Ming festival (清明节) will not be there in the first place.
This is yet another sad example of mankind doing as they like without thinking about the logic or sensibility of things and consequences of their actions. Remember, when life is too materialistic in our civilization, there will always be a lost direction in our culture.
Also, being a Buddhist does not give us the right to simply invent any activities detrimental to our Buddhist cultures. One evidence of such abuse of people’s faith is the grand procession parade that falls on Wesak Day every year.
We wish to highlight that the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha does not give anyone the privilege of organizing any materialistic activity such as showcasing procession floats and bathing the little Prince Siddhartha’s statue.
This is the culmination of wrong rites and rituals in Buddhist teachings. Yet, the majority blindly follow without truly analysing and understanding the situation, since it is always easier to enjoy the merriment rather than ponder on whether such event has any beneficial development to our Buddhists belief.
The real correct observations of the Buddha’s anniversary is to recollect the Buddha’s teachings and revive the Buddhist knowledge through quizzes and forum discussions that serve to highlight the golden teachings of the Buddha. The Wesak Day float celebrations and preparations, which cost hundreds of thousands could be put to better use in terms of food donations to the poor and needy, especially since these procession floats have no significance in relation to any Buddhist realization of truth.
In concluding this important teaching, we must remember that the actual practicing of our cultivation should be done without any form of showing our likes and dislikes. The only exception to the non-choice cultivation in which we have the power to choose is only when there is a need to discard practices that are irrelevant to Buddhism.
Throughout centuries, our Buddhist’s faith has been adulterated with all forms of misconceived views and misguided celebrations of Buddhist festivals. Truly, we need to obliterate all these wrong concepts of Buddhist celebrations and practices through highlighting the myth and fallacies of such beliefs.
It is only through our real actions of propagating virtuous actions and meritorious deeds in our daily living that will truly reflect the golden teachings of our Buddha’s way of life.