The Practicality of Buddhism: Is it the Teaching That’s Impractical, or You?

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In both the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, it is always emphasised that propagation of the Buddha way is beyond boundaries (Hokkien: Hood Huat Boo Phee). What does it mean? Simply put, in whatever ways we practise, so long as it is within the scope of the Dharma teachings, you are within the correct path in treading your spiritual cultivations.

It also means when it comes to Buddhism or the way of life as a whole, there is no demarcation nor limitation in our steps to train ourselves spiritually, as there is no boundary in curbing our cultivations.

Feeling confused? Let’s take a closer look in understanding the practicalities of Buddhism.

The Rigid Mindset of Many Buddhists

Oftentimes, many Buddhists are mindset or rigid in thinking that only a certain method is ideal for cultivation. Sounds familiar?

Many think that the true path to enlightenment is through ordination and meditation, when our dream of liberation is by right, only at our doorstep. And by doorstep, we definitely do not mean it literally – it’s all within yourself, via our mind. In fact, the true path to emancipation is only on our mind over the matter – by profound manifestations of compassion, loving kindness and magnanimous heart.

Although these criteria look simple, they are extremely boundless and limitless in cultivation, especially when you actually put them into action and not just mere words. This is the true essence of the way towards a practical living in Buddhism.

Sadly, these supposedly simple gestures turn out to be the most difficult to be seen among Buddhist laities of today. And the rigid mindset is one to blame.

Many Buddhists tend to be rigid in mindset and refuse to open up to newer perspectives to improve themselves. - The Practicality of Buddhism: Is it the Teaching That's Impractical, or You? | Poh Ern Si Blog
Many Buddhists tend to be rigid in mindset and refuse to open up to newer perspectives to improve themselves.

How to Adopt A Practical Approach in Buddhism?

While we know and come to realise that many Buddhists are not practising Buddhism with a practical mentality, it doesn’t mean you have to follow them blindly. Always remember the Buddha’s precious Kalama Sutta – that we should always, always analyse and think before performing something and following the Joneses just because the majority said so.

One of the things you should keep in mind is that, the doors of enlightenment are opened in various ways of practice, not just limited to some certain methods deemed to be the only successful approach by some groups of people.

It’s like art – just because someone decides to paint their art in an abstract form does not render their art unworthy or wrong, but simply, it’s just a different medium or method used to produce the same end goal called art.

So how can you adopt a practical way of practising Buddhism, especially in the modern world? Here are some tips:

  • Go for simple sutras’ and mantras chanting: As we have mentioned in our previous post, chanting sutras and mantras is a great way to gain insight and wisdom. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight magically – it takes years or decades to perfect our practices before we finally reap our fruits of chanting.
  • Listen to golden, true Dharma: While this is something that is not appealing to the masses these days, listening to real Dharma is one good way to gain realisation and insight upon sudden reflections of truth presented in the sermons. Rather than simply tuning in to some boring sermons of the past, search for good, relevant sermons that are specifically catered to our present time Buddhists.

    Don’t know where to find authentic yet down-to-earth Buddhist sermons? Look no further than Poh Ern Si.
  • Ponder, contemplate, meditate: Another means of adopting a practical Buddhism is through frequent pondering, contemplation and meditation over all the golden sermons received. Focus our attention by reflecting on all these golden teachings and how they can benefit us in our daily living, then try to apply what has been taught in our life.

    This way, we will gradually lessen our doubts and chances of an unsteady mind. In return, you will gain calmness, tranquility and serenity in your mind. When you manage to do that, you’ll know you’re on the right way to emancipation into the Buddhahood realms.
Ponder, contemplate and meditate whenever you can. - The Practicality of Buddhism: Is it the Teaching That's Impractical, or You? | Poh Ern Si Blog
Ponder, contemplate and meditate whenever you can.

But Do You Have What It Takes to Practise Practical Buddhism?

The tips above sound simple as they are, but do you have what it takes to work on them?

Like all things in the world, you can’t escape from putting in a lot of patience, endurance, tolerance, determination and perseverance in order to achieve success, including adopting Buddhism practically.

Again, we need to evaluate if there is any suitability in the following aspects to cultivate our mind to gain liberation into pure land realms:

  • Right Time,
  • Right Place
  • Right Condition

These are all important factors necessary to navigate our path into successful attainment. Without them, successful cultivation may be further from what you expect.

Important Notes on Practical Buddhism that Buddhists Tend to Overlook

In addition to understanding the barriers to practical Buddhism, the ways to cultivate and the factors to watch out to create an ideal condition for practical practices, there are a few important considerations that we feel the need to highlight, which are observations we have come across countless times throughout our years of establishing Poh Ern Si.

#1 Charity Begins From Home, Not From the Outside

Take care of your family first before you proceed to perform charity out of home. - The Practicality of Buddhism: Is it the Teaching That's Impractical, or You? | Poh Ern Si Blog
Take care of your family first before you proceed to perform charity out of home.

This may be a famous saying you have heard on and off in discussions but unfortunately, many still do not fully grasp the meaning of the phrase, “charity begins at home”.

It’s an undeniable fact that everything begins at home – whether in charity, business, studies or cultivations. Many Buddhists have overlooked the importance of their origin, in which charity should start from home, and likewise, informal education should start from our humble home too.

When a person could not tolerate any form of discipline (think about being scolded for wrongdoings, or punished for bad behaviour) or sharing of one’s income or properties with family member or siblings to help the less fortunate member in the household, then one is doomed in practice.

Discipline and generosity are two most important criteria in ensuring a successful cultivation and way of life. If a person defies being corrected when in the wrong or refuse to share and help others in need, then it becomes pointless to embark on the path of practical Buddhism since he or she does not possess the much needed cultivation “ingredients” to begin with.

When you possess discipline and generosity, indirectly you foster compassion, loving kindness and magnanimous heart within yourself. To do so, in all practicality, one must start from young to imbibe all these golden characters of virtues.

#2 Practices & Cultivation Are Not Subject to Limitations of Rules

Don't let yourself be bound by impractical limitations in your spiritual cultivation. - The Practicality of Buddhism: Is it the Teaching That's Impractical, or You? | Poh Ern Si Blog
Don’t let yourself be bound by impractical limitations in your spiritual cultivation.

It is important to understand that our practices and cultivations have no barriers or subject to limitations of rules. The only standard of judgement is we must ensure whatever we want to train ourselves have to conform to golden sermons of pragmatic approach.

For instance, if we will to go into chanting of sutras and mantras, we must adhere to our sincerity and the pure heart to enjoy the chanting of these sutras and mantras. There may be doubts by Buddhists saying that daily chanting of sutras and mantras may lead to attachment and suffering of habitual incantations but this is not relevant and illogical.

However, if we ever feel being attached to perform chanting, this means that we are being forced to chant and have an unpleasant feeling to practice these incantations. Otherwise, when our mind is at ease and calm to chant these sutras and mantras we will feel natural and tranquil with pleasant thoughts while feeling light and easy. If that’s the case, then you’ll know you are on the right track to achieve insight and wisdom.

#3 Self-Reflection or Contemplation is Important

Take time to do some pondering and contemplation each day as this will help us progress significantly in our spiritual cultivation. - The Practicality of Buddhism: Is it the Teaching That's Impractical, or You? | Poh Ern Si Blog
Take time to do some pondering and contemplation each day as this will help us progress significantly in our spiritual cultivation.

The Buddha always emphasises on mind over matter, and in this case, contemplation is key to making sure we know what we are doing and become clear about things we should do or shouldn’t do. That’s why it’s important to absorb and reflect on all the golden sermons you have attended and listened to, then apply the practical teachings whenever possible into our daily life.

Many Buddhist do not realise the significance of adopting pondering, contemplation and meditation to achieve a successful outcome of processing our Dharma knowledge.

When any Buddhist merely listens to the golden Dharma teachings without applying pondering , contemplation and meditation upon hearing such sermons, then that person is merely listening for fun, which serves no benefits to the purity of mind, heart and body.

This is also the main reason why many of us cannot realise our potential development of our mind to attain wisdom of knowledge and power – we merely listen and have never truly absorbed the practical teachings to apply into our daily living.

When we learn to think and analyse the sermons, our constant reflections on all these golden sermons will give rise to sudden realisation of intuition and insight. Naturally, we need a certain duration of time to achieve this emancipation. And once again, one must possess the strength of endurance, patience, tolerance, determination and perseverance to practice these cultivations in Buddhism.

In case we are unsure whether listening to the Dharma and digesting the facts can lead us to salvation, we need to assess ourselves first. Do you possess a steady mind to listen attentively to the sermons? Or have you taken the sermons for granted by drifting in your sleep while in attendance of the golden Dharmas?

Simply put, if you have had a full concentration on the sermons delivered and actually ponder and contemplate over them, you wouldn’t have such doubts in the first place.

So Have You Been Practising Buddhism Right?

Remember, the practice of Buddhism is not limited by any form of boundary – to place some kind of demarcation or limit as to the means of practising the way of life will make it impractical, and in some situations, burdensome, which defeats the purpose of cultivation.

Also, bear in mind that the power of pondering, contemplation and meditation should never be underestimated. These three golden factors are the pillars of our successful cultivations.

Unfortunately, many spiritual teachers, masters and Bhante do not elaborate much on these golden factors of beneficial cultivations. Our mind works on constant repetition, just like when we want to memorise any verses on anything, we need to repeat the verses until our mind automatically remembers all the words needed to be absorbed.

Similarly, when our mind becomes constantly aware of all these constant pondering, contemplation and meditation on all the golden sermons, it will come a time where our mind comes to a sudden realisation of intuition and insight.

Gradually, we will attain wisdom and tread the path to Pure Land realms. This is the true way to our natural enlightenment.

Hope this article shed some light and provide you some food for thought on the matter of practising Buddhism with a practical approach. If you have questions, feel free to comment below.

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