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The Tree of Enlightenment: An Introduction to the Major Traditions of Buddhism - Chapter Thirteen: The Fundamentals in Practice

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The Tree of Enlightenment
An Introduction to the Major Traditions of Buddhism

Peter Della Santina



Chapter Thirteen
The Fundamentals in Practice

By way of conclusion, I would like to reflect on what we have discussed over the course of the preceding chapters and relate it to what we can do in our own personal lives, both now and in the future.

The teachings of the Buddha are exceedingly vast and very profound. Thus far, we have only managed to survey a few of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha, and these only superficially. You may feel that we have covered a lot, and that it is impossible to practice everything we have discussed. Indeed, it is said that it is difficult, even for a monk living in isolation, to practice all the fundamental teachings of the Buddha: small wonder that it may also be difficult for laymen and laywomen like ourselves, who have many secular responsibilities to fulfill. Nonetheless, if we succeed in sincerely cultivating and practicing even a few of the many teachings of the Buddha, we will have succeeded in making this life more meaningful. Moreover, we will be certain that we will again encounter circumstances favorable to the practice of the Dharma, and to the eventual realization of liberation.

Everyone can achieve the highest goal in Buddhism, be he or she a layperson or a member of the monastic order. All a person need do is make an honest effort to follow the Noble Eightfold Path. It is said that those who have realized the truth, like the Buddha Shakyamuni and his prominent disciples, did not do so accidentally. They did not fall from the sky like rain, nor spring up from the earth like grain. The Buddha and his disciples were once ordinary sentient beings like you and me. They were once afflicted by impurities of the mind--attachment, aversion, and ignorance. It was through coming into contact with the Dharma, through purifying their words and deeds, through developing their minds, and through acquiring wisdom that they became free, exalted beings able to teach and help others realize the truth. There is therefore no doubt that, if we apply ourselves to the teachings of the Buddha, we, too, can attain the ultimate goal of Buddhism. We, too, can become like the Buddha and his prominent disciples.

It is of no use merely to listen to the Dharma or to read the Dharma, merely to write articles about the Dharma or give lectures about it, if we do not put it into practice. It has been said that those of us who call ourselves Buddhists can profit by occasionally taking stock. If we see that, over the preceding years or months, our practice of the Buddha's teachings has brought about a change in the quality of our experience--and it will probably be only a small change--then we know that the teachings are having some effect.

If all of us put the teachings of the Buddha into practice, there is no doubt that we will realize their benefits. If we seek to avoid harming others, if we try our best to help others whenever possible, if we learn to be mindful, if we learn to develop our ability to concentrate our minds, if we cultivate wisdom through study, careful consideration, and meditation, there is no doubt that the Dharma will benefit us. It will first lead us to happiness and prosperity in this life and in the next. Eventually, it will lead us to the ultimate goal of liberation, the supreme bliss of nirvana.


Continue Reading

Part One: The Fundamentals of Buddhism

Part Two: The Mahayana

Part Three: The Vajrayana

Part Four: The Abhidharma

Source

by Peter Della Santina
peterdellasantina.org