19. METHODS IN CULTIVATION
19.1 Be Aware Alertly at all times in all matters
The reason why Buddha is free from all suffering, but sentient beings are not, has to do with the question of awareness, that is to say, it is because the Buddha is aware of suffering but sentient beings are not. This shows that all Dharmas stress the practice of cultivating awareness by keeping oneself to be aware. Therefore it is essential that we should be alertly aware at all times in all matters and to discipline ourselves with this end in view, we should keep our mind under control so that if we want to do so, we may bring our thought to a halt and relax our mind by sheer will-power. The importance of awareness may be seen in this Buddhist say, "What one should be concerned with is not the arising of thought but the question of being late to be aware of it", therefore, the sooner we are aware of it, the sooner we would turn it away, and only by awareness can we get rid of our passions effectively. Generally, speaking, owing to the obstruction of karma and habits, to be aware of one's own thoughts and to turn them away is by no means an easy thing, at any rate, the importance of cultivating awareness diligently and vigorously that the mind may be freed of illusions and contaminations from time to time.
19.2 Every Method of Cultivation being as good as others
In Buddhism, the Dharmas of cultivation, however numerous, are of one integrated whole. However, in view of the fact that the people of the world are different from one another in respect of their root, disposition, environment, etc., it is necessary that various Buddhist methods of cultivation have to be used expediently so that they may be adaptable to their own objective conditions. In reality, since every Buddhist practice is to revert the mind to the self-nature and every Dharma helps to develop wisdom all the same, it is for this reason that every Buddhist sect speaks highly of its own practice. Since everything that Buddhism teaches us flows from the self-nature and also returns to the self-nature, therefore every Buddhist not only should not cherish bias toward any Dharmas but also should understand clearly that every Dharma and every method of cultivation is as good as the others and if he perceives this truth and acts on the basis of this understanding, certainly he will develop broadmindedness and make rapid progress. But if he adheres to "only this Dharma but not the others", then he may form this "habit" and his cultivation would be obstructed consequently.
19.3 To keep on with one Method of Cultivation
Though their aim of cultivation is all the same, the various Buddhist Sects are different from one another, as far as their standpoints and methods of cultivation are concerned. The fact that Patriarchs always uphold their own sect should not be mistaken to be blowing their own trumpet, for this is but an ingenious expedient to encourage learners to keep on with one Dharma only for intensive practice. In short, in cultivating, we learners should stand firm and must not be influenced by others, or we would slack off in our cultivation, if not abandoning it altogether. Therefore, it is essential that from the very beginning we should attempt to practise the chosen method of cultivation intensively and sufficiently well, and also should keep ourselves often in the company of teachers and learned friends of the same sect and it is not until the mind is freed of illusions and broadened with right understanding that we may come in contact with teachers and learned Buddhists of the other sects in order to understand Buddhism more broadly and more extensively. In other words, it is only when we have good understanding as well as intensive practice of the Dharma of a particular sect, then later, we may also take up the Dharma of some other sects so as to understand from its various diversified aspects the integrated whole of Buddhism as much as possible.
19.4 To Cultivate with Will-power & Sincerity
In cultivating Buddhism, the most fundamental thing, upon which all the various methods are based, is the will-power. In other words, our resolution to practice Buddhism should be genuinely sincere and fundamentally correct, and we should resolve to liberate ourselves from rebirth and death and from transmigration, and out of compassion also resolve to help sentient beings and ourselves to attain the Perfect Supreme Enlightenment. With the Great Vow to forge our will, and to be always alertly vigilant over ourselves, as if we were under the supervision of a stern teacher, thus we can keep up our effort of awareness for long time. Next, another important condition of cultivating Buddhism is sincerity. A sincere mind and earnest effort are fundamentally important for practising every Dharma, including reading sutra and ritual practice. As long as cultivation is done in all earnestness, one may find out himself how helpful it would turn out to be. However, at the beginning he must not overdo it, otherwise he would be tired out too easily and would drop out too soon. In the course of the cultivation it is well to remember that it should be practised intensively but not perfunctorily, perseveringly but not too quickly and too slowly, and the more perseverance, the stronger and the more effective it is. After one has realized the true nature of the mind, all the more he should cultivate awareness diligently so that regardless of favourable or unfavourable situation, he is always aware of how his mind is working.
19.5 To Discipline Oneself Regularly and Diligently
Furthermore, awareness is cultivated for twofold purposes; to offset the
past efforts and to be prudent with sowing new seeds. To neutralize the
effect of the past karma by the present concurrent causes means that
by practising Buddhism, one would counteract the bad effect of one's karma
of the past; Never again to sow new bad seeds means that one should
be aware of the daily activities of the body, mouth and mind all the time
and if he takes every precaution not to sow any new bad seeds, then he will
be free from bad karma. However, if he merely attempts to eliminate the
past habits but does not care to rectify his present thoughts and behaviour.
Discipline is the foundation of Buddhism, therefore to discipline oneself
regularly and diligently is a matter of fundamental importance to every
Buddhist. If we cultivate discipline in silence or in speech, in motion
or in stillness, the perfect, profound and illuminating Mind will appear
spontaneously. Again, if the mind is pure, there will never be such evil
thoughts as killing, stealing, carnality and lying. Therefore one who can
keep his mind entirely free from internal and external influences is absolutely
a true disciplinarian!