20. THE ATTITUDE IN CULTIVATION
20.1 Deviated Path in Cultivation
Similar to other religions, Buddhism has incorporated various types of traditions, custom, miracles, mysticism, fortune-telling, fung-shui, charms, talismans, mantras, prayers and many rites and rituals that may not be found in the original teaching. As a result, people give more attention to self-protection from evil spirits and to seeking good luck and prosperity, etc. They are only interested in discovering ways to get rid of misfortunes, difficulties and bad influence of stars, black magic, etc. by external powers. Thus, religious practices and beliefs are degenerated, and confined to worldly pursuits. People become superstitious because of their blind faith in the name of that religion,
The Buddha rejects superstitions but urges us to pursue wisdom. The Buddha teaches us to develop the most important practices: self-discipline, self-restraint, cultivation of morality and spiritual development. The Buddha also teaches us to cultivate the strength of will-power, wisdom, understanding of Mind and self-nature.
Regarding as a way of cultivation, some people place the Buddhist images to worship. However, if they pray the images requesting for guidance and protection for health and wealth for good luck and fame, for power and love, etc, or if they ask favours from the images and figures to forgive their evil deeds, then they are not in the right path of cultivation.
The worship of the Buddhist images is to pay respects to the Buddha, the greatest, wisest, most benevolent, compassionate man who has ever lived in this world. The images help people to recall the Buddha in their mind. They may be used as a symbol or an object of concentration to gain a piece of mind. The serenity of the Buddhist images influences and inspires them to observe the right path of conduct and thought.
The recollection of the Buddha produces joy, invigorates the mind and elevates man from states of restlessness, tension and frustration. Thus, the worship of the Buddha is not a prayer in its usual sense, but a meditation. Therefore, it is not idol worship, but "ideal" worship.
On the other hand, respecting the Buddha images without following Buddha's teaching is not the way of cultivation. All worshippers should endeavour to understand the spirit of the Buddha.
In Buddhism, there are so-called Six Psychic Power, which can be attained through long and intense training in meditation. The Buddha has advised his disciples not to exercise such psychic power, such as walking on water, exorcising spirits, fortune-telling, etc. The people may be converted and attracted to a religion, not because they realize the truth, but because they harbour hallucinations. It is not appropriate. In Buddhism, miracles can hinder a person to attain enlightenment.
The Buddha says that a person can gain miraculous power without gaining spiritual power. However, it is dangerous because this power may be misused, and harmful to people. These so-called miracles are merely imaginations and hallucinations created by their own minds due to a lack of understanding of things as they truly are. The Buddha expressly forbade his disciples to use miracles to prove the superiority of his teachings. The Buddha teaches us to cultivate and gain the spiritual power, then we automatically have the psychic power too. The latter is the "side-product" of the former, but the Buddha advises us not to crave and cling to the psychic power, or any other responses in form. The change for the better arising from an understanding of Dharma is the highest miracle that one can perform.
20.2 Developing Bodhi Mind in Cultivation
The Avatamsaka Sutra states:
The teaching is very true indeed. If someone begins walking without knowing the destination or goal of his journey, his trip is bound to be circuitous, tiring and useless. It is the same for the cultivator. If he expends a great deal of effort, but forgets the goal of attaining Buddhahood, i.e. to understand the mind, the self-nature, and to benefit himself and others, all his efforts will merely bring merits in the human realm, i.e. worldly gain. In the end he will still be deluded and revolve in the cycle of birth and death, undergoing immense suffering. For this reason, developing the Supreme Bodhi Mind to benefit oneself and others should be taken as a crucial step.
Awakening the Bodhicitta (Bodhi Mind) it can be summarized in the Four Great Vows:
To really develop the Bodhi Mind, one should meditate on and act in accordance with the spirit of the vow, in the course of cultivation. In order to develop a true Bodhi Mind, we should ponder and meditate on the following six critical points:
With the understanding of Three Universal Truths, we should truly realize that body and mind are illusory, and do not cling to them, then we will gradually enter the realm of no-self. If we have no Four Marks as stated in Diamond Sutra, we have no attachment to any nature that becomes empty. Moreover, if we have no attachment to both the marks of Dharma and no-Dharma that are also empty, then we will attain a pure, clear and bright mind. Only when we cultivate in such an enlightened frame of mind, we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".
Shakyamuni says that:
With equanimity and great compassion, the Buddhas regard sentient beings as Buddhas to rescue them. The difference lies in whether we are enlightened or not. As Buddhists, we should develop a mind of equanimity and respect towards sentient beings, when we cultivate. Wisdom comes from afflictions; afflictions comes from discrimination. Therefore, we should cultivate a mind of equanimity, then we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".
We ourselves and all sentient beings already possess the virtues and wisdom of the Buddhas. However, because we are deluded as to our True Nature, and commit evil deeds, we revolve in the cycle of birth and death, to our immense suffering. Once we understand this, we should rid ourselves of the mind of love-attachment, hatred and discrimination, and then develop the mind of repentance and compassion. We should seek expedient ways to save ourselves and others, so that all are peaceful, happy, comfortable and free from suffering.
In Buddhism, compassion is different from love-attachment. The latter is the mind of affection, attached to forms, binding us with the ties of passion. The former is the mind of benevolence, detached from forms, without discrimination or attachment to any one, manifesting us with blessings and wisdom.
The compassionate thought of the Bodhi Mind arises from a benevolent mind, which is the earnestness to rescue and liberate from suffering. We all possess benevolent minds, but have to cultivate the mind of compassion, then we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".
Having a benevolent mind, we should express it through a mind of joy. This mind is of two kinds: a rejoicing mind and a mind of forgiveness.
A rejoicing mind means that we are glad to witness meritorious and virtuous acts, performed by others, to rejoice with the people who gain merits and benefits, happiness and peace. It becomes a wholesome seed to be cultivated in our mind.
A mind of forgiveness means that we calmly forbear, gladly forgive those people who commit evil deeds, show ingratitude, etc. We make every attempt to cross them over rather than take revenge.
The rejoicing mind can destroy the affliction of jealousy. The mind of forgiveness can put an end to hatred and resentment.
The mind of joy cannot manifest itself in the absence of Enlightenment, thus we should cultivate it, then we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".
Because of the Three Poisons, we have harmed other sentient beings and created an immense amount of evil Karma through our body, mouth and mind for countless eons.
In cultivating the Buddhist Way, we should feel remorse and repent sincerely. We should put a complete stop to our evil mind and conduct, to the point where mind and objects are empty.
We should also vow to foster the Triple Jewels, rescue and liberate all sentient beings, repay the Four Great Debts (i.e. debts to Triple Jewels, debts to our parents and teachers, debts to our spiritual friends and debts to all sentiment beings).
Through this repentant mind, our past transgressions will disappear and our virtues will increase with time, leading us to the stage of perfect merit and wisdom. We should cultivate the mind of repentance and vows, then we are said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".
Although we vow to cultivate, our habitual delusions and obstructions are not easy to eliminate, nor is the accumulation of merits and virtues through cultivation easy to achieve. The path of perfect Enlightenment is long over many lives. Thus, holding fast to our vows is not easy things.
The practitioner wishes to keep his Bodhi Mind from retrogressing, he should be strong and firm in his vows. Practising with such a non-retrogressing mind is said to "develop the Bodhi Mind".
Here's an excerpt from Avatamsaka Sutra summarizing the Bodhi Mind: