Faith, Understanding,
Practice, and Realization

The Four Stages in
Learning the Buddhist Way

By Susan Kong
(Translated by B. Lam)
(Recorded by Ho Man Ping)

Lecture Three : Practice

Substituting Emotions (Discipline)

1)   Overcome motion with motionlessness: Human emotions are everchanging such that activities of the mind extend in all directions and dwell on the past, present and future, both the far and near, aimlessly and unceasingly at work. In fact, anchoring the mind is like anchoring a boat - to keep both from drifting. In practice, know first where the mind is to take refuge, then proceed to master it. Learners of the Buddhist Way must therefore observe the precepts before practice. Anchor the mind, overcome motion with motionlessness and, in the end, transform emotions. Practise good and refrain from evil; meditate to control the mind. This is the essence of the teaching on discipline.

Complete Discipline of Mind Activities (Concentration)

Complete discipline of mind activities is an advancement in emotional substituting. In overcoming motion with motionlessness, the mind is not empty but only assumes right-mindfulness and is alert thoroughly and distinctly. Ignore wandering thoughts and do not provoke them or be captivated by them: they will quietly vanish.

1)   Contemplate often on the impurities of the body: What lies on the exterior in utmost beauty and charm is only skin-deep; what is excreted from beneath is nothing but filth and stench. What is there to desire? This body of ours is not deserving at all. Greed will therefore arise no more.

2)   Contemplate often on compassion: Practise charity and cultivate sympathy. Together they will subdue resentment and any urge to harm or to blame. Anger will therefore arise no more.

3)   Contemplate often on dependent causation: Human life and all phenomena are brought into being by the combination of various causes and conditions. They are by nature impermanent and without substantiality. Do not indulge on notions of eternity.

4)   Contemplate often on the nonexistence of self-entity: Sentient being and permanence. Delusion will therefore arise no more. Beings share a temporary, insubstantial existence in each lifetime, followed by endless cycles of birth and death. There is no dominating self-entity, nothing to be proud of or attached to. Arrogance will therefore arise no more.

5)   In meditation, concentrate on one object to absorb the mind and enter it into the state of serenity. But the mind is so used to being scattered. Resort to counting one's breaths, therefore, to regain single-pointedness of the mind.

What is generally known as concentration can be attained from these five methods of mind discipline.

Discontinue the Resources of Rebirth (Wisdom)

The objectives of practice are to gain peace of mind for now and be free from suffering in future. Emotions kept in check and properly sorted, a person will be enabled to handle and accept adversities graciously. To be free from future suffering in the cycles of birth and death, the resources of rebirth must be discontinued. There are two ways to achieve this:

1)   Refrain from worldly desires: Not knowing that all phenomena arise from conditional causation in the absence of substantiality, attachment to people and things will develop in forms of greed for wealth, fame, eating and pleasure. Indulging in them will lead one to all kinds of unwholesome karmic actions. This being the cause, the bitter fruit certainly awaits in the future. Therefore, to refrain from rebirth, one must first refrain from worldly desires.

2)   Free the mind from attachment: With desire comes attachment; with attachment comes discrimination; with discrimination come love and hate; with love and hate come obsession and expectation; with obsession and expectation come endless births and deaths. To be liberated from transmigration, the mind must be freed from attachment.

Liberation and Independence, Peace, and Happiness

Liberation is the nonexistence of karma that influences birth and death, independence the nonexistence of afflictions and conflicts, and peace and happiness the nonexistence of suffering and burden. Together they form the state of perfect fulfillment in practice and observance.