17. A REMARK ON CULTIVATION
17.1 Common Problems in Cultivation
On the basis of their cultivation, Buddhists may be classified into the following groups. The first group does not understand the importance of practising Buddhism, the second group is ignorant of the fundamental objective of practising Buddhism and the third group does not know clearly how to practise intensively and thoroughly the methods of cultivation. Consequently, though seekers of Dharma are many, yet understanding practisers are comparatively few, and practisers who can realize the mind and the self-nature are still less. These frustrated and depressed Buddhists who are ignorant of the way of Buddhism may be aptly described "to return from the vast Store-house of Treasury empty-handed", and how deplorable this is!
Some learned Buddhists take up Buddhism merely for academic learning and all their cultivation is to study the Scripture and to attend sermons, but they make no serious and determined effort to put it into practice at all. Defending their indifference towards cultivation, they distort the Buddhist saying. "Fundamentally Buddhahood is immanent in everyone and needs neither cultivation nor verification." Owing to their lack of cultivation, they cannot tackle their life problems in the right way, nor can they prevent themselves from suffering frustration at all.
They are scholars in farming, but they never sow in farmland, thus they can attain no fruit.
A number of Buddhist devotees, who have little or no understanding of the principle of cultivation, usually do their cultivation rather ignorantly, e.g. if the cultivation deals with things, they cling to the notion of things, and if it deals with the mind, they cling to the notion of the self. From their point of view, cultivation depends on external aids, and if they have the fortune to meet a celebrated Buddhist Master and to learn the supreme Dharma from him, they would be able to remove their vexing passions and accumulated habits. As they are totally unaware of their own passions and habits emerging in everyday life, they allow themselves to be dominated and carried away by them all the time. As long as their cultivation is dependent on external help, rather than the practice of self-introspection, they have missed the crucial point of cultivation, consequently, no matter how hard they may try, they can get nowhere in the quest of Enlightenment.
They are farmers with little or no knowledge about the technology in farming. No matter how hard they work, they cannot acquire the great harvest. However, this group of people is better than the first group.
Some Buddhists who have long experienced life's hardship are firmly entrenched in the belief that Buddhism would help them to liberate themselves from suffering in and beyond the world and so they take up the Dharma of cultivation in all earnestness. However, despite their long and diligent practice in reciting sutra and mantra, in Name-Reciting, or in meditation, to their bitter disappointment they find that they have made no progress at all; in fact, the more methods they practise, the more confusion and the more frustration they have. In desperation one may say "I'm bound to fail. It is all due to my bad karama. What can I do? I'm so helpless", etc, etc.
They are like farmers who are not patient enough. They grow crops here and there, trying different methods but none of the crops can grow up because it is sufficiently cultivated. Consistency and persistency are essential attitude towards cultivating the Buddhist Way.
17.2 The Importance of Cultivation
In the Three Treasuries also called the Tripitaka (the Sutra, Vinaya and Sastra) and the Twelve Divisions of Mahayans Canons, is Buddhism most comprehensively embodied and treated, and in the main, these Buddhist Classics are classified under four headings, namely, Doctrine, Principle, Cultivation and Fruition. The first category covers all the teachings of Buddha, the second expounds all the principles and precepts of Buddhism, the third includes the various methods of cultivation and the fourth deals with development of Buddhahood by cultivation leading to the attainment of Enlightenment. Apparently, the first two categories fall within the scope of theory, pure and simple, and the last two are concerned with the practical aspects of Buddhism. As a matter of fact, all the theories of Buddhism come from self-experience and self-realization, therefore all of them are practical and practicable. In other words, in Buddhism there is no doctrine that is merely theorectical and impractical, and also there is no cultivation that is blindly accepted and not based on some working principle. Thus, these four aspects of Buddhism, Doctrine, Principle, Cultivation and Fruition, are interrelated and complementary to one another, individually, they are separate by themselves, yet collectively they are integrated as a whole.
From this it may be clearly seen that the objective of Buddhism not only calls for understanding its Doctrine but also for translating understanding into action. The necessity of cultivation cannot be too strongly stressed; to what extent we may be benefited by Buddhism entirely depends on how intensive is our effort of cultivation. It is only by practising Buddhism wholeheartedly and by self-experiencing that we may realize the theory of Buddhism is complete, perfect and absolutely impartial; also it is only by persistent and vigorous cultivation that we may wipe out illusions and attachments gradually, that we may experience by self-realization the objective reality of the True Nature to be in harmony with the reality of the phenomena of the universe. It is only by cultivation that we may attain right understanding of Buddhism, and the more the practice, the better the understanding; it is because the theoretical and practical aspects of Buddhism are mutually complementary with each other and mutually influencing each other that understanding and experiencing, principle and practice, are integrated into one complete whole. Buddhism is not just a religion, Buddhism is not just a philosophy. Buddhism is an education that everyone should learn.