To qualify as a Buddha, a World Teacher, an aspirant must prepare himself over an inconceivably long period of time spanning countless lives. During these past lives, the future Buddha is referred to as a bodhisattva, an aspirant to the full enlightenment of Buddhahood. In each life the bodhisattva must train himself, through altruistic deeds and meditative effort, to acquire the qualities essential to a Buddha. According to the teaching of rebirth, at birth our mind is not a blank slate but brings along all the qualities and tendencies we have fashioned in our previous lives. Thus to become a Buddha requires the fulfillment, to the ultimate degree, of all the moral and spiritual qualities that reach their climax in Buddhahood. These qualities are called paramis or paramitas, transcendent virtues or perfections. Different Buddhist traditions offer slightly different lists of the paramis. In the Theravada tradition they are said to be tenfold: generosity, moral conduct, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, determination, loving-kindness, and equanimity. In each existence, life after life through countless cosmic aeons, a bodhisattva must cultivate these sublime virtues in all their manifold aspects.
- Listen to teachings; and ‘renounce’ (not abandon) the conventional world with its ideas, motivations etc. This includes reading books, attending Buddhist community events, browsing forums, asking questions, propitiating the religious community, the immaculate Buddha, and all the holders of the Dharma. Perfect beings don’t need to teach you, so you have to ask them to teach you. Mahayana Buddhists are bound by compassion to teach you. Essentially, prepare yourself as a vessel into which the teachings can be poured. The perfect vessel to receive the teachings has 3 qualities: 1) It is not already full or upturned. One must give up pride in what one already knows in order to receive the teachings and willing to receive teachings. 2) It is not dirty. One must not try to mix the teachings with what is already in the vase. This will only lead to confusion. 3) It is not broken. Remember what is taught, otherwise the teachings fall straight through the vase.
- Contemplate the teachings. Don’t simply accept the teachings, investigate them thoroughly. Always consider the teachings in their context and try to clarify all doubts and misconceptions you have. This can be done, again, by reading associated material, visiting discussion forums, asking experienced practitioners, preferably ordained monks and nuns, and recognized Masters.
- Meditate on the teachings. The teachings are a vehicle for you to achieve lasting peace and happiness. They are not a means for themselves. Accumulating teachings and not integrating them into your life is like baking a cake and not eating it. Without meditation, the subtle points will be missed and realizations will not arise.
- Trying to spread the teachings / help sentient beings, without having a firm understanding / without being grounded in realization, is like handing another person your torch and leaving yourself in the dark. Only a realized master can light another’s torch and retain his own radiance.
- Another way to look at it is that we are all drowning in the sea of our past karma. A drowning man cannot save another, so just try to save yourself. When you are enlightened, there will be an endless sea of beings for you to benefit. You can dedicate your own efforts to the future enlightenment of others.
- “Meditation without prior instruction is the way of the beast” – Sakya Pandita. So endeavor to learn more, whatever your capacity.
- Every sentient being has Buddha Nature. The bacteria on the sole of your shoe can achieve it! If you put your mind to it, you are bound to achieve absolute peace.
- The path to enlightenment takes a long time and is fraught with obstacles. Yet there is no greater achievement, and there is no greater bliss. The heavens are conditioned. As all phenomenal existence, they do not last, and residence there is lengthy, but still only temporary. Eventually, all Gods reincarnate when their merit has run dry. Therefore, the wise seek only perfect enlightenment.
- It is difficult to gauge one’s progress on the path, and even more difficult to gauge the realization of others. However, disinterest in the gamut of samsaric experience and an increased feeling of compassion for those who suffer are pretty good signs.
- The path to enlightenment is profound, unlike any other.
- See in, not out
- Take the teachings and run – don’t get involved in politics. When you become a realized master, then you can dispute for others’ benefit, not before.
- Obstacles on the path to enlightenment can indicate progress. They would not arise if there were nothing to obstruct i.e. your intention to gain enlightenment.
- Don’t be bull-headed with what you learn. Understand why Buddhism is called ‘The Middle Way’.
Things You’ll Need
- To have an open mind.
- Bodhicitta, the will to enlightenment, to be happy, for yourself and for others. All other qualities (generosity, discipline / morality, patience, diligence, concentration, wisdom) can be developed.