Meditation is a way of getting in touch with your real self and becoming free of mental and physical affliction. Meditation is about self-observation, cultivating tranquility, and listening to oneself, all of which generate the energy of inner peace.
Master Hsin Tao: “Taking refuge in the Triple Gem of Buddhism is like planting a seed in the heart; it makes it much more likely that in future lives we will again encounter and accept the teachings of the Buddha. Going for refuge in the Triple Gem is the first step of planting wholesome roots and the attainment of Buddhahood.”
Taking refuge is the first stage of Buddhist practice, something like the matriculation of a new student. If you are seeking knowledge of a certain academic subject you need the guidance of an experienced professor. In the same way, the teacher who conducts your refuge ceremony is like a lamp which illuminates the path so that we know how to proceed.
In the course of Buddhist practice, it is OK to take the refuges with any teacher who is experienced and wise. Thus it is OK to take the refuges with more than one teacher.
Master Hsin Tao points out, “Taking refuge is the way to the deathless; it leads to the realization of unobstructed wisdom, the generation of great compassion, and supreme happiness.”
The goal of Buddhist practice is to understand life and death.
Master Guangqin says, “No coming, no going, no record.” This refers to the realization of one’s original face and the transcendence of life and death. Our original face is brisk and full of energy; it is beyond both birth and death.
When the conditions are right, we are born; when the conditions no longer exist, we die. Yet there is no need to worry; one’s Buddha-nature never dies.
In the field of biology, both plants and animals are classified as living beings, but Buddhism makes a distinction between sentient beings and non-sentient beings.
“Sentient beings” refers to life forms endowed with consciousness and the ability to experience such feelings as cold, heat, happiness, fear, and pain. This means humans and animals.
By contrast, plants are regarded as “non-sentient beings.” They are alive and grow, but since they don’t have consciousness, they don’t experience such feelings as heat, cold, happiness, or fear.
Abstaining from killing is one of the five precepts of Buddhism. Master Hsin Tao has said, “Vegetarianism is for the sake of compassion and peace of mind.”
Thus a vegetarian diet is a way of generating compassionate thoughts.
Every time we eat a meal, we will experience great joy when we recollect that we are living up to our aspiration to protect all sentient beings.