The Ling Jiou Mountain Six Pinciples to live by - A Discourse with Dharma Master Hsin Tao

2021-01-13
The Ling Jiou Mountain Six Pinciples to live by - A Discourse with Dharma Master Hsin Tao
One Mindset / Two Priorities / Three Positives / Four Bestowments / Five Virtues / Six Practices

‘In-bound Arahat’ for a staggered approach to the practice of Chan meditation;‘Out-bound Bodhisattva’ for the liberation of sentient beings via compassion.

Everyone here has been under the tutelage of mine as your mentor for many years. Have you all set your hearts on the continued inheritance of Dharma? Have you all searched your hearts for self-reflection and -examination about reinforcing our foundation, about improving our systems for spreading Buddhism via education, about cultivating Buddhist talents to carry on the LJM culture and tradition in passing on our gosples from generation to generation? We will make certain that the illumination of the sacred Ling Jiou Mountain shines on forever, and that in all directions. I have come to realize that the study of Buddhism necessitates a staggered approach that allows flexibility to some extent. With a uniquely designed curriculum of Buddhist studies in four phases that allows unobstructed interflow of Triyana doctrines that augment one another, rendering it feasible to achieve the equilibrium between the so-called ‘In-bound Arahat’ (meditation) and ‘Out-bound Bodhisattva’ (practice). That balance has been evidenced in our daily life, and in all LJM activities and events over the years as well. We have consistently been focusing on ‘bridging’ sentient beings with an access to Dharma studies so that they benefit from a staggered approach to meditation for in-bound reflections, and an out-reach practice to help liberate sentient beings by compassion for out-bound deeds -- thus creating a positive loop between a limitless realm of liberation for the karmic cycles and our world in harmony.

To repay the benevolence, the torch of promoting Dharma never sizzles out

We desire to channel our inheritance to sentient beings and educate our followers with a heart of gratitude in order that they become convinced like we. Interactions stemming from such a sense of mission makes it relevant when we speak of gratitude toward Buddha, mentors, sentient beings, and parents. It is with an intent to repay the benevolence extended to me in the course of my life, that I bridge sentient beings with our inheritance and educate followers for them to realistically benefit from Dharma. That has always been my intent and what I have been doing all along.

I am grateful that we join one another here to learn together. And since we also live together, we need to have a consensus for the concept of ‘in-residence’. We are all part of the ‘in-residence’ and we must care for it. It thus necessitates a definition, without which we would not take it seriously nor care about it. We care, because only when the ‘in-residence’ as a whole is vigorous, our inheritance becomes prosperous. What, then, is ‘in-residence’? The abbot, the constant Triple Gems, and the Dharma guardians, are all part and parcel of the ‘in-residence’ concept.

There need to be rules and regulations for any living community. What about consensus? For us at the Ling Jiou Mountain, there are six principles to live by -- One Mindset, Two Priorities, Three Positives, Four Bestowments, Five Virtues, and Six Practices. They are referred to as such for ease of memory. Buddha has actually laid out all precepts clearly, and the ‘in-residence’ can boil down to the need to respect the six scenario-specific harmonies as Dharma dictates. Thus it ought to be obvious that these six LJM principles all relate to Buddhist precepts.

Team Ling Jiou Mountain need to work efficiently in tandem, with everyone doing their best in carrying on the inheritance to benefit sentient beings. Let there be a decisive consensus amongst us to realize and implement these principles.

One Mindset - Goals and Objectives LJM endeavors to achieve

First of all, what is that ‘One Mindset’? It is that wonderful determination to achieve Nirvana, which is to say ‘Chan Meditation and Compassion’ in our LJM lingo. All practices are based on our comprehensions, which are thus accordingly quintessential in our care for the ‘in-residence’. Everything basically stems from comprehension, for instance, whether worries arise is a matter of thought and it comes from our understanding of things. So, what are our common thought and collective comprehension? I say it is the ‘One Mindset’, that wonderful determination to achieve Nirvana. That is the ultimate goal for us at the LJM.

Why do we base everything on that determination for Nirvana? Because the mindset to reach Nirvana is our goal and objective in practicing Buddhism. The heart of Nirvana is both the cause and the effect. It is the cause as all practices begin with it as is the case with the effect. Dharma is no longer such without the heart of Nirvana. That singular mindset to reach Nirvana is therefore our comprehension, our beginning and end.

Behavior is the manifestation of comprehension in Chan Buddhism. Without the outlaying comprehension, there can be no consequential action. And without comprehension, there can be no discourse of the Golden Mean or the Way. We must, therefore, have a commonly shared comprehension first and foremost in order to reflect upon and nurture our determination in reaching Nirvana.

What does the word ‘heart’ mean in Buddhism? The heart is non-arising nor ceasing and the state equals that of Nirvana. The heart is further formless as a non-phenomenon and the term ‘the phenomenon of Nirvana’ applies to the heart. When we have a clear comprehension of the heart, we are on our way to achieving that One Mindset focused on Nirvana that is a reality without phenomenon yet capable of being perceived without any shape and form.

What is the shape and form of the heart we speak of? Can anyone spot it and show? It is not the physical organ we know as the heart. That being the case, it is non-arising nor ceasing, therefore shape- and formless, just devoid of phenomena and without arising or ceasing. Yet the flip side is also true - in that it is clearly there without being physically visible. Our heart and mind are like that and that is all there is to it. Such is a path to our studies of Buddhism. Such is also a light that gives us the illumination for directions.

If you have difficulties understanding that One Mindset, or too numb to feel anything, what does that imply? It suggests that you are still a layman not yet on the way to learn Buddha’s teachings. My inheritance is thus accordingly that One Mindset and determination to reach Nirvana, which can be with or without shape and form. Our inheritance is one not chiseled in stone but passed on via the heart that demands one to search and find understanding via enlightenment. Only through inward reflections to comprehend that One Mindset for Nirvana it is possible to attain the fruition of practicing Buddhism as evidence for reaching the status quo of the Arahat who has perfect command of the Three Visions and the Six Supernatural Powers.

As a result, it is critical that we all have that One Mindset with that beautiful determination to reach Nirvana, which is Buddha’s legacy and our inheritance that equals ‘Chan meditation’ in our LJM tradition and is a reality without shape and form. That is a collective comprehension for all of us at LJM, therefore, a Buddhist comprehension en mass. To achieve that comprehension is why we practice Buddhism, as it is where our determination lies, both physically and mentally as well. It is what we strive for, and what life is all about. We practice Buddhism in search of that end-goal that demands inward reflections. Comprehension constitutes the most meaningful consensus for our ‘in-residence’ concept. Without it, it would prove futile for anyone to dedicate their lives to the pursuit of Nirvana.

Two Priorities - Dharma Lessons are Food Items for Sentient Beings

Next, we discuss the Two Priorities, which are ‘Loving the Earth’ and ‘Loving Peace’ and which are what we have set out to do, as they embody the domain of our compassion. What does that mean? It goes to say that on the basis of the comprehension of our determination to reach Nirvana, we focus on delivering what ‘Loving the Earth’ and ‘Loving Peace’ demand in terms of endeavors and efforts.

Once the comprehension is present, it is logical to inquire about the domain of compassion. It is likely to say ‘sentient beings’, as there are literally a limitless number of them to liberate. Such vast masses of sentient beings actually constitute the nutrient we feed on in our Dharma practice. Sentient beings are the nutrient of Dharma, without which life extinguishes. It is also the case in reverse to claim that Dharma is the nutrient for sentient beings and without which, sentient beings perish. We must, therefore, learn our Dharma lessons well to have a good foundation for the Bodhicitta that liberates sentient beings as nutrient for Dharma in return.

But what to learn from Dharma? That One Mindset we just spoke about is it, and be mindful that it defies languages and texts. Sentient beings need that determination to reach Nirvana - meaning Dharma with and without shape and form - for nutrient. Yet too much at once causes mal-digestion, we at LJM thus offer a structured curriculum in four phases respectively designated as Agama, Prajnaparamita, Sad-dharma Pundarika, and Avatamsaka. Such a sequential approach allows for gradual sink-in and appreciation of Dharma as palpable nutrient for proper digestion.

Once that One Mindset and determination to reach Nirvana is in place, do we go around putting compassion to work? As far as we are concerned, nutrient is a necessity as life perishes without it. We die of malnutrition without liberating sentient beings, and sentient beings die of starvation without Dharma. Therefore, once the comprehension arises, compassion follows by necessity in order that all our practices are act out of Bodhicitta performed in love.

There are ways for better efficiency in spreading Buddhism to benefit and liberate sentient beings. Fish in water and animals in the wild are not easy to tame as pets, and it requires methods to win them over. The same is the case with sentient beings and Dharma, and you go for a systematic approach to secure their willingness to learn Buddha’s way. Such can also be referred to as being in line with ‘Loving the Earth’ and ‘Loving Peace’.

Upholding and practicing compassion and taking delight in giving and letting go is who we are and what we do. But when we appeal to the international communities with and for compassion, ‘Loving the Earth’ and ‘Loving Peace’ find acceptance and approval everywhere. They are the best door-knock and pilot that help our endeavors for worthy causes. They constitute the realm of our compassion, which is of an international nature.

Why do we put such heavy empahsis on ‘Loving the Earth’? Because an Earth sound and safe is what the humankind need for survival. We must work out consensus to transcend confrontations and avoid wars, and we want to harness consumerism before it depletes natural resources to damage ecology beyond repair.

People have no difficulty understanding what we talk about here, but not so if we employ Dharma terms for the same analogy. Therefore, we needed to retrofit the ‘Loving the Earth’ compassion with a suite of softwares for global access and promotion. Spearheading our international endeavors with our Buddhist mission dovetailing, ‘Loving the Earth’ aims at transcending conflicts while promoting the education of a diversified symbiosis and an inter-dependent co-existence. To desire for no further damages to ecology no wishful thinking but our sincerity. Sustainability is a global concern and a pressing matter, we thus believe ‘Loving the Earth’ is an ideal catalyst to spread out Buddhism and benefit sentient beings.

About the heart and the mind, is it at peace? We need to seach our mind and meditate to reach a state of void for the heart, as peace can also mean being without argumentative disputes. The absence of verbal confrontations ought to be there in the kitchen, and among teams. Actually, it ought to permeate everywhere. The world is at peace, when the heart is at peace. Let us begin with the heart and do without disputes for everyone to bask in harmony.

To search our heart for inward reflections we need to practice Chan meditation, because no thorough compassion is possible without it. Only when the state of natural emptiness is reached via meditation, there appears the possibility for us to become one with the great compassion. ‘Join to become one with the great compassion’ remains evasive, as long as the original void is absent. Practicing meditation is the only way for the heart to be at peace. Chan meditation further enables reinforced perceptions, observations, and sensitivity to facilitate much more efficient interactions and dialogues, and to ultimately assist with the return to Nirvana. ‘Loving Peace’ requires the practice of Chan meditation, as the awakening of peace stays beyond our reach without the ability to reflect and perceive that Chan meditation empowers.

Compassion is about life and Chan meditation is about life as well. We are thus best advised to turn our lives around for them to be all about compassion and Chan meditation. Compassion is outbound and Chan meditation, inbound. Compassion and Chan meditation correspond to ‘Loving the Earth’ and ‘Loving Peace’ in a juxtaposition, which can all boil down to that One Mindset to reach Nirvana in stillness, whereupon Bodhicitta arises to make possible that we liberate, practice the way of Bodhisattvas for ‘Loving the Earth’ and ‘Loving Peace’. These two latter priorities thus constitute the second consensus for us to live by in line with the ‘in-residence’ concept.

Besides efforts to elevate people’s awareness about the issue, how do we actually go about ‘Loving the Earth’? The to-do list is long and working items can include conservation, reduction of waste, as well as to mitigate the depletion of Nature’s resources, and so on. By reviewing what was done, is being done, and can yet be done and cross-reference the findings with our philosophy and record of our own actions over the years, we can come up with an overall guideline, a kind of a GPS for deliverables in people’s daily life. We need to have strategically mapped-out action plans and a promotional consensus to turn ‘Loving the Earth’ into a global campaign for impact.

Three Positives and Four Bestowments -- from Liberation to the Bodhisattva Way

Three Positives and Four Bestowments stem from One Mindset and Two Priorities. With One Mindset and Two Priorities set in place, what’s next? Interactions come to mind. Three Positives form the basis for interactions and they refer to the positivity of our body, speech, and mind. The path to liberation is to render the body, speech, and mind clean, and once cleansed, our body, speech, and mind are fit to connect to that One Mindset and deliver performance for the Two Priorities.

The Three Positives make the best Advertisement for Buddhist Practices

As we monastics interact with the world, the Three Positives aptly become our publicists and we need to do a good job with them. We need to be ready to connect with positive karmas by speaking only positive words, so that people listen; and by doing positive deeds only, so that people trust; and by thinking positive thoughts, so that people are moved.

One of the key points of Dharma is to become liberated and unrestrained, and there is the emphasis on ethics and the moral code. The cyclic karma of the cause and the effect is yet another characteristic, which stresses that we get the genes right for a good foundation to promote the axiom of ‘benevolent acts and good deeds’. Our good deeds will help great fruition to result from the seeds of the Three Positives in the future, whereas presently our effort in spreading out Buddhism will be well received as the Three Positives lend themselves well as efficient marketing aide for Dharma. Therefore, it is obvious that the Three Positives can impact our people skills strongly, and it all depends on whether their base rests on a bed rock or a sandy beach.

For us monastics to play a role model, ownership of the Three Positives is a matter of course. Therefore, we practice focused meditations and we treasure our words as if they are all gold. Dharma is our giveaway, along with praises and words of encouragement. Following that is to encourage as many people as possible to pursue Buddhist studies and practices, while making offerings of provisions to support Buddhism as often as possible. We show our care and we send out our love, and we give away whatever good things we have to connect with the laity to strengthen the affinity and their willingness to learn Buddha’s way.

The Four Bestowments are a Services System of the Bodhisattva Way’s

The Four Bestowments are the four offerings we extend to people and they are appreciation, confidence, hope, and ease of access to help. Together, they constitute the services system of the Bodhisattva Way’s. The rank and file of our services team at LJM all need to excel at the Four Bestowments to become appreciated by, and popular among, fellow monastics and common followers alike. Why the Four Bestowments, and what justifies them? We were uncertain about that until we saw how the entire Fuo Guang Mountain establishment under Guru Master Xing Yun, who happens to be my own mentor, excels at them all for great services, solid dedication, and excellent attitude. Simply admirable!

What convinces us to excel at the Four Bestowments? As a Buddhist monastic we assume the role of a leader and a mentor in the eyes of the laity. The Three Positives are basically disciplines that demand of ourselves. Since we are the companion to the general public and we do not leave them alone, it follows that we put our actions where our words are with sincerity and in good faith to make the relationship an uplifting and joyous one. To achieve that we need to go about it systematically, and the Four Bestowments can come in handy as a helpful means.

Our monastics manning LJM outposts listen intently to all sorts of complaint as part of their daily duty. People of all walks of life come to you with a lot on their mind that involve families, kids, spouses, work, and the like. No one to confide in and no outlet for the troubles tormenting them on the inside. We the monastics are often the last resort they turn to just to talk it out for a change. We must listen and help them become undone, so that they regain some confidence to resolve what needs to be taken care of. But how do you give confidence? You fall back on Dharma and own experiences to help the party restore confidence and move toward compassion for a better life.

How do we fulfill what the other three Bestowments promise with confidence, appreciation, and hope? Remember the foundation of the Three Positives, which bring out confidence and hope from within yourself, which you can then pass on in all positivity to help restore the parties’ own confidence and hope, and the net result is their full appreciation. Finally, there is this ‘ease of access to help’ that can be bestowed both as a service and as a help to facilitate the party’s handling of the challenge. We do our utmost best to offer that ‘ease of access to help’, which amplifies the end result of appreciation on the part of the recipient.

As long as we are good at the Four Bestowments, we stay away from any negative association and people learn to appreciate and depend on you for moral support and spiritual guidance. If any of the four becomes amiss, imperfection steps in.

In sum, it would not be wide of the mark to liken the Three Positives with the Triyana, whether it be Mahayana, Theravada, or Vajrayana. And the Four Bestowments, on the other hand, find their echo in the LJM four-phased curriculum labeled as Agama, Prajnaparamita, Sad-dharma Pundarika, and Avatamsaka.

Five Virtues and Six Practices exercise QC for Bodhisattva Way’s Performance

The quality of our thinking capacity rests with the Five Virtues. But what are the Five Virtues? They are the fundamental attributes of ideas when the latter arise, namely ‘Staying positive, Taking initiatives, Keeping optimistic, Showing compassion, Owning determinations’. With them in place, positive karma can be expected.

Why the need for the Five Virtues? Do we know where our worries and concerns come from? Exactly because we do not have the Five Virtues in place. The moment an idea occurs, you are already on the receiving end of the karma even before it happens. When the ideas are infested with attributes like being negative, passive, or pessimistic, bad karma is thus predestined. Thus accordingly, when ideas arrive with the right package, all negative vibes stay at bay and keep us out of trouble and harm’s way.

‘Staying positive’ means we keep our thoughts on the positive track and steer away from any negativity. Come what may, our positivity radiates to keep those around us away from bad ideas, and that is positive thinking. Mindfulness resides within the companionship of the four canons -- ‘all deeds are impermanent’, ‘all Dharma is self-less’, ‘all sentiment is suffering’, and right back to ‘Nirvana is a state of stillness’. Such is a never-changing comprehension. ‘Taking initiatives’ helps propel progress in making continued efforts, and ‘Keeping optimistic’ literally means to keep optimism as a constant no matter what and it relates to our feelings, whereas ‘Staying positive’ and ‘Taking initiatives’ have more to do with our actions. When you believe in yourself as being born under the star of fortune, all good things keep coming your way.

‘As long as I perform positive deeds and think positive thoughts, positive results will come out of them.’ We, therefore, maintain ‘Staying positive’ and ‘Taking initiatives’ as a constant that automatically brings out a positive response and reaction upon receiving whatever assignment it may be. Fellow monastics at Fuo Guang Mountain, where I used to study and practice Buddhism, have consistently been like that as I recall. When they get assigned to man outposts or handle external projects, ‘No problem’ is always the answer and they rely on their own strengths to accomplish what they set out to do. Such is ‘Staying positive’ and ‘Taking initiatives’.

‘Showing compassion’ incorporates benevolence and the willingness to devote services, appreciation, consideration, care, and help, as well as the readiness to help secure at all times the best possible outcome for all efforts to draw the net result from positive cause and good effect. Compassion nurtures life in its entirety, and for that, we promote compassion in our work. With compassion, it automatically connects to ‘Staying positive’, ‘Taking initiatives’, and ‘Keeping optimistic’, to ultimately move to incorporate ‘Owning determinations’, which empowers us with lasting stamina that is governed by that sense of mission.

What we want to achieve in life is a question as a constant reminder to push us toward giving our 100% to do just that. Even if we fall short of achieving the goal, we will havedone our utmost best. Success or failure also depends on cyclic karma and fate. But the process is in the present and it is in our hands to do the right thing, and do it right. If we do not own determinations and live without a sense of mission, life will just pass us by with nothing accomplished at the end.

The Five Virtues belong as part of the Bodhisattva Way, and Bodhicitta directs our thinking process to reach the ‘power of the vow’.

A leader is ideally associated with ‘Staying positive’, ‘Taking initiatives’, ‘Keeping optimistic’, and ‘Showing compassion’ and moves around like a gentle breeze of Spring. Adding to that the ‘Owning of determinations’ for a sense of mission, (s)he is invincible! Stick to the Golden Mean when making a judgment call and play up the positive side by avoiding the negative aspect. Know by heart what matters in management and keep the community thriving by goading with incentives, safeguarding fair game rules, and managing by consensus.

The absence of the Five Virtues signals a pathological condition, and troubles are destined to occur if the condition draws out over time and leads to pessimism in passivity. When someone bemoans frustrations and desperations too often too much until the last ounce of vitality disappears and pessimism ensues in the wake of passivity, what else is there to be done? Any and all ideas, therefore, are the cause and effect of karma.

There are both plus and minus points to all types of personality. To me, people are all fine and everyone has a character with personality traits as reflected in the Taiwanese saying that goes ‘everyone draws the strokes of the same character somewhat differently’. We are best advised to look more at the positive sides of sentient beings and regard everyone as intact with all Five Virtues. What your body, speech, and thoughts indicate inevitably become your seeds of karma and your work of promotion.

The Six Practices are the contents when practicing Buddhism

We now move on to the Six Practices as a collective term for the practice of Buddhism, as well as a path and a means for self-libertion. We employ the Six Practices to self-exam and gauge our standing in the pursuit of right mindfulness and right perceptions. We must be liberated ourselves before we can do that for others. How do we practice Buddhism in our daily interactions with the outside world? The Six Practices is not a code of conduct for other people. Period.

The act of making dedications and performing services is referred to as ‘offering alms (provisions)’ in Buddhist lingo, and the guideline for so doing is ‘compassion and joy of giving and letting go’. We measure our act of ‘offering alms’ to see if we do that often and whether there are signs of greed and obsessions that need to be eradicated the soonest. It would be a tall challenge to liberate yourself in the absence of the Six Virtues as there will be obstacles and ignorance. We need ‘alms offering’ for our greed, ‘precepts holding’ for laziness, ‘humiliations enduring’ for hatred, ‘focused progress’ for lagging, ‘poise via meditation’ for the disorder, and ‘wisdom’ for stupidity. Prajna is the Sanskrit equivalent to wisdom and it originally means illumination and observation.

A Life Movement with the Original Void as its GPS

The power of the ‘alms offering’ reaches the level of that of the Original Void’s when it is performed in self-less ways. When there is a calculating mindset at the ‘alms offering’, the obvious weight of it renders people including the recipients ungrateful. Instead of gratitude, you get complaints after so many good deeds, because you weigh the gain and loss in cool calculations for gains. In order to return to the unobstructed original nature - as our innate nature originally likens the Buddhahood - we perform the ‘alms offering’ often and we practice the joy of letting go frequently to rid ourselves of all the infatuations, stubbornness, and obstacles. ‘Alms offering’ should be selfless, and selfless ‘offering of alms’ ought to be up to the level of ‘Threefold Wheel of Essential Emptiness’ to possess the power of the Original Void.

‘Precepts’ are rules for safeguarding and we ought to practice patience to reside within the confines of precepts. But how does it work for precepts to safeguard you? With the Six Practices, we learn to regulate ourselves and to safeguard our heart and mind against decomposing and deteriorating. If we fail to do that, we are no longer the holder of precepts. The precepts of cleanliness are to safeguard ourselves as the host and holder of precepts. To exercise precepts means not to violate the rules, but maintain the cleanliness, and not give in to distractions. Therefore, when we manage to keep from violating precepts often, that equals non-thinking, non-desiring, and non-attachment, even the non-thinking of the non-violation. Such are fundamental precepts we refer to as the ‘Precepts of the Original Void’, and, when you manage to not forget the ‘Precepts of the Original Void’, that is what exercising precepts are all about.

‘Endurance’ can mean aboding stably, but how? Endurance or patience can be quite challenging, and its opposite, rather easy. Therefore, we practice endurance or patience by starting with the heart. If the heart is left out in this context, endurance is but a hollow word with no depth whatsoever. The best endurance is the kind of aboding that rests stably inside the heart, i.e. a stable aboding of the unchanging Original Void that is neither arising nor ceasing as well as neither separating nor distinguishing. Like the concept of ‘emptiness’ can include the idea of ‘being’, with the latter capable of filling up the former. In the context of Dharma, the stable aboding of endurance must rest on the basis of the ‘Right View’ of the Noble Eightfold Path to reflect the Triple Abstracts of Dharma - all phenomena are impermanent, all Dharma is non-ego-centric, all realizations are suffering - to ultimately return to an unchanging ubiquity of stillness.

Mutual respect is the baseline for interactions with the others, whereupon inclusion follows. With inclusion, there is always enough space for accommodation which implies ‘void’ or ‘emptiness’. Inclusion is impossible without emptiness, and inclusion renders endurance feasible. Inclusion accommodates differences and diversity wins out. The desirable state of ecology in a ‘diversified symbiosis’ stems from inclusion -- everything exists in space, and space accommodates/includes everything. Interdependence for co-existence works both ways.

There are many intra-people scenarios where endurance is warranted and it takes patience to accommodate all the differences in personality, work style, and outlook on life. If we allow ourselves to get bothered, that’d be exactly what we get. People have personality traits that either appeal or do not, and there are no escaping headaches if the less desirable elements stay ignored and unaccepted. This is where inclusion steps in and up to accommodate the other side, while encouragement goes to work for the positive side to excel at a symbiosis.

What is ‘focused progress’? It means not to let lower the guard and get comfortable idling.We do not allow our heart to idle and keep our inward reflections uninterrupted, so the heart stays in stable precepts. ‘Focused progress’, therefore, means to endeavor proactively and perform the practices addressed earlier just now, do the ‘alms offering’ repeatedly, perform the ‘precepts holding’ and the ‘humiliations enduring’ time and again until those practices become almost our second nature. That is what ‘focused progress’ is all about.

‘Poise via meditation’ means non-alteration, which is a constant in the Original Void. Poise thus achieved allows stable aboding in the Original Void and is omnipresent in the Six Practices that fine-tunes automatically. Such poise hinges on our heart and mind and the Six Practices calibrate and fine-tune it for further stabilization. Dharma is present when the stable aboding rests in the heart, otherwise, it becomes Samsara.

‘Wisdom’ (Prajna) is an inward reflection and outward observation with discerning capabilities. Reflection and observation need to go beyond and repeatedly surpass themselves in the Original Void to reach the efficacy of non-alteration, i.e. the state of a constant, which then qualifies as an achievement. Wisdom follows in-depth perceptions that enable the letting go of our fixations. The perception of wisdom works like a patrol that self-checks the status quo of our state of mind, such as where we are at? Are we consciously aware of the Original Void? Is our stable aboding resting in alms offering, in humiliations enduring, as well as in non-violation (of any precepts)? Have we trained and trained time and again to achieve ease of endurance and the constant non-alteration in the meditation-empowered poise? Inward reflection and outward observation function like a light that illuminates when examining our heart and mind for that constant non-alteration, because the issues, if any, are not about the others but ourselves. As a result, we reflect to discern the status quo of our heart, and whether it has acquired the shape- and formless capacity for the Original Void? When such self-examining reflections and observations are practiced as regularly as the sun in its orbit, we benefit from the tangible benevolence of the wonderful bliss of Nirvana.

Everyone is an initiator and a whistle-blower

In a nutshell, One Mindset, Two Priorities, Three Positives, Four Bestowments, Five Virtues, and Six Practices are the six game rules that govern our behavior and constitute our code of conduct. Observe them, and our LJM Buddhist Society functions in unity as reinforced by our consensus, and their implementation will yield efficiency in our promotion of Buddhism and effectiveness in our work thus benefitting sentient beings.

Without these game rules, we are literally senseless when it comes to the concept of in-residence which means so much more than just a living community. If people do not appreciate what in-residence entails, selfishness occurs and individualism reigns. Lights stay on because no one reaches out to switch them off. Toilets are not flushed clean and nobody seems to care. And I would end up wandering around, shooting troubles, because I would want to own and fix the troubles to illustrate the in-residence spirit and set an example. We think things through to come up with an action plan, before putting it to work for, say, ‘Loving the Earth’ and ‘Loving Peace’. In other words, we form a consensus to spread out our ideas and turn them into actions first, then reality. From the concrete ideas we co-ordinate action plans into a campaign with a GPS. When such a GPS functions well for everyone concerned, the campaign becomes a deliverable life-changing movement, where everyone is an initiator and a whistle-blower as well.

These game rules have just been put together for us to observe and to act upon accordingly. May all the benevolence go to the ‘in-residence’, all the merits go to Dharma guardians, and all the glories return to Buddhas. Buddha Amitabha!