Precepts are the Buddhist rules of morality. It clearly describes good and evil.
These concepts are absolute and not subject to individual or cultural interpretation. For example, Buddhists are taught to refrain from killing living beings because killing inflicts harm on others and creates to-be-killed consequences that we will have to endure in the future. Just because say if one lives in a cannibalistic society where killing is commonplace, societal approval of taking another’s life does not exempt one from undergoing the killing karma retributions.
If anyone has any misgivings about this aspect of the universal of cause and effect, just take a look at the scientific evidence.
Anyone who has taken Physics will know about the law of “force = reaction”. That is precisely a miniature model of the law of cause and effects. Whatever “karma” (action) we generate, there is a corresponding consequence that is inevitable. Do evil and evil will be done to you. Similarly, do good and good will be reciprocated to you.
Make no mistake about it, there is definitely a corresponding consequence to all of our karmas. Sometimes, these consequences are immediately seen (or measurable) such as in the Physics model of force=reaction. Quite often, there is a significant time lag that may even span many lifetimes before there is payback. In some cases, one might say that “revenge is best served when cold”.
Many Buddhists subscribe to this concept of cause and effect. This is why the Buddha decreed precepts or rules of morality to help us avoid making mistakes in cause and effect.
For example, the Buddhist laity has the precept of “not stealing”. That is we are not supposed to take something that belongs to another without his/her permission. Let’s say that you are on the sidewalk of Paris and wisely paid attention to where you step. All of a sudden, you see a thousand franc bill on the ground. A discreet glance around the area indicates that there is no one around. What should you do? Common wisdom is that since the area is deserted, you might as well pick it up because if you don’t, someone else surely will. There is no harm in taking it right? Not so to the Buddhist, it would be considered stealing because that money must have an owner who would most likely object to our picking it up for our own personal use.
In general, these precepts clearly describe these seemingly reasonable rules of conduct that can help us avoid future unpleasant consequences. And yet, although we intuitively agree to these boundaries of propriety, we often have a hard time living up to them. Didn’t scientific research recently concluded that when in the dark (can’t be seen!), people are more likely to steal?
It would seem that we all agree on the moral high grounds but consistently fail when faced such tests.
How come? It’s because we lack (“good”) blessings.
Samadhi is Sanskrit for concentration.
Proper concentration is crucial to accomplishing most important undertakings. For example, the professional golfer who has better concentration power can focus on the task at hand instead of being distracted by the environment (wind, heat, noise, …) and especially by his/her own false-thinking (thinking about the pressure to perform, or how to celebrate if victorious etc…). Such people can deliver when they must. Maybe that’s why professional sports is turning more and more to the mental or psychological aspects of performance.
Buddhists have systematic methods to developing concentration power.
The most famous one is the practice of meditation.
During the past five years of teaching Chan (Mahayana meditation; not Zen, Vipasana or such), our students progressed very quickly in their practice. Many of them reached quite impressive levels such Formless Realm samadhis and higher. Many more simply never could keep up with us even when they were highly motivated by their significant health improvements and bliss. Even many more simply do not buy into the meditation practice even though they see the wonderful results from the other students.
How come? Not enough blessings planted in Mahayana.
In contrast, there are those who are so blessed that they reached very high levels of samadhi even only after a short period of practice.
How come? Plenty of blessings!
Wisdom denotes Prajna Wisdom or transcendental wisdom.
Transcendental wisdom is the kind of wisdom that liberates us from our worldly attachments.
It comes in three distinct flavors:
Briefly speaking, in order to uncover our inherent wisdom, it even requires a lot more blessings than the prior two studies. For example, before we can uncover our superior intellect, we must have enough blessings to enroll in one of those top notch educational institutions!
- The wisdom of emptiness, seeing things as they really are: ultimately empty. Briefly, all perceived things eventually return to emptiness if one waits long enough. I don’t think you can give a counter-example of ONE thing that does not ever disintegrate.
- The wisdom of the mundane, seeing things as they really are: temporarily important. Even though things will eventually disintegrate, they are temporarily real to living beings. Not insist on them being ultimately empty is of no use to us for now. Wise people therefore do not deny the temporary importance (to the unwise living beings) of all things. These wise folks appear to be attached to temporary things but they really are not deep inside. For example, they work hard for a living to feed their family but would not hesitate to give it all up for the sake of others.
Shakyamuni Buddha was once a crown prince with a devoted wife and two sons. He fell in disfavor with his father who decided to banish him (alone, not the rest of his family). His wife chose to follow him, sitting on a cart with all their belongings and two sons. Shakyamuni Buddha eventually gave away his most precious possession left: his two sons and then his devoted wife.
- The wisdom of the Middle Way: neither attach to the emptiness nor mundane. Unlike the other two wisdoms, there are no attachments to either types of wisdom. This is the Buddha’s ultimate wisdom.
In summary, the successful Buddhist practitioner requires an enormous amount of blessings to make it.
Want to keep precepts? Plant lots of blessings.
Want to have samadhi power? Plant even more blessings.
Want to have wisdom? Will certainly obtain it through the cultivation of non-outflow blessings.
One must start with planting blessings: this is why we teach our followers to practice giving at the very outset. Once we understand, we never stop giving. That’s how to make it in the long haul.