we say that we cannot perform the ten good deeds, then we must be
fooling ourselves. The Buddha-Dharma teaches us that to be a human
equipped with a wholesome personality, we should start by observing the
Five Precepts and the Ten Meritorious Deeds. The Ten Meritorious deeds
are the right actions and conducts for life. However, if a person has
high morals and is able to perform the Ten Meritorious Deeds, but lacks
compassion, they will only be a sage in the world or a virtuous Human
among men. In Buddhism, it is different. The Ten Meritorious Deeds are
guided by the mind of compassion, the essence of the mind of
enlightenment. Therefore, the Ten Meritorious Deeds are the first steps
from Human to Buddhahood.
should consider Buddha as the ideal, be dedicated to seek
enlightenment, and practise the Ten Meritorious Deeds. Besides we
should also repent, set vows, pay respect to the Buddharupa, meditate
on the Buddha, and be enthusiastic to protect the Dharma as we would
protect our own life. We should not think "As long as I am following
the Buddha, that is good enough". We should also care about what is
happening to Buddhism in the world. Should Buddhism meet with any
disaster or destruction, we must protect it for our own faith as well
as for the spiritual life of all sentient beings. There are many things
a Bodhisattva should do which cannot be covered by this brief address.
Last but not least, I hope that you all will start to take this first
step in practising the Mahayana Buddhism. Try to be a
Bodhisattva-child, cultivate your compassion and practise the Ten
by Neng Rong, edited by Mick Kiddle, proofread by Neng Rong
The Three Essentials In Practising the
Teaching of the Buddha
1. Faith and Determination, Loving Kindness and Compassion, Wisdom
philosophy expounded by the Buddha is very profound and broad. It
is so broad and profound that sometimes ordinary people have
difficulties in finding a right entrance into it. They do not know
where to start. However, this does not imply that the Buddha's
Teachings are confusing or disorganised. On the contrary, Buddhism has
very logical, well-reasoned and practical principles.
men in the past commented that all the methods taught by the
Buddha, whether the expedient or ultimate paths, serve the sole purpose
of leading one to Buddhahood. Whether it is the path that leads one
away from evil, and towards the right aspirations (the principle of the
Five Vehicles1) or the path that leads to disentanglement from worldly
desires and to freedom (the principle of the Three Vehicles2); or the
path that turns one away from the practice of the Sravaka3 and
Pratyeka-buddhas4 and redirects one to Mahayana thought (the principle
of the one Vehicle5);
the Buddha explained the paths to enlightenment in all these various
ways for the benefit of sentient beings in all their corresponding
variety. It is for this great reason that the Buddha appeared in this
the stand point of one who wants to learn about Buddhism, it is
important to understand that all the methods taught by the Buddha are
in fact processes in the Bodhisattva's6 practice. They are the Bodhi
paths that lead to Buddhahood. Due to the differing conditions, causes,
times and places into which we were born, the best ways towards Bodhi
(Enlightenment) may differ for each of us. But if we try to seek the
truth of nature through the various methods we will realise that there
are no great differences in the teachings of the Buddha. Three themes
characterize all the teachings and encompass them as one coherent
whole. These themes are as applicable to the practice of "One Vehicle"
as they are to the "Three vehicles" and "Five vehicles". Thus, we call
these themes the "The Three Essentials in Practising the Teaching of
1.1 The Three Essentials of Practice Defined
are these Three Essentials? As stated in the Sutra of Great Prajna
they are; "To maintain mindfulness of supreme Bodhi (the mind of
enlightenment), to centre oneself on compassion, and to learn the
skilful means of emptiness (the wisdom of non-grasping or subtle
Great Prajna Sutra emphasizes the all-inclusive practice of a
Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva must learn all methods of practice, (which
are in fact nothing more than the ways of cultivating goodness and
wisdom). All these methods should comply with the Three Essentials,
which are their foundation. The ultimate aim of all practices is to
attain perfection in these three virtues.
these themes are in fact the heart of practising the Bodhisattva
way. As the ancients said, "If we did not find the right direction of
practice we would be wandering blindly around the eight thousand
methods and teachings taught by the Buddha, just like walking in the
darkness. If we could find the right direction of practice, the twelve
divisions of the Mahayana Canon, would be as clear as ordinary simple
conversation to us."
Mindfulness of the heart of wisdom, or the Supreme Bodhi (wisdom of
the Buddha), as the ground of faith and determination.
is the perfect and ultimate merit of the Buddha that was attained
through His enlightenment. Practitioners should contemplate always the
wisdom of the Supreme Bodhi. One should have faith that the Buddha has
attained the Supreme Bodhi and that the Supreme Bodhi may bring us the
vision of splendour and boundless merits. Belief in the merits of the
Supreme Bodhi arouses our determination and joy for it, and further
inspires us to seek it out. In other words, appreciation of the wisdom
of Supreme Bodhi meaningfully translates into our determination to
attain perfect enlightenment.
b) Great Compassion.
Compassion may refer to sympathy or loving kindness and
compassion in general, in a wider sense, it refers to loving kindness,
compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity. To be compassionate is to
have the mind intent upon relieving living beings from their miseries.
To have loving kindness is to be intent upon giving living beings
enjoyment and happiness.
the practices of the Bodhisattva begin with the mind of loving
kindness and compassion. The mind of loving kindness and compassion is
always first and foremost. As stated in the Sutra, "The status of a
Bodhisattva is attainable through the mind of compassion, it is not
attainable by merely meritorious deeds". Without loving kindness and
compassion, all virtues and wisdom will not comply with the practice of
a Bodhisattva. Thus, the great mind of loving kindness and compassion
is indeed the heart of the Bodhisattva's practice.
Emptiness (The wisdom of non-grasping or subtle intangibility) as
the wisdom of Prajna.
is the wisdom of non-attachment and supreme emptiness. The wisdom
of emptiness that was cultivated under the guidance of the
compassionate vow (i.e. the Bodhisattva vow) will not be just a dull
emptiness and still silence. It is a great skilful characteristic. By
possessing this wisdom, the practice of loving kindness and compassion
can be successful and hence lead us to the attainment of the fruit of
Bodhi. Thus, these three themes, the Bodhi vow, the Great Compassion
and the Wisdom of Emptiness are the real essences of the path of the
1.2 The Three Essentials in the Superior Practice of the Bodhisattva
great Bodhi vow1, the Great Compassion and the great wisdom of the
Bodhisattva are an extension of the purest practices of all humans and
devas as well as the Two vehicles2. Summarising the merits of all
teachings, in terms of aims, humans and devas practice to become saints
or to be reborn in heaven. They look forward to the worldly reality,
beauty and virtue. The practice of the Two Vehicles cultivates the mind
to the extinction of worldly desire and Nirvana. It promotes the mind
of leaving the deluded world. And the practice of the Bodhisattva
emphasises the cultivation of the great Bodhi vow.
kindness to living beings, in the practice of humans and devas,
is aroused due to sympathy towards other living beings. In the practice
of the two vehicles, it is the sense of universal altruism that gives
rise to loving kindness. In the practice of the Bodhisattva, it is the
wisdom of emptiness (the realisation of Dependent origination, non-self
and non-attachment) that gives rise to loving kindness.
terms of the cultivation of wisdom, in the practice of human and
devas, wisdom refers to worldly knowledge. In the practice of the Two
Vehicles, wisdom is one-sided dogma In the practice of the Bodhisattva,
it is the wisdom of non-discrimination in all aspects.
response of the mind to the external environment varies among the
three realms of practice. The mental activities involved are basically
the activities of faith and determination, loving kindness and
compassion, and wisdom. The distinction among the three realms is that
practitioners in each realm practise them at different levels. From the
above analysis, it can be seen that the three main themes of the
practice of the Bodhisattva are beyond all others, they encompass the
practices of all virtues.
The embodiment of Dharma
Faith & Determination
Loving Kindness & Compassion
In Human & Devas Practice
be a saint &
to be reborn in heaven
In Two Vehicle Practice
Sense of uni- versal altruism
In Bodhisattva Practice
The Bodhi vow
kindness & compassion
As we begin practising the teachings of the Buddha, either as a lay
person or as an ordained follower, we should learn the practice of the
Bodhisattva as this is the only way to Buddhahood. The real merits of
the Bodhisattva are within these three themes. We should always reflect
on ourselves: "Have I practised? Have I put effort into the practice of
these three themes?" If not, how can we call ourselves a Bodhisattva?
We should always remind ourselves to practice and to look upon the
Bodhisattvas as our example.
A Comparison of the Confucian, Christian and Buddhist approaches to
the Three Essentials
main themes in the practice of the Bodhisattva way are faith and
determination, loving kindness and compassion and wisdom. They
constitute in fact a process of purification and improvement of the
human mind according to its natural ability. These have some similarity
with the other worldly practices such as Confucianism and Christianity.
However, the worldly practices or ideologies tend to cling to one
aspect and regard that as the whole, or adopt one aspect and neglect
the rest. Hence the practice becomes incomplete.
which represents the mainstream of Chinese culture in
China, advocates the Three Virtues, namely knowledge, benevolence and
bravery. It takes them as they become moral values for dealing with
people and living life in society. In brief, knowledge may be compared
with wisdom, benevolence with loving kindness and compassion and
bravery with faith and determination.
is a saying in Buddhism, "Faith instils determination and
determination instils diligence (right effort)". With sincere faith we
can arouse our greater determination. And with sincere determination,
one will naturally become diligent and put right effort into practice.
In short, faith leads to determination and determination will lead to
bravery and diligence. This is the development of energy from faith.
Diligence and bravery are needed in all meritorious deeds, but it has
to begin with faith and determination.
over-emphasises the common relationship among human
beings, and lacks inspiration. Hence, it is difficult to arouse sincere
faith and determination in its followers. Without strong faith, the
virtue of bravery cannot be fully expressed. The concepts of "being
wise", "being the saintly", "the Law of Heaven", "the conscience", and
"the fear of Heavenly commands, fear of the saint and fear of
commandments of the authority", all weaken the cultivation of faith and
determination. The idea of bravery becomes "one who knows how to feel
ashamed is close to being considered brave". This ideology is difficult
to spread among the general population, and the faith that arises from
this ideology of "to be reborn in heaven" or "to attain Buddhahood".
The Chinese nation which has long been under the influence of
Confucianism is withering and becoming weaker each day. It has failed
to arouse the virtues of bravery from faith, and the Chinese lack
strong motivation and enthusiasm for life. From the view of promoting
human nature or strengthening the Chinese nation, and cultivating of
sincere and dedicated faith and bravery, this decline is something that
the Confucianists should take note of.
(Catholic and Christian) conditions the contemporary
culture and spirit of the West. It also has three main themes: faith,
hope and love. Christians believe in the existence of God and because
of their faith in God there is hope of a bright future for them.
Because God loves us, we must in turn love others. Everything was
created by God. These teachings are of course very different to the
teachings of Buddhism. However, in general, we may consider faith and
hope to be equivalent to faith and determination in Buddhism, and love
equivalent to loving kindness and compassion in Buddhism.
Christians claim that they have a rational belief in
righteousness, it does not emphasise the virtue of wisdom in nature.
When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their eyes brightened. This
is the beginning of self-awareness and development of human knowledge.
However, for the theist, this is a sin, and is the source of death.
Teaching as such is shaken by the development and achievement of modern
scientific cultures nowadays.
Sravakas (the people who lived in the Buddha's time and listened to
his teachings personally) placed less emphasis on the cultivation of
loving kindness and compassion. There were Sravakas who stressed faith
and wisdom but there were none who stressed compassion. This is just
the opposite to Christian practice. Christians emphasise faith and love
but lack wisdom. The Sravakas stressed faith and wisdom, but
undervalued loving kindness and compassion. Both modes of practice are
narrow and incomplete. The practice of the Mahayana Bodhisattva, which
puts great emphasis on the equal practice of all the three themes, is
undoubtedly more complete. Although the teachings of Confucianism are
not complete, Their three virtues are closest to the practice of the
Pure Land sect in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism (originated in India
and completed in China) also has three main themes. They are: faith,
determination (dedication) and practice. The order of faith,
determination and practice delineates the process. From faith
determination arises, and with determination, effort to practice
we say the words "to practice" most people interpret it as
"practicing diligently" without the concepts of loving kindness and
compassion or wisdom. Some Pure Land practitioners practice by chanting
the name of the Amitabha Buddha but do not cultivate wisdom or
compassion and loving kindness. This type of person will have to wait
for a long while before they can fulfil their wish to become
enlightened and return to this world in order to relieve the suffering
of the worldly beings. This is the result of the imbalance development
and negligence of Mahayana philosophy in practice.
the Pure Land sect spread to Japan, it immersed into its theistic
tradition and changed itself into the "Truth" sect, promoting the
ideology of rebirth with faith and determination. Even the chanting of
the name was not important anymore. This is similar to the Christian
doctrine, where those who have faith will be saved.
short, other religions or ideologies do emphasise the Three
Essentials in one way or another but not all. It is important for us to
remember that, the main themes of the practice of the Bodhisattva are
the completion and perfection in the cultivation of faith
determination, wisdom, loving kindness and compassion.