HAVING illustrated the principles, we now discuss the practice of them. This is on account of those who have not entered the ranks of the upright ones, and so we explain the practice of Faith. What faith? What practice? Briefly speaking, faith is of four kinds. First, belief in the root of all things--that is, rejoicing to think of God, the True Reality. Second, belief in the infinite merits of divinity (Buddhahood), ever thinking of it, drawing near to it, supporting and adoring it, growing in goodness, and seeking all wisdom from it. Third, belief in the great benefit of the Law, always thinking how to practise all the different means of salvation. Fourth, belief in the Priesthood's ability to cultivate the right doctrine; having themselves found good, they help others to obtain it; ever rejoicing to approach all the saints, and seeking to learn and practise the truth as it is in the Eternal.
To realize the faith, practice consists of five stages. These five are--
1. The stage of charity.
2. The stage of holiness.
3. The stage of enduring wrong.
4. The stage of perseverance.
5. The stage of preventing vain thoughts, and the practice of divine wisdom or judgements.
A. How to practise the state of charity. If one sees any coming to beg in their need, money should be given them according to one's ability in order to prevent covetousness in oneself and to make the poor glad. If one sees men in trouble, fear, and danger, the fear should he relieved according to one's power. If men come to inquire about religion, one should explain the various means according to one's ability. In all things one should not seek the honours of fame or wealth, but, simply feeling that having received benefit oneself, one should impart the same benefit to others, so that they may return to true wisdom.
B. How to practise the state of holiness. This is to observe the Ten Commandments--
1. Thou shalt not kill anything.
2. Thou shalt not steal.
3. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
4. Thou shalt not be doublefaced.
5. Thou shalt not curse.
6. Thou shalt not lie.
7. Thou shalt not speak vanity.
8. Thou shalt keep far from coveting.
9. Thou shalt not insult, deceive, flatter, or trick.
10. Thou shalt be free from anger and heresy.
As for the priests, in order to overcome the temptations of the world they should keep far from the stir of the world and ever live in quietness, cultivating few desires and satisfaction with their lot, while mortifications should take place after committing the smallest sin. Their hearts must be moved with fear and most sincere repentance, and in no way must they regard the prohibitions of the Tathagata lightly. They should also guard against appearances of evil, lest men should commit the sin of speaking evil against the priesthood.
C. How to practise the state of bearing the cross (enduring wrong). This is what is called the duty of enduring the aspersions of others without a feeling of revenge through the eight storms of life. That is, to be the same in prosperity, in adversity, in honour and dishonour, in good and evil report, in trouble and in joy.
D. How to practise the state of perseverance. The heart must be never weary in well-doing of all sorts, having a purpose firm and strong, far from any weakness. Thinking of having passed in vain through all the great sorrows of mind and body down through past ages without doing any good is sad; to advance in the scale of being one should diligently practise all sorts of good. Having obtained good oneself, one should make this known to others, so as to speedily leave all sorrow.
Next, although some men practise faith, yet, as from former generations they had many grave sins and delusions, they are troubled by all sorts of evil spirits, or are bound by all sorts of affairs of the world, or are troubled with sicknesses or with many other trials; they must therefore have courage and diligence, and worship God (Buddha) night and day at all the
appointed times, repent with all sincerity, seek light from Buddha, rejoice with others' good so as to return towards true wisdom. This should be done constantly without intermission, so as to escape from all delusions and to grow in all goodness.
E. How to practise the state of checking idle thought and of cultivating sound judgement. To check idle thought is to cease from being misled by impressions and to follow and obey the rules. To reflect is to differentiate between the different laws of temporary existence and to obey the rules of sound judgement. How are these to be followed? These two states are to be gradually cultivated, not independently, but simultaneously.
i. As to the practice of checking vain thoughts, it should be done in a quiet place, properly seated and in a proper spirit. It is not the practice of breathing air in a special manner into the body, as is the custom of some religions, thinking thereby to get the vital spirit of nature into the body, nor the use of anything that has form or colour, whether of empty space or of the four elements earth, water, fire, and wind, or even of the knowledge gained by any experience of the senses, for all kinds of ideas as soon as thought of must be put away, even the idea of banishing them must also be put away. As all existence originally came to be without any idea of its own, it ceases to be also without any idea of its own; any thoughts arising therefore must be from being absolutely passive. Nor must one follow the mind in its excursions to everything outside itself and then chase that thought away. If the mind wanders far away, it must be brought back into its proper state. One should know that the proper state is that of the soul alone without anything outside of it. Again, even this soul
has no form and no thought by which we can conceive of it properly.
(a) Having risen from the sitting posture, whether in going out or coming in, or in any work, at all times one should think of the means of checking vain thoughts, and should examine whether he succeeds in it or whether he follows them, In time one gets perfect in the practice and the mind is at rest. As the mind is at rest it gradually gets courage to proceed; in this way it reaches the peace of the Eternal, far beyond all trouble with faith, increasing so that it will soon be so perfect as never to fail any more. But doubters, unbelievers, blasphemers, great sinners, those who are conceited, who will not persevere, and such-like people, cannot obtain this peace of the Eternal.
(b) Note next that by this peace one knows that in the spiritual world the peace of the spiritual bodies of all the Buddhas and of all living bodies is one and the same, and is called the divine peace. Know that the root of this peace is in the Eternal. If this is continued, there gradually arises in the mind an infinite peace.
(c) If there should be some men without the strength which comes from good deeds who are troubled with evil spirits and the gods and demons of outside religions, appearing sometimes in ugly forms, causing fear to them whilst sitting in contemplation, at other times appearing in lovely forms to tempt them, they should think of the One Eternal Soul, then these appearances will vanish and give no more trouble. These evil spirits, whether taking the form of the heavenly beings, of Bodhisattvas, or of the Tathagata, all fun of perfection, or using magic formulae, or preaching charity,
morality, endurance of wrong, perseverance, contemplation, wisdom, or discussing the one unseen reality, the formless reality, the passionless reality, without enmity and without love, without cause and without effect--nothing but pure emptiness--say that this is the true Nirvana! They also teach men how to know the past and to know the future, and how to know what is in the mind of others, and how to have unfailing gifts of speech, causing men to covet the fame and wealth of this world.
Or, again, these evil spirits cause men to be frequently violently angry or very happy, without anything to steady them; sometimes to have great compassion, or to be sleepy or ill, or to be without perseverance; or they cause men to persevere for a time and then to fall back worse than ever, to lose faith, to have many doubts and fears, or give up their practice of checking vain thoughts and make them follow miscellaneous matters and be chained by the many affairs of the world, so as to give men a certain kind of peace, somewhat similar to the true peace, but which is the product of outside religions and not the true peace of the Eternal.
Or, again, these evil spirits cause men for one, two, three, or even seven days, to remain in contemplation, as if enjoying delicious food; they are most happy in mind and body without any hunger or thirst; or they may be led to eat without any control, sometimes much and sometimes little, so that the countenance changes, and 'exhibits gladness or sorrow accordingly.
As there are such things, religious people should always wisely examine themselves, lest their minds should fall into the nets of heresy. They should carefully rectify their thoughts
and neither adopt nor he attached to them, but keep themselves far from all delusions.
One should know that the peace of outside religions is of the senses, of the affections, to gratify self, desiring the honours of fame and the wealth of the world.
But the true peace is not in the realms of the senses or in possessions, and even after contemplation there is neither the feeling of having attained perfection with no further effort, nor conceit for what has been accomplished. All trials gradually diminish.
If men do not cultivate this peace, there is no other way to get the seed of the Tathagata, the Incarnate Lord.
As the peace of this world mostly arises from the pleasure which is given to the senses, it is bound to the three worlds of form, of desire, and of no-form, like that of the outside religions. Once men leave the guidance of sound wisdom, false doctrines at once arise.
(d) Next note that those who diligently set their minds on securing this peace, should, in the present generation, obtain ten advantages--
(1) All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout all space always protect them.
(2) None of the evil spirits can cause them any fear.
(3) They cannot be deceived by any of the ninety-five kinds of outside religions.
(4) They are far beyond questioning the deep things of the Buddhist religion, and great sins gradually diminish.
(5) There is an end to all doubt and all kinds of heresies.
(6) Faith in the world of the Tathagata (God Incarnate) grows.
(7) They leave sorrow far behind in the minds of mortals, while they themselves have no fear.
(8) Their spirits become gentle and peaceable, they put off pride and conceit, and are not troubled by other people's opinions.
(9) Although they have not obtained full peace at all times and in every place, they are able to lessen their trials, and do not covet the world's pleasures.
(10) When their peace is secured, they are unmoved by any seductions of outside attractions.
2. Now, if men practise only contemplation, the mind is damped, or gets weary, and does not rejoice in all goodness, but is far from pity; therefore it is necessary to cultivate reasoning or reflection.
(a) One should reflect that nothing made throughout the universe can last long; in a moment it may be destroyed.
(b) One should reflect that all thought rises and vanishes again like a wave, and is therefore a sorrow.
(c) One should reflect that all the past is misty like a dream, that all the present is like lightning, that all the future rises suddenly like a cloud in the sky.
(d) One should reflect that the bodies of all living beings are unclean, full of all kinds of uncleanness, and therefore not to be rejoiced in.
(e) Thus one should reflect that all living beings, from eternity down the ages, being influenced by ignorance, live and die and endure all the great sorrows of mind and body; and reflect on the endless trials of the present and on the immeasurable sorrows of the future, which cannot be got rid of and which men are scarcely aware of. When all
men's lives are so full of sorrow, they are greatly to be pitied.
(f) Having thought of these things, one should stir oneself up to make a GREAT VOW to lead one's own soul to leave the finite and gain the infinite, cultivate every means of grace to deliver all men for ever from their sorrows and obtain the highest joys of Nirvana.
(g) Having made this great vow, one must not give up practising it or be weary in it, but at all times and all places engage in every good that is in one's power.
3. Whilst sitting in meditation, one's mind should be bent on checking vain thoughts. At other times one should reflect carefully in regard to everything whether it should or should not be done. Whether walking or resting, lying down or rising up, both reflecting and checking vain thoughts should go together. This is what is meant by the saying that although we practise all these things, our perfection is not really produced by ourselves, but by the nature of the Eternal working through us.
Again, thinking of the never-failing law of cause and effect, and joy and sorrow as the reward of good and evil, when we think of law we must also think of this goal so difficult to attain.
The practice of checking vain thoughts is to sever attachment to the world, and to put away the fears and weaknesses of the two lower schools of Buddhism.
The practice of reflection is to deliver from the narrow sin of the two lower schools, who do not have the vow of great pity for others, and who do not keep far from ordinary men who do not practise goodness.
In this way the two methods of reflection and the checking of
vain thoughts are mutually helpful to one another and inseparable. If both are not practised, one cannot then enter on the way of wisdom.
4. Next consider those who begin to learn the five methods of this chapter, p. 81, and desire to get right faith, but are timid and weak. As they live in this world of extreme suffering, they fear they cannot constantly approach God (Buddha) and personally contribute to His service. Thus they fear they cannot attain to this perfect faith, and have a mind to renounce their search after it.
These should know that the Tathagata has most excellent means to strengthen their faith. It is by having the mind set only on the things, of God (Buddha), and by desiring that one may be born in another world of Buddha and be constantly with Him forever, far from all evil, that one may attain this end. As the Sutra says, if a man sets his mind to think only of God (the Amitabha Buddha), who is in the happiest realm of the west (Paradise), and if his good deeds are in the right direction, and if he desires to get to that happy Paradise, he will then get there; and as he is always in the presence of Buddha, he will never fall back.
If we reflect on the eternal nature of God (the Amitabha Buddha), and constantly practise this method, we will in the end reach the place of true wisdom.