Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign
---A Proposition for Living in the 21st Century
Four Fields for Cultivating Peace:
Four Guidelines for Dealing with Desires:
Four Steps for Handling a Problem:
Deal with it,
Let go of it.
Four Practices for Helping Oneself and Others:
Moving others through virtue.
Four Ways to Cultivating Blessings
Sowing the seeds of blessings.
The Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign transforms the abstruse and difficult terminology and doctrines of Buddhism into a set of ideas and methods that the average person can understand, accept and use in their daily lives. It is the fruit of many years of effort at Dharma Drum. Although the terms it uses are new, its essential spirit and substance remains the Dharma.
Dharma Drum has designated the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign as its “proposition for living in the 21st century.” It is not a mere slogan, buzzword, or rhetorical flourish, but a program for the development of the spirit.
Actually the methods of Fivefold Spiritual renaissance are not new. They were around even in the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. When the Buddha manifested in the world to preach the Dharma, his primary audience was human beings. His aim was to imbed the Dharma widely in people’s lives, allowing them to awaken from ignorance and thus resolve their predicaments and uncover the original radiance of the mind ground-the innate wisdom or powers of the mind. By applying the ideas and methods of the Dharma in their lives, people could moderate and subdue their afflictions and habits and ceaselessly build within their mind a clear and cool pure land.
“Spiritual” refers to the mind and ideas. The Buddhadharma is a teaching of the mind as is Chan School of China. The mind itself is a kind of wisdom. In part this wisdom is innate; in part, acquired. Put another way, the preconditions are innate and to them nurturing and development are added. If people have difficulty accepting nurturing and development, it is because they are unwilling to change.
People’s views are formed slowly beginning when they are very young. In their childhood years, people gradually establish their own ways of thinking about the world but these ways of thinking are not yet mature. After reaching adulthood, they gradually form mature views, which become individual opinions and ideas. The views that a person already has are not unchangeable.
This is particularly true when a person has encountered some suffering, dilemma, or disaster that they cannot resolve. In such a situation, if someone tells him about a certain idea that helps him solve his problem, he may change his previous views and accept the new idea. Counseling from psychologists, guidance from religious teachers, and spiritual conversation with family or friends can all have this function of helping people to find methods of adapting to their environment and interacting harmoniously with others.
Integrating the Spirit with the World
The Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign uses the Buddhadharma to adjust our views and develop our minds. Formally, because the specialized terminology of the sutras was difficult for people to understand and because many people turned Buddhism into some kind of profound, abstruse learning or mystical experience, it didn’t seem that relevant to our daily lives.
Actually, this was not the Buddha’s original intention. The Dharma taught by the Buddha can be used by anyone regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, occupation, or level of knowledge and education to develop the mind, transform his views, and improve his behavior so as to adapt to the environment he is living in at the present moment.
In the past, I have used the phrases “spreading widely a Dharma relevant to people’s lives in the human world” and “establishing a clear and cool pure land in the burning house.” By spreading widely a Dharma relevant to people’s live s in the human world, we can uplift people’s characters and improve the quality of their lives. By “establishing a clear and cool pure land in a burning house,” we can insure that we are not burned by the “fire.”
The house that is on “fire” is the three realms of desire, form and formlessness, which include the human world we live in. Fire is a metaphor for such afflictions as sorrow, anxiety, anger, fear, suspicion, jealousy, obsession, and clinging. Shakyamuni hoped that, after the Dharma had been spread throughout the three realms, people would be able to avoid worry, fear, arrogance, dejection, disappointment, and depression and manifest a clear and cool pure land within their mind, in all circumstances, whether favorable or unfavorable. This is precisely Dharma Drum’s vision.
“Living Buddha dharma,” “humanized Buddhist studies,” and “humanistic Buddhism” are the fundamental spirit of the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign. Because it applies the Buddhadharma broadly to everyday life, it is living Buddhadharma. Because Buddhist studies are pursued to uplift human character, it is humanized Buddhist studies. Because Buddhism belongs to the human realm, it is humanistic Buddhism. The meanings of “living,” “humanized,” and “humanistic” are different and there are also differences between Buddhadharma, Buddhist studies, and Buddhism.
Living Buddhadharma means to use the ideas of the Buddhadharma to live. This is the “Living Buddhadharma” campaign that we at Dharma Drum are actively promoting. The Dharma can be applied in our ordinary daily life. It doesn’t necessarily require going off deep in the mountains. Buddhism stresses the middle way. It advocates neither indulgence in sensual pleasures and creature comforts nor meaningless asceticism. Throughout the day, walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, whether one is a monastic or lay believer, one should apply the Dharma to one’s life in accordance with the definite standards of Buddhism. This is living Buddhadharma.
Coming to “humanized,” one might ask, “Why does Buddhist studies need to be humanized?” It is because many people treat Buddhist studies as mere information, as metaphysics, or as a profound form of learning. As a result, it gets sealed up in the ivory tower and becomes frosty and academic, losing its intimate relationship with the world people live in. Many people do research for its own sake and treat Buddhist studies solely as a field of study, without applying it in their lives. Thus, it becomes academic and not humanized Buddhist studies.
“Humanized” means that, if Buddhist studies is researched from a human perspective, the fruits of that research will be appropriate for people to use and able to uplift the character of humanity and purify the human realm. Take Dharma Drum Mountain’s Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies as an example. Its “Declaration of Principles” contains the phrases “emphasize benefiting others” and “make practicality the priority.” A Buddhist studies that promotes benefiting others and practicality is a humanized Buddhist studies.
Humanistic Buddhism is a part of the fundamental spirit of the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance. Let us first ask, however, “What is religion?” A long-established orthodox religious tradition must have three traits: a founder, doctrines, and a religious community. That is, there must be a historical figure who founded the religion, a foundation of religious doctrine, and a community which cultivates or practices that doctrine. Buddhism has these three traits.
“Humanistic” means that these three traits are all centered on humanity. They are established with a view to serving humanity, rather than for the sake of metaphysics or worshiping ghosts and spirits. Thus it is called humanistic Buddhism. Today there are some who constantly emphasize enlightenment, the wondrous responses and spiritual powers that come from mystical experience, and the ability to contact and command the non-human beings of the spirit realm. This does not take the human being as its focal point and is not humanistic Buddhism.
In sum, if, in speaking of the Buddha dharma, doing research in Buddhist studies, or believing in Buddhism, one does not take the human being as one’s focal point, then it is not living Buddhadharma, humanized Buddhist studies, or humanistic Buddhism. The Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign must be humanized, humanistic, are relevant to people’s life.
Practicing Four Kinds of Environmentalism
The Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign is a proposition for living in the 21st century and also a way to implement the four kinds of environmentalism.
Some might ask, “Why do the four kinds of environmentalism have to do with Buddhism?” Actually the “spirit” spoken of in the protection of the spiritual environment refers to the mind, which is the essence of the Buddhadharma. As for the protection of the social environment, Buddhism places great emphasis on etiquette, including following the vinaya, maintaining deportment, and keeping precepts. It can even be said that observing rules and etiquette is the basic foundation of Buddhism. Protecting the living environment is part of making Buddhism relevant to daily life. Turning to protection of the natural environment, we find that, according to Buddhism, a person’s body and mind are direct karmic retribution and the environment she lives in is circumstantial retribution. Direct and circumstantial retribution form one’s place of practice. Every person uses her direct retribution to practice within her circumstantial retribution. Thus one must care for the environment just as one would for her own body. Thus the fundamental essence of each of the four kinds of environmentalism is Buddhism.
A Movement of Spiritual Enlightenment and Education in Living
As a movement of spiritual enlightenment, the goal of the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance is make Buddhism relevant to people’s lives. This is a kind of education in living.
Through the education in living found in our movement for spiritual enlightenment, we can practice the three types of education-education through academics, public outreach, and caring service and thereby promote our vision of “uplifting the character of humanity and building a pure land on earth.”
Perhaps some may ask, “Does education through academics make Buddhism relevant to people’s lives?” The answer is affirmative. Our curriculum and the educational environment of the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies campus all work towards this goal. Currently, the institute is advancing education that makes Buddhism relevant to people’s lives because it “makes practicality the priority.” This maxim is part of humanistic, humanized, and living Buddhism.
In promoting the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign, there are two aspects to consider. The first is playing down religious overtones in order to be engaged in the secular world and thus influence it. The second is strengthening ourselves in the Dharma in order to avoid compromising with the secular world and thus becoming mired in it.
In playing down religious overtones, the primary thing is not to use paranormal phenomena or mystical experiences such as spiritual powers to seek followers, not to stress idol worship, and not make idols of any spiritual objects or force or any living person.
The highest principles of the Buddhadharma are expressed in “give rise to the mind while not abiding anywhere,” “phenomena are not existent,” and “all phenomena are Buddhadharma; all phenomena are not Buddhadharma .” The Buddha preached the Dharma for forty-nine years but he still said over and over that the things he had taught were not ultimate teaching, but all expedient teaching or skillful means.
The majority of religions believe in a creator god and the worship of supernatural phenomena. Buddhism, however, doe not talk about a creator god, and although the sutras do touch on spiritual powers and the supernatural they are definitely not central to the Dharma. The Chan School in particular does not advocate using spiritual powers or the supernatural to attract followers. Thus, Chan is the most humanistic, humanized and living form of Buddhism.
Some worry that by playing down religious overtones we will lose our original direction. On this question, everyone should have confidence. We will still continuously seek to strengthen ourselves in the Buddhadharma, and influence and transform the secular world from within. We will not be thrown off course by the winds and waves of the world. On the contrary, we will stand firm like a rock in mid-stream and use our engagement to influence it.
In order to avoid fanciful daydreaming in promoting the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance the focus of our efforts will be making concrete, feasible plans and choosing locations at which to establish exemplars.
We will begin with Dharma Drum Mountain’s community of monastics and of Dharma Upholders and gradually spread the fruits of these efforts to families, communities, campuses, and eventually the whole world.
At the same time we can use the Internet and various languages including Chinese and English to make the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance an international languages and an ideal the whole world can identify with.
The Four Fields for Cultivating Peace
---A Proposition for Uplifting the Character of Humanity
We must implement the Dharma in human society. Bring the Dharma into every family allows them to come into contact with the Dharma’s radiant compassion and wisdom. The warmth it brings can allow everyone to cultivate a peaceful mind, a peaceful body, a peaceful family, and peaceful activity. This alone is truly reliable and thoroughgoing peace.
Cultivating a peaceful mind lies in having few desires
Having few desires and knowing contentment means to have no intense desire or insatiable greed and thus be able to cultivate a peaceful mind.
Bring peace to the minds of others is the activity and compassionate vow of a bodhisattva. One should make a compassionate vow to benefit others and work for their welfare, and not just stop at having few desires and feeling contentment. Otherwise, it is not only insufficiently active and positive, it may even be negative and passive.
Superior people cultivate a peaceful mind through the Path. They give rise to bodhimind and cultivate the bodhisattva path. Middle people cultivate a peaceful mind through activity. If given an appropriate amount of work to keep them busy, they won’t go looking for trouble or make trouble for others. Inferior people seek peace of mind through the pursuit of fame, fortune, and material desires. I hope that everyone can at least cultivate peace of mind through activity, and not be the inferior type who seeks it in fame and fortune.
Cultivating a peaceful body lies in hard work and thrift
People should work, but work is not all there is to life. Life is not just for working for material wealth, still less for laboring for the satisfaction of material desires. One should work for the sake of one’s mental and physical health and the opportunity to render services gratefully to others.
Besides a healthy body and a peaceful mind, diligence and hard work usually also bring material remuneration. After receiving remuneration, however, one should use it in moderation, lest in seeking to satisfy material desires one should engage in mentally and physically unhealthy actions. Put another way, after hard work ought to come thrift. The principles of hard work and thrift are the key to physical health. Thrift will also result in many benefits that you can pass on to others. If you do so, you will be someone that everyone likes and admires.
Cultivating a peaceful family lies in love and respect
The family’s warmth lies in loving and respecting one another. Its preciousness lies in helping one another. Helping one another means making sure those who need help receive it. When helping someone, you shouldn’t become swollen with pride and think that you are some great benefactor that the person you’ve helped should thank.
Instead, you should feel grateful and thanks the person you’ve helped for the opportunity to contribute and to grow through serving others. The essence of a peaceful home is respecting one another, learning from one another, and being understanding of one another. It is caring for each other, being grateful to each other, and giving to each other. Simply making arrangements for your family on the material level does not count as cultivating a peaceful family. To truly cultivating a peaceful family is to enable each member of the family to reach his or her potential and play his or her part.
Cultivating peaceful activity lie in being honest and upright
When most people think of “cultivating peaceful activity,” they probably think of their professional activity, their job, and its stability and security. However, if we take the purity and diligence of all three types of activity-mental, verbal, and physical-as the scope of “activity,” then both personal and professional activity are included.
We should pay attention to our behavior and be moderate in our deeds, words and thoughts. We should not act rashly or blindly, be without standards, talk foolishly, or say whatever comes to mind. We also should not be indecisive or change our mind constantly. This is a kind of cultivation we have to maintain in our daily lives.
It is a platitude that one should work diligently and harmoniously, yet it is not so easily done. Even if normally you do everything successfully and just as you would wish, one day when you encounter some setback, dilemma, or difficult problem you may have doubts regarding your work-who is it you are working so hard for anyway? If these sorts of thoughts arise, you are no longer working diligently and harmoniously.
Working diligently means taking one’s work responsibilities seriously. Diligence is working hard without cease and throwing oneself wholeheartedly into one’s work. If you have an attitude of holding back on your abilities or your mental and physical energy, then you are not working diligently.
In taking any action one should consider the action based on the principle of “benefiting others benefits oneself.” Don’t pursue your own benefit but rather work diligently for the benefit of others, giving thought and consideration to both their long-term and immediate benefit. Whether at home, at work, or in any other context, if you can look at things with this attitude, I believe that you’ll have good relations with others and enjoy their support.
The Four Guidelines for Dealing with Desires
---A Proposition for Calming the Mind
In modern society, the flourishing of material civilization and the excessive speed of structural change has led to a confusion of values. As a result, some people are not sure what they truly need, what they simply want out of greed, what they are legitimately able to acquire, and what is proper for one with their responsibilities to acquire. Because they are unable to make clear distinctions regarding need, want, ability, and propriety, the majority of people simply follows the trends of society and goes with the crowd -“if other people have it, I want it too.”
Furthermore, typically modern people’s needs are few, but their wants are too many. On top of that, they pursue what they shouldn’t and cannot acquire. Generally, however, they cannot acquire what they want, As a result, people feel restless and uneasy and social problems crop up endlessly.
Our needs are few, our desires are too many
What is “need”? It is the things that you can’t live without, such as sunlight, air, moisture, a minimum of food, clothes to fend off the cold, a house to shelter you from the wind and the rain. In our time basic transportation, computers, and telephones have become needs too. Having these necessities is not indulgence.
What is indulgence? It is those luxuries and adornment beyond what is necessary. It is things that only serve to satisfy your vanity or to keep up appearances. Nevertheless, in certain situations and in accordance one’s position, one must have a certainlevel of elegance in order to suit the occasion. That can be counted as a need, but one must have a sense of propriety.
The things we truly need in life are really quite few. From a subjective perspective, however, one might really feel that without a certain thing, his life will be empty, forlorn, and meaningless. This is a personal value judgment.
So looking solely at “need,” we find that the definition is very hazy. When considering the difference between need and want, we should do so from a subjective standpoint as wee as from an overall, objective standpoint.
Is it within my ability? Is it proper?
“Ability” means that, within the scope of your ability, you may work hard to obtain the things you need, but if your ability is not sufficient, you should yield to those whose ability is and not insist. There are many things in life that lead people to feel strong envy and craving, including fame, fortune, power, status, and love. When you wish to obtain them, however, you must think carefully.
“Are my abilities and contributions sufficient to make me deserving of them?” Are the conditions such that it can be obtained readily or is it forced?” If your contributions and abilities are insufficient and conditions not ripe, yet you still hope to gain it, this is craving things you don’t deserve. This will only increase your pain and the harm done to you.
Turning to “propriety,” if we look at it based on the phrase popular with young people today, “if it feels good, do it,” then we will not be able to distinguish between what is and is not proper to desire.
Most people’s desires are endless. They like and want so many things. They should ask themselves: should I like these things? Should I try to obtain them? For instance, everyone likes fame, status, wealth, and power, but undeserved fame is only a facade, undeserved wealth is simply ill-got-ten gains, undeserved status is just an act. It is improper to pursue such things. Of course if one is deserving, then obtaining it is not only blameworthy, it encourages one to make oneself still more deserving.
Actually, in our daily lives the things we need are not many, yet the things we want are many indeed. The things we need are proper to desire. The things we merely want are unimportant.
Our starting point should be protecting the spiritual environment. On the one side, we should protect our mind from being polluted by the environment and increase our immunity to such pollution. On the other, we should not give rise to negative states of mind such as jealousy, anger, suspicion, and selfishness, which make the environment even worse. By becoming aware of each subtle movement of our own mind, we become clearly aware of our needs and can resolve our wants.
If you clearly understand these four criteria of for dealing with desire in the course of your life, then you will have a clear sense of direction and be able to live peacefully.
The Four Steps for Handling A Problem
---A Proposition for Resolving the Difficulties of Life
It is difficult to avoid adversity in life. When people are handling a thorny problem, I often encourage them to calmly face it, accept it, deal with it, and let go of it. When we encounter difficulty, hardship, or an unfair situation, we should not be escapist because escapism cannot solve the problem. Only by wisely responsibility can we truly obtain liberation from confounding problems.
Methods for facing affliction
How can we face our problems? We must tell ourselves that everything that happens does so for a reason. We don’t need to delve exhaustively into the reasons. There’s no time for that. Facing and improving the situation is most direct and most important.
Many people say, “I am a good person. Why do I suffer so many hardship?” We need to be aware that with a material body come karmic retribution and with that comes obstacles.
If there is earth with its land, mountains and rivers, there will be sky with its winds, rains, clouds and fog. Even great practitioners, the Buddha’s toe was struck and hurt by a large rock and he encountered serious illness. However, karmic retribution and obstacles don’t necessarily have to lead to affliction. This is where the difference between ordinary people and great practitioners lies.
When ordinary people suffer due to the things they encounter, they lose faith and give up. Great practitioners can let go of the self and remain unobstructed by affliction. We follow the Buddha’s path in order to emulate his wisdom. In this way, we can discern the causes of affliction and face them, accept them, deal with them, and let them go.
Karma must manifest in accordance with conditions. In any circumstance, if you can improve the situation, then do so.
If you can’t, then face it and accept it. Don’t avoid it but strive to improve it. Avoiding responsibility, avoiding karmic retribution, is not worth the cost. Trying to improve the situation is the smartest thing to do. The things you’ve planned are not necessarily always reliable. Unintended things will occur. When this happens, accept it and then try to find a way to deal with it, for this just the way conditions are.
So if problems occur in the course of your plans, there is no need to become sad or disappointed. Continue to work diligently to bring conditions to fruition, for the opportunity for success is still there. If after careful consideration, you decide that the conditions cannot possibly reach fruition, then the only thing to do is let go of it. This is clearly different from giving up without making an effort.
Let go of yourself and let go of others
Clinging to yourself betrays a lack of wisdom; clinging to others a lack of compassion. If one thinks in this way one will give rise to a mind of sympathy and respect towards all people. One has sympathy for people in that they are yet unenlightened. One respects them in that they are independent persons.
How does Chan teach people to cultivate peaceful minds in their ordinary lives? The Chan attitude is to learn the facts, face them, deal with them and then let go of them. No matter what circumstance you encounter you will not see it as a disaster. If you know that something frustrating might happen and can prevent it, that is best. If it will inevitably happen, what use is worrying? Worry and anxiety not only don’t help, they may also lead the situation to become even more serious. Facing the situation is the best response.
I frequently encounter people who truly seem to be surrounded by a sea of fire and come to me seeking help. Generally I listen attentively to their problems to find out what their anxieties are, but I do not let their anxieties become my own nightmares.
There is a principle in the advice I give them: to deal with problems involving emotion, it is advisable to use reason; to deal with problems regarding family, ethics. Even if some great disaster occurs, you should still take the time you need to try to resolve or mitigate it. If it is truly an unavoidable misfortune, then you can only face it and accept it. Being able to face it and accept it is the same as dealing with it. Since you’ve already dealt with it, there is no reason to worry about it, so you should just let go of it. Don’t constantly think, “What should I do?” Just sleep as you did before, eat as you did before and live as you ought to.
The Four Practices for Helping Oneself and Others
---A Proposition for Getting Along with Others
How can we concretely engage in the practice of helping ourselves and others in our daily lives? We can begin with the four practices of feeling grateful, feeling thankful, reforming ourselves, and moving others through virtue.
Feeling grateful – contributing and repaying kindness without seeking anything in return
You should hold gratitude in your heart at all times and contribute all that you can of your wealth, strength, wisdom, and intelligence. When making a contribution, your attitude should be respectful and you should give without thinking of it as charity. Otherwise, you may think of yourself as a great benefactor and develop a puffed up attitude, thinking that you’ve done many meritorious deeds. One who, moreover, waits intently for reward shows no sense of shame. On the other hand, one who receives gifts or service should treat the giver as a benefactor and feel a debt of gratitude. Both parties should maintain a mind of contribution, offering, gratitude and repaying kindness. One person contributes with a grateful heart.
Many people pay lip service to making contributions, built in their heart they are investing – I contribute something today in the hope that tomorrow I will get something in return. This is simply an exchange of favors. It is not repaying kindness and it is not contributing. A true contribution is unconditional.
Feeling thankful – good and ill fortune are both our benefactors
We should accept both favorable and adverse conditions with thankfulness. Those who lead us a hand are our benefactors. It is right and proper to be thankful. Those who use adversity to encourage us to grow are also our benefactors and should also be thanked. Actually we should take everything we encounter and everyone we meet as a benefactor, as someone who helps us as a person. If we do so, we will be able to maintain our peace of mind.
Reforming yourself – knowing shame, repenting often, and improving oneself through compassion and wisdom
Many Buddhists take the scriptures and use them to teach and reform others. They take the standards of the Buddhadharma and use them to make demands of people.
The Dharma is there to help us practice, not for us to judge others with. Unfortunately many people not only use the Dharma to judge people, but also use secular moral standards to make demands of people yet are unable to serve as an example themselves. Such people are not only unable to use the Buddhadharma to help themselves, but are also unable to assist and benefit others.
Reforming oneself means knowing shame and repenting often. One feels shame because one has not done well enough and hopes to work harder and do better. One repents because one is aware that he has made mistakes and wished to remind himself not to make them again in the future.
The scriptures tell us that only after reaching the eighth stage do bodhisattvas practicing the Mahayana achieve the state of no-more-learning and only after attaining the fruit of arhatship do the sharvakas of the Hinayana achieve it. “No-more-learning” just means that there is nothing more they need to learn. They no longer need to learn shame and repentance. Perhaps some might ask, “How can it be that bodhisattvas still have faults and still need to feel shame?” Actually, bodhisattvas need to always feel shame and repent. Only then will they be more and more diligent, more and more pure, more and more able to move others.
Moving others through virtue – Reform yourself, then use compassion and wisdom to move others
Some people complain that the members of their family are inadequate in one way or another and don’t meet their expectations. Or they may feel that society is a mess and people’s minds are uneasy and restless. They somehow always feel that if other people handled things better they would be safer, if others were more earnest and responsible, they would be enjoy more happiness. Based on this standard, they believe that if only others were better, they would enjoy more blessings. They forget, however, to make demands of themselves and to look to see if they are as others would wish.
This world needs the Dharma. Hopes that others will do as one wishes are unlikely to be fulfilled; practicing the Dharma oneself is most reliable. If everyone can use wisdom to handle matters and compassion to interact with people, then they will naturally have the power to move others.
The four practice for helping oneself and others ask us to reform ourselves, move others through virtue, feel thankful, and feel gratitude. They ask us to emulate the compassion of Guanyin Bodhisattva. In this way we can get through hardships without even regarding them as hardship. At the same time, in the midst of hardship we can save others from hardship. This is the bodhisattva spirit of benefiting and assisting oneself and others.
The Four Ways to Cultivate Blessings
---A Proposition for Increasing Blessings
The doctrines and practices of Buddhism aim to cultivate blessings and wisdom. We must use compassion to cultivate blessings and use wisdom to cultivate wisdom. We must also use wisdom to foster blessings, and use blessings to support wisdom. If one has blessings without wisdom or wisdom without blessings, then one’s practice will not be full and perfect. Likewise if one has compassion without wisdom or wisdom without compassion, one’s practice will not be full and perfect.
For this reason, one with perfect blessings is necessarily one with perfect wisdom, and one with perfect wisdom is necessarily one with perfect blessings. Such a person is a Buddha. When we refer to the Buddha as the Honored One among Two-legged Beings, the “two legs” can be seen as a metaphor for blessings and wisdom.
One who is able is practice the four ways to cultivate blessings-recognizing blessings, cherishing blessings, nurturing blessings, and sowing the seeds of blessings – and wish others good fortune is a person of great blessings.
Recognizing Blessings – knowing contentment and being happy, and being at peace with want and delighted in the Way
Being aware of one’s blessings is very important. At the very minimum, anyone living in this world has their breath, and while one has breath all hopes are possible and life is full of possibility. For this reason our breath is very precious. As the proverb says, “As long as the green mountains remain, I fear no lack of firewood.” If one can recognize one’s blessings then one can even say “as long as I have breath, I’m satisfied.”
Many people don’t understand that they must treasure their lives. They don’t realize that their lives are a blessing. Especially in our modern society of affluence, many people are surrounded by blessings but don’t recognize it. They see that someone else has something and want to possess it for themselves regardless of the effort that person made to obtain it. To reach their goal, they may even use unscrupulous methods, thereby harming themselves and others. If we can recognize our blessings, we will know contentment, and if we know contentment we will always be happy. Knowing contentment doesn’t mean that one doesn’t want anything but that “more is good, less is good, so good that all are filled with great joy.” Only this is truly knowing contentment.
Cherishing Blessings – Treasuring what we have with gratitude and a hope to repay the kindness we’ve received
Besides our breath, we possess many other things, including our lives and property. We also have our relationships with others, that is, our interpersonal relations and our affinity for people.
Cherishing our blessings means treasuring what we have, including the resources of our intellect, our health, the natural environment, and society. We should cherish them, not waste or spoil them. In particular, we should not do anything to spoil our health or harm our reputation, character, or ideals. This is cherishing blessings.
Nurturing Blessings – Living the good life is not a blessing, nurturing blessing is a blessing
Nurturing blessings means that if you can take the blessings received in this life and sow them, you can cultivate even more blessings. If you make the whole world, the whole universe, all the beings of the ten directions your object in nurturing blessings and sow the seeds of blessing without cease, then you will be a person of great blessings and ultimately your blessings will be as perfect as those of the Buddha.
Sometimes the retribution arising from karmic obstruction may mislead people to believe that the retribution is a blessing. For instance, from a Buddhist perspective living a comfortable life in which one can sit idly and enjoy everything without doing anything is not necessarily a blessing.
From the perspective of the Buddhist idea that all phenomena are impermanent, that nothing is forever unchanging, living the good life isn’t a blessing. Only treasuring and nurturing blessings is truly blessed. The reason is that after this world’s blessings are exhausted, they will be immediately followed by the arrival of bitter retribution. We must grasp the opportunity and pay no heed to our toil. We shouldn’t keep track of insults and humiliations or work for our own fame and fortune. Only then will we be able to help others to resolve their difficulties. Only then will we be able to strive unceasingly to make progress and give all that we are able to those in need of help. This itself is seeking and nurturing blessings.
Sowing the Seeds of Blessing – Through one’s own growth, one can broadly sow the seeds of blessings so that all may be blessed
Shakyamuni Buddha tells us that people come to this world to sow the seeds of blessings. Each person has her own fields in which she can sow blessings, such as her family, friends, and those people in her society who need help because they are in bitter want and without support. Working for the benefit of society and the nation as well as the happiness of all sentient beings is also sowing our fields of blessings.
Those who are aware of the need to be always sowing blessings are blessed. In order to sow the seeds of blessings, we must diligently work on our own growth. We must add to and improve our knowledge, character, wisdom, and skills. Then we will have even more resources with which to sow the seeds of blessings.