The third of the Five Guidelines is the Threefold Learning. To counteract the major
illnesses of the people in our world and time, the Buddha taught:
Moral self-discipline counteracts our habits for wrongdoing. Meditative concentration
counteracts the tendency of our minds to wander and have scattered thoughts. Wisdom
counteracts ignorance, our wrong views and knowledge, and our lack of correct knowledge.
begin with moral self-discipline, with training. On a basic level, we abstain from
killing; from stealing; from sexual, or sensual, misconduct; from lying; and from
the taking of intoxicants. On a broader basis, we behave in a moral and ethical way
in everything we do.
By not killing, we will revere all life, and have compassion and respect not just
for other people but also for animals, insects, plants, and the earth which supports
us. By our very existence, we are taking lives. As we walk, we step on insects. To
produce the food we eat and the water we drink, millions of other animal and microbiological
lives are destroyed. We cannot stop eating or drinking water, but we can make certain
we do not waste anything. Understanding our impact on others, we can use what we
need, but no more than that.
Not killing also has a more subtle aspect: We should not kill the seeds of goodness
in others or harm another emotionally. While our thoughts and actions can be damaging
to others, it is our speech that all too easily commits this offense. Our careless,
sarcastic, or angry words can deeply wound a child, a loved one, a friend. We need
to use our speech wisely and speak from the heart that wishes to help others.
By not stealing, we will respect the property of others and do not take or use anything
without permission of the owner. This seems simple enough, but this training also
means that we do not take that book which is lying unclaimed in a restaurant. Neither
do we keep the extra dollar that the clerk mistakenly gave to us nor do we take things
from where we work for personal use.
By not committing sexual, or sensual, misconduct, we do not indulge in sensual pleasures,
understanding that to do so not only increases our attachments and cravings, but
our suffering as well.
By not lying, we speak truthfully, understanding the power that our words can have.
We choose our words wisely realizing that great harm can result from ill-considered,
By not taking intoxicants, we do not take substances that affect our ability to think
and behave clearly at all times, and that harm our bodies. Remaining clear-headed
helps us to not harm others or ourselves.
Next is meditative concentration. In meditative concentration, we focus our attention
on whatever we choose. There are no distractions or worries, no doubts or drowsiness,
no discriminations or attachments: We remain unaffected by our environment and maintain
a calm, undisturbed mind. Initially, this state will bring joy and a sense of ease.
Eventually, it will enable us to see things as they truly are.
In everyday life, we can concentrate on whatever we are doing. We will be aware of
what is happening around us but we will not be distracted or disturbed by it. In
daily life, we can practice meditative concentration in everything we do: whether
we are working, watering the garden, or driving our car. We choose the object or
activity of our attention and then remain focused on it.
We also strive to attain meditative concentration in our Buddhist practice. Some
methods require the guidance of a teacher, while others can be practiced on our own.
On our own, we can concentrate on impermanence. This will enable us to understand
that nothing remains the same, and that craving and ignorance keep pulling us back
into suffering. In the practice of concentrating on no self, we will experience that
everything is inter-related. The practice of concentrating on Nirvana will help us
to find this ultimate reality. No longer will we feel that there is more to life
than what we are experiencing at any moment, and that we are missing something more
meaningful out there.
The practice of concentrating on a Buddha’s name will help us to become one with
perfect compassion, perfect happiness, and perfect peace. No longer will we feel
that we need to attain perfection on our own as we realize that we are already one
with that which is perfect.
Third is intuitive wisdom. Intuitive wisdom is not an intellectual pursuit nor is
it a measure of academic intelligence. It insightful knowing and understanding, and
it arises from within us when our minds are clear and calm.