The Sequence of Life

Author Charles Yeung
Translated by Soula Lo

1. If we want to develop a healthy life and become successful, the key point is to build an introspection system. Only when we possess self-reflection, can we proceed with self-criticism and make conclusions, and then correct our defects and keep our merits. After a period of time, our merits will be gradually increased, and defects decreased. This way, we can become excellent, talented people, or excellent enterprises. Thus, the key point in life is self-criticism. The first step of a successful life is to establish a “self-reflection, self-criticism and conclusion” system.

 

2. The second step is “orientation and roles.” A predecessor once told me his successful experience: he said the most important step to enter the mundane world is to choose our careers and professions, and then commit to it for a life time, and at the end, to become an outstanding person. Moreover, Master Feng, Da-an, who was a great Buddhist teacher, made a conclusion about his practice procedure, and wrote this poem, “Choose methods, make effort, have bliss, equanimity, renounce and at ease. Even if just one thought abide in equanimity and wisdom, Lotus of Buddha-field will appear.” Therefore, the status of choosing methods is made prior to practice.

 

3. The third step of life

(1) Seeking living necessities.

(2) Sense of security. 

(3) Having a family.

(4) Seeking satisfaction and self-expression, which means seeking fame  and wealth.

(5) Seeking the value of life, understand where does life come from, and where does life go. This means we need to understand our past and future, and the world’s past and future.

 

4. The fourth step of life: “ Establish achievements, wise speech, and good virtues.”

The Confucian School followers think that life’s value depends on how much we contribute to ourselves and to our society. Therefore, they advocate that we need to establish achievements for our country, then establish wise speech for society, and then establish good virtues for others. To reach these goals, the Confucianists produce these sequential steps:

(1) Learning,  (2) Independence,   (3) No doubts, (4) Knowing the decrees of Heaven, (5) Accepting others’ opinions, and (6) Following one’s desires without transgressing the law or conscience.

So, Confucius said, “At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning. At thirty, I stood firm. At forty, I had no doubts. At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth. At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right.” This means: at fifteen, I made a resolution to learn well. At thirty, I was independent. At forty, I was clear what career, fame, and wealth were about, and would not have many doubts. At fifty, I knew life had and has destiny and luck. At sixty, I learned to listen to others’ opinions and different opinions from mine. At seventy, I can work and live without transgressing the law or conscience.

What Confucius said above is “The mundane way”, and after that, there is “The trans-mundane way”. Thus, life can be divided into two stages: the first stage is career, and the second stage is life.

The purpose of our life is to liberate suffering and obtain happiness; the methods to achieve this goal are to overcome our defects and maintain our merits. Human’s innate shortcomings are “greed, hatred and illusion,” and the methods to treat these shortcomings are “precepts, meditation and wisdom.” Therefore, the methods of practice and the procedure in life are: 

5. Five precepts and Ten good deeds.

The Five precepts are:

(1) No killing (2) No stealing (3) No sexual misconduct/adultery (4) No lying (5) No intoxicants. 

These are essential for the rebirth in human realms.

 

The Ten good deeds are:

(1) No killing (2) No stealing (3) No adultery  (4) No lying (5) No slandering (6) No harsh speech (7) No idle talking (8) No greed  (9) No hatred  (10) No illusion.

These are essential for the rebirth in Deva realm.

 

6. The six step to learn are the six pāramitā:

(1) 布施 dāna(Sanskrit), charity, or giving, including the bestowing of the truth on others;

(2) 持戒 śīla(Sanskrit), keeping the precepts;

(3) 忍辱kṣānti(Sanskrit), patience under insult;

(4) 精進  vīrya(Sanskrit), zeal and progress;

(5) 禪定dhyāna(Sanskrit), meditation or contemplation;

(6) 智慧 prajñā(Sanskrit); wisdom, the power to discern reality or truth.

 

7. The Ten pāramitā is the ten things that ferry one beyond the sea of mortality to nirvana.

We need to learn these ten methods to deal with the obstacles, worry, and suffering in life, so that we can achieve the goal to “liberate suffering and obtain happiness.” These ten are:

(1) charity

(2) keeping the precepts

(3) patience under insult

(4) zeal and progress

(5) meditation

(6) wisdom

(7) expedient means

(8) great vows

(9) ten powers

(10) prajñā (Sanskrit) meaning “wisdom.”

What is prajñā? The Sixth and Last Patriarch of Zen Buddhist Master Huineng explained that, “Prajñā has no forms; it is the great Bodhi heart.” What is the great Bodhi heart? It is enlightened heart. How can we become enlightened? It has to start from self-reflection, self-criticism, and self-inspection.

 

8. Faith, comprehend, practice, and testify.

For the above theories, how much do we actually believe? In theory, how much can we interpret and understand? How much can we actually put them into practice? How much can we experience? We need to learn them and practice them step by step and confirm them as practical methods.

As for the ten pāramitā, if we can practice persistently to a certain level, we can enter the Ten Stages of Bodhisattva’s state of mind.  

(1) Pramudita (joy歡喜地) – joy at having overcome the difficulties and sufferings, now entering on the path to Buddhahood

(2) Vimala (purity離垢地) – freedom from all possible defilement

(3) Prabhakari (enlightenment發光地) – stage of further enlightenment

(4) Arcismati (widsom焰慧地) – stage of glowing wisdom  

(5) Sudurjaya (no difficulty難勝地) -stage of mastering the utmost difficulties  

(6) Abhimukhi (open way現前地) – the open way of wisdom above definitions of impurity and purity  

(7) Duramgama (proceeding afar遠行地) – getting above ideas of self in order to save others  

(8) Acala (unperturbed不動地) – attainment of being unperturbed  

(9) Sadhumati (discriminatory wisdom善慧地) – the finest discriminatory wisdom, knowing where and how to save, and possessing the Ten Powers  

(10) Dharma megha (law cloud法雲地) – attainment of the fertilizing powers of law cloud. If one can achieve up to the eighth stage, one will never recede in any life forms: it is called, “the never receding Bodhisattva.”

 

The name Bodhisattva means the enlightened sentient being, who vow to ferry all sentient beings beyond the sea of mortality to nirvana, that is “to benefit all beings, to teach all beings, to save all beings, and to help all beings to enlightenment.” Thus, to help all beings to be liberated from suffering, and to obtain happiness. The Bodhisattva’s good deeds are worth learning, so we call it, “the Bodhi path or the Bodhisattva’s Way.” Therefore, as practitioners we should vow to remind ourselves this at all times: “Always practice the Bodhisattva’s Way in our present life and the unending future life.”

If we hope to obtain material wealth and spiritual wealth in life, and gradually become rich men who possess these two kinds of wealth, then we need to constantly overcome our defects and try our best to keep the merits. After a period of time, we will eventually accomplish our aspiration.

(End)

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