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Monday, September 10, 2007

Threefold-Training: I. Sila

An early model of yogic practice offered by the Buddha, which was further explicated as the Noble Eightfold Path, was the Threefold Training. Here I’d like to look at the traditional distinction of the Eight Limbs into the Three Trainings (sila, samadhi, prajna).

The Threefold-Training encapsulates the priorities of one whom is dedicated to living a life of Dharma. It’s what a practitioner places at the center of her mandala if one’s priority is living an awakened life. The Threefold Training reminds us to keep our priorities clear so that we don’t end up driving ourselves from one experience to another, from one workshop or ‘guru’ to another. The Threefold Training tempers the attraction towards spiritual materialism and spiritual narcissism. There is nothing superficial nor self-flattering about waking up. The Training is a serious commitment, but not to be cultivated at the expense of joy, love, and appreciation for the ordinary and everyday. In fact, if fully understood and practiced, that’s just what the Training helps us cultivate!

The first aspect of the Threefold Training, sila, is to be understood not as ‘commandments,’ but as ethical or moral training. Commandments are imposed by an external authority. We can either believe them or not. And we are most decidedly not invited to enquire into their relevance. Also, religious baggage also accompanies commandments. They cannot be separated from ‘the Book,’ the prophet, God or the savior. Ethics (morality) is of a totally different order. Perhaps from the outside, the life of one who follows the commandments and one who engages the Precepts may look similar, but the attitude is very different.
The Five Precepts are collectively a training in inner discipline (also the meaning and function of Patanjali’s yamas). They are:

1. I undertake the training not to kill, and to cultivate reverence for life.
2. I undertake the training not to steal, and to cultivate generosity.
3. I undertake the training not to cause sexual abuse, and to cultivate respect.
4. I undertake the training not to tell lies, and to speak with kindness.
5. I undertake the training not to intoxicate the mind, and to cultivate clarity.

I think we can easily imagine what a significantly different world it would be if people could learn to practice respect for each of these guidelines without exception. It would be far more helpful and wholesome for all of us – indeed for the whole planet – if we were to pay attention to these Five Precepts than to indulge in our social, political and religious beliefs. The willingness and commitment to cultivate these Five Precepts introduces morality into our daily life. The training of sila gives support to the mind when faced with challenges to any of these areas.

Of course, as a training, sila goes beyond merely saying that we personally would never kill or steal from another. We might say that we would never hurt another sexually or tell a lie. But these precepts ask us to question our relationship to war, acts of terror (by state or organization), blood sports, animal experiments and so forth. To engage the precept against stealing, we would have to investigate our implication in exploitation (What products do we buy? In what companies do we invest?). We would have to take an honest look to see if we manipulate others for sexual satisfaction, gossip, backbite or indulge in hearsay. We would have to look into our relationship with drugs, television, various forms of entertainment etc.
If we ignore the Precepts, we lose our way in life. We succumb to self-cherishing, acting out from our selfish impulses regardless of the impact on others – or ourselves. We can end up living a life of compromise through our unwillingness to confront our patterns of manipulation or denial.

For instance, many “good” people, when suddenly gaining access to a financial windfall, have been known to fall into ruin. They look to gain more money; they bend the rules. Morality often comes under pressure when money is involved. It isn’t the money that’s the problem; it’s the love of money; the obsession with it. When it is at the center of the mandala, all else is in service to it.

Meditation without morality is mental gymnastics. The firm foundation of morality allows meditation to blossom into wisdom. Sangha is a necessary support of morality. We need encouragement, support, and contact with those who share a commitment to ethical values. Ultimately, morality is based upon a deep appreciation of life; and living ethically cultivates deep appreciation. The basis of morality is non-harming (ahimsa). While “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the more famous “Golden Rule,” it might be better phrased as Confucius and the Buddha stated it: “Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.”

Knowing that we do not want to be harmed, and appreciating how all beings are just like us, we refrain from harming others. As trainings, they demand to be a living presence in our life. They are not rules, but areas of investigation. When we live with them, our life is one of integrity (yoga). We can look people in the eye. We can look in the mirror and not be ashamed. People can trust us. They know they can turn to us in times of difficulty. We bring dignity and honesty to all our relationships.

When we undertake the training of sila, we can live with ourselves and with others. Such a life springs from the awareness of interbeing, not from the obsessive domination of self.

Questions for Self-Inquiry

1. What areas, if any, require immediate attention?
2. What do we need to create change?
3. Is there a willingness to end intention to harm or exploit?
4. What pressures do you feel compromise your integrity?

in metta,
Pobsa Frank Jude

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 2:15 PM


Threefold-Training: I. Sila

An early model of yogic practice offered by the Buddha, which was further explicated as the Noble Eightfold Path, was the Threefold Training. Here I’d like to look at the traditional distinction of the Eight Limbs into the Three Trainings (sila, samadhi, prajna).

The Threefold-Training encapsulates the priorities of one whom is dedicated to living a life of Dharma. It’s what a practitioner places at the center of her mandala if one’s priority is living an awakened life. The Threefold Training reminds us to keep our priorities clear so that we don’t end up driving ourselves from one experience to another, from one workshop or ‘guru’ to another. The Threefold Training tempers the attraction towards spiritual materialism and spiritual narcissism. There is nothing superficial nor self-flattering about waking up. The Training is a serious commitment, but not to be cultivated at the expense of joy, love, and appreciation for the ordinary and everyday. In fact, if fully understood and practiced, that’s just what the Training helps us cultivate!

The first aspect of the Threefold Training, sila, is to be understood not as ‘commandments,’ but as ethical or moral training. Commandments are imposed by an external authority. We can either believe them or not. And we are most decidedly not invited to enquire into their relevance. Also, religious baggage also accompanies commandments. They cannot be separated from ‘the Book,’ the prophet, God or the savior. Ethics (morality) is of a totally different order. Perhaps from the outside, the life of one who follows the commandments and one who engages the Precepts may look similar, but the attitude is very different.
The Five Precepts are collectively a training in inner discipline (also the meaning and function of Patanjali’s yamas). They are:

1. I undertake the training not to kill, and to cultivate reverence for life.
2. I undertake the training not to steal, and to cultivate generosity.
3. I undertake the training not to cause sexual abuse, and to cultivate respect.
4. I undertake the training not to tell lies, and to speak with kindness.
5. I undertake the training not to intoxicate the mind, and to cultivate clarity.

I think we can easily imagine what a significantly different world it would be if people could learn to practice respect for each of these guidelines without exception. It would be far more helpful and wholesome for all of us – indeed for the whole planet – if we were to pay attention to these Five Precepts than to indulge in our social, political and religious beliefs. The willingness and commitment to cultivate these Five Precepts introduces morality into our daily life. The training of sila gives support to the mind when faced with challenges to any of these areas.

Of course, as a training, sila goes beyond merely saying that we personally would never kill or steal from another. We might say that we would never hurt another sexually or tell a lie. But these precepts ask us to question our relationship to war, acts of terror (by state or organization), blood sports, animal experiments and so forth. To engage the precept against stealing, we would have to investigate our implication in exploitation (What products do we buy? In what companies do we invest?). We would have to take an honest look to see if we manipulate others for sexual satisfaction, gossip, backbite or indulge in hearsay. We would have to look into our relationship with drugs, television, various forms of entertainment etc.
If we ignore the Precepts, we lose our way in life. We succumb to self-cherishing, acting out from our selfish impulses regardless of the impact on others – or ourselves. We can end up living a life of compromise through our unwillingness to confront our patterns of manipulation or denial.

For instance, many “good” people, when suddenly gaining access to a financial windfall, have been known to fall into ruin. They look to gain more money; they bend the rules. Morality often comes under pressure when money is involved. It isn’t the money that’s the problem; it’s the love of money; the obsession with it. When it is at the center of the mandala, all else is in service to it.

Meditation without morality is mental gymnastics. The firm foundation of morality allows meditation to blossom into wisdom. Sangha is a necessary support of morality. We need encouragement, support, and contact with those who share a commitment to ethical values. Ultimately, morality is based upon a deep appreciation of life; and living ethically cultivates deep appreciation. The basis of morality is non-harming (ahimsa). While “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the more famous “Golden Rule,” it might be better phrased as Confucius and the Buddha stated it: “Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.”

Knowing that we do not want to be harmed, and appreciating how all beings are just like us, we refrain from harming others. As trainings, they demand to be a living presence in our life. They are not rules, but areas of investigation. When we live with them, our life is one of integrity (yoga). We can look people in the eye. We can look in the mirror and not be ashamed. People can trust us. They know they can turn to us in times of difficulty. We bring dignity and honesty to all our relationships.

When we undertake the training of sila, we can live with ourselves and with others. Such a life springs from the awareness of interbeing, not from the obsessive domination of self.

Questions for Self-Inquiry

1. What areas, if any, require immediate attention?
2. What do we need to create change?
3. Is there a willingness to end intention to harm or exploit?
4. What pressures do you feel compromise your integrity?

in metta,
Pobsa Frank Jude

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 1:45 PM


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