What is the priority in our lives?
Helping others is important, but taking care of one’s own practice is even more 'precious'
By Ven. Ila Wonmyeong-sa Temple, USA
Sutra Verse: Doing bad and harmful act is easy. But, doing good and beneficial is very difficult.
What are the bad harmful acts we perform in our daily lives? Cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, drugs, laziness, bribery, gossips, greed, etc. It is indeed quite difficult to get away from these acts once we enter into them. They are all very addictive and tempting like sweet honey, so we will not want to give them up.
Then, what is good and beneficial? Practice, honor our parents, charity, service, diligence, share, compliment others, exercise, fast, etc. It would be almost impossible to keep up without the will to do good and the heart to help others. Also, a tremendous amount of hard work and discipline is required, therefore it is very difficult to follow.
How difficult is it? To describe “the most difficult” means combination of “the best of the best” ‘parama’ and ‘dukkara’ which means “difficult to do”. Thus, it is said that the level of difficulty is “extremely difficult”.
Sutra Verse: Having a lot of responsibilities to help others does not mean you can neglect your own practice. Know what is the best for yourself and dedicate yourself in achieving that goal.
The first responsibility of the practitioner is to practice diligently and after you fulfill that role you may begin to help others. Of course we should try to benefit others, but if we neglect our own practice and perform activities only to help others, then we may lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle of life and eventually lose who we are as a practitioner. But, when we emphasize our practice and be virtuous to benefit others, this is the true way to fulfill the duty of a practitioner.
The word ‘benefit’ here does not mean that we solely focus on our practice and neglect others. This means there are successive roles we must follow. Regardless of how many responsibilities we have, we should not forget our practice.
Finding benefit for one self (Atta-attha) and that of others (para-attha) carry many meanings such as “ profit, gain, goodness, blessing, welfare, etc.” The order in which one must follow, however, is to first focus on the path to stabilize oneself in the ‘goodness’ and then bring benefits to others.
The Buddha had a wide range of devout disciples and followers including King Bimbisara, King Pasenadi, the very rich, commoners, and the very poor lower class citizens. Therefore, the conversation between disciples and Buddha were mostly of the scriptural teachings. He sometimes gave sermons late on to the night, or bath the sick monk, or teach to Bhikkhu Sona about the importance of coordinating one’s practice like string instruments (not too tight or not too loose). Thus, all the important conversations were recorded in Pali scriptures.
Despite his busy life, the Buddha never neglected his practice <Sangyutta nikaya 45:11>
“I would like to meditate alone for fortnight. Other than the person who brings meals, no one else should come to bother me.” Thus nobody disturbed the Buddha. After a period of fifteen days of meditation, Buddha told the monks “During the 15 days, I have partially re-experienced the enlightened state as I first did in the past.”
The Buddha who fully realized the absolute truth also went through these devoted practices in order to reaffirm the wisdom of enlightenment. If we make excuses to be lazy because our busy life, we should look onto the way the Buddha practiced and realize what is truly the most important thing one must follow in our lives.
[Article from http://www.ibulgyo.com / August 17 issue]