The first requirement when you come to practice is that you need to be the sort of person who loves the truth — and you need to possess endurance to do what's true. Only then will your practice get anywhere. Otherwise, it all turns into failure and you go back to being a slave to your defilements and cravings just as before.
When you don't contemplate yourself, how much suffering do you cause for yourself? And how much do you cause for others? These are things we should contemplate as much as we can. If we don't, we keep trying to get, get, get. We don't try to let go, to put things aside, to make any sacrifices at all. We just keep trying to get, for the more we get, the more we want.
If you're greedy and stingy, then even if you have loads of money the Buddha says you're poor: poor in noble treasures, poor in the treasures of the mind. Even if you have lots of external wealth, when you die it all goes to other people, it turns into common property, but you yourself are left poor in virtue, poor in the Dhamma.
The mind without its own home — a mind without the Dhamma as its home — has to live with the defilements. This defilement arises and the mind goes running after it. As soon as it disappears, that one arises over there, and the mind goes running after that. Because the mind has no dwelling of its own, it has to keep running wild all over the place.
Practicing to put an end to defilement and suffering is a high level of practice, so you first have to clear the ground and put it in good order. Don't think that you can practice without any preparation... If you live for your appetites, all you can think of is getting things for the sake of your appetites. If you don't develop a sense of contentment or a sense of shame on the beginning level, it'll be hard to practice the higher levels.
The important part of the practice lies in contemplating. If you don't contemplate, discernment won't arise. The Buddha taught us to contemplate and test things to the point where we can clearly know for ourselves. Only then will we have a proper refuge. He never taught us to take refuge in things we ourselves can't see or do.
If you truly want to gain release from suffering, you have to practice truly, you have to make a true effort. You have to let go, starting with outward things and working inward. You have to free yourself from the delusion that falls for delicious allures of every kind.
The important point in letting go is to see the drawbacks of what you're letting go. Only then can you let it go once and for all. If you don't see its drawbacks, you'll still be attached and will miss having it around.
If you're going to let go of anything, you first have to see its drawbacks. If you just tell yourself to let go, let go, the mind won't easily obey. You really have to see the drawbacks of the thing you're holding onto, and then the mind will let go, of its own accord. It's like grabbing hold of fire: When you feel the heat, you let go of your own accord and will never dare grasp it again.
It's hard to see the drawbacks of sensual passion, but even harder to see the drawbacks of more subtle things, like your sense of self.
On the beginning level of the practice you have to learn how to control yourself in the area of your words and deeds — in other words, on the level of virtue — so that you can keep your words and deeds at normalcy, calm and restrained. In this way, the mind won't follow the power of the crude defilements. When violent urges arise, you stop them first with your powers of endurance. After you've been able to endure for a while, your insight will gain the strength it needs to develop a sense of right and wrong, and in this way you'll see the worth of endurance, that it really is a good thing.
When you do good, let it be good in line with nature. Don't latch onto the thought that you're good. If you get attached to the idea that you're good, it will give rise to lots of other attachments.
Kalyāṇa-mitta | Developing the noble friendship
Cultivation of noble relationships and friendship forms an integral part of our spiritual practice. A life in a community sets a good example and provides favorable conditions; this is yet another benefit that a stay in the ārāma can offer. People often come to monasteries broken-hearted from dysfunctional relationships, seeking a place of refuge and support. A taste of monastic life may help lay practitioners to realise the drawbacks and the unsatisfactoriness of relationships in general and at the same time to understand what the foundations of a well-functioning relationship are.
“Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who has a good friend abandons what is unwholesome and develops what is wholesome.” Iti 1.17
Kalyāṇa-mittatā is a Buddhist concept of "spiritual friendship" within Buddhist community life, applicable to both monastic and householder relationships. One involved in such a relationship is known as a "good friend," "virtuous
friend," "noble friend" or "admirable friend" (kalyāṇa-mitta). Since early Buddhist history, these relationships have involved spiritual teacher-student dyads as well as communal peer groups. In general, such is a supportive relationship based on shared Buddhist ethical values and the pursuit of enlightenment.
'This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.' 'Don't say that, Ānanda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.' Upaddha Sutta (SN 45,2)
In traditional schools of Buddhist thought, a spiritual friendship is a friendship not between one's peers, but a friendship between a student and their spiritual teacher. From the aforementioned suttas, we can see that the Buddha believed
it vital for spiritual growth to have a spiritual friend. This friendship is built on a deep respect for the teacher's knowledge and the student's potential, and, through this respect and friendship, the two individuals learn constructive behaviour. Constructive behaviour in Buddhism is to think, speak, and behave in a constructive way towards life, leading to personal happiness, and, then, to enlightenment.
“The friend who is a helper, the friend through thick and thin, the friend who gives good counsel, and the compassionate friend; these four are friends indeed, the wise understand this and attend on them carefully, like a mother her own child. The wise endowed with virtue shine forth like a burning fire, gathering wealth as bees do honey and heaping it up like an ant hill. Once wealth is accumulated, family and household life may follow. By dividing wealth into four parts, true friendships are bound; one part should be enjoyed; two parts invested in business; and the fourth set aside against future misfortunes.” DN 31
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