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The Core of Cultivation is Mindfulness

We often talk about the mind and mindfulness. To be mindful is to reflect on our innate nature and keep our mind and thoughts free from impurities.

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(Photo credit to PEXELS) 

We often talk about the mind and mindfulness. To be mindful is to reflect on our innate nature and keep our mind and thoughts free from impurities.

If you can’t keep your thoughts pure and untainted, you will not excel in what you learn. The teachings of Buddhism appear to be very profound as most people are not able to master Buddhism even after spending decades studying the Tripitaka and Twelve Sutras, however, as long as you are determined to focus on studying Buddhism, the path of cultivation can be very simple. It all boils down to being mindful. All the Buddhists scriptures and sutras are only telling us one thing, and that is the way to be mindful and keep our thoughts pure.   

If we could use the simplest method to purify our minds and be mindful of our thoughts, we can attain Buddhahood very quickly. The same concept applies to cultivation and to everything we do in our daily life.   

For example, when you cultivate at the temple, you must concentrate when you recite buddha name and chant the sutra. You must carefully analyse the teachings of the sutra when you chant. And when you recite buddha name, you must contemplate on the buddha’s mind. If you can do so, then your mind would always be integrated with the Buddha’s mind. A cultivator needs to be focused in his cultivation.

It's the same for work. We should stay focused when it comes to work. No matter what we do, our thoughts and our body should be connected and “move simultaneously”. I always say that when we hold something in our hand, our focus must be on the hand. When we open the door, our mind should be on the hand and the doorknob. When we walk, our focus should be on our feet and the path we are walking on. If the mind can focus on each of the body movement, then whatever you do in the now is cultivation.

We must also concentrate and listen attentively when we communicate with others. Think carefully of how to respond, so that we can be responsible for everything we have said. 

How do we listen attentively? How do we filter what we heard and how do we ascertain the intention of the speaker? The answer is, if we heard something inspirational and educational, we can treat it as dharma teaching.

There is a senior volunteer from Tzu Chi who completely changed her life after hearing what I said. What did she hear that changed her so dramatically? She said, “Master talked about letting go of our ego. After that, I heard another teaching from the master, which I shared it with my children, and they applied it in their life successfully."

I asked her, “What did you tell your children?”

She replied, “I told them, “There is no one in this world whom I do not love, there is no one in this world whom I do not trust, there is no one in this world whom I cannot forgive.” I shared this with them, and they applied it in their business and daily life. At the end, their business operation became smoother and they too became more mellow in interpersonal affairs.

This senior volunteer has demonstrated what it means by active listening. She listened attentively to the teachings and practices what she learned in life. She also shared the teachings with her son and daughter in law and led by example by lowering herself and tolerating the behaviour of her daughter in law. After the son noticed how his mother is now able to get along with his wife after joining Tzu Chi, he became respectful of Tzu Chi.

The mother saw the faith which the son has in Tzu Chi and me, and so she relayed to him the teachings she learned in Tzu Chi. The son listened and practiced what the mother has told him. A simple sharing of wisdom has not only benefited the son in terms of his cultivation, it has also shaped a good image of him in front of his friends, staff and customers.  

I was visited by another person who came back from California. I asked him, "Have you ever been to Tzu Chi’s branch in America?”

He said, "I haven't, but I am also a Tzu Chi member."

"Who signed you up as Tzu Chi member?" I asked.

"She is an elderly volunteer. Her surname is either Lin or Wang,” said the visitor as he tried hard to recall the volunteer’s name.  And so, we picked a guess, “Is she Wang Xiu Qin?"

He replied, "I am not too sure, I only know that she is a volunteer who spoke about “a cup that is chipped”.  

This is how the story of "a chipped cup" came about. An elderly volunteer who came back from the United States, happened to hear me say, "A chipped cup is still smooth and usable on the other side. The same applies to people, everyone has their shortcomings. If you could accept the shortcomings in different individuals, your life would be fulfilling!"

The elderly volunteer from US was inspired by this and changed her mindset after that. In the past, she often complained about the shortcomings of life. The truth is life is not perfect. The wisdom of "a chipped cup” has made her realize that she should not be too disturbed by the flaws in life. Since then, she has been living happily with peace of mind.   

If a person can listen attentively and switch his mindset by turning away all the worries and troubles that arise out of dissatisfaction, and be grateful and contented, he would be happy all the time.

The elderly volunteer took home with her this wisdom that she learned in Taiwan and found happiness by practising it in life. Since then, she keeps sharing this teaching with the people she meets and gradually, it became known to the locals. That is how she became the volunteer who shares about the teaching of “a chipped cup”.

If you know how to make good use of the dharma, you will realize that whatever you encountered in life are dharma teachings. Studying thousands of Buddhist sutras day and night are of not much use if we do not know how to practice the teachings because nothing has changed.     

Some people like to show off their wits and want people to know that they are knowledgeable. Such people are often distracted because their focus is on their ego. The purpose of learning Buddhism is to eradicate distractions and be mindful. By eliminating desires, it will help us focus better. Hopefully we can become enlightened with the simplest and most direct method of cultivation.