On January 5th, 2019, we’ve returned to Mahā Kusalā Yāma Monastery Elementary School to visit our samaneras to see their progress in learning and the Three Higher Trainings (ethical disciplines, meditative stabilization, and wisdom).
Dharma has taught us that life is suffering. It is because of suffering then we learn to contemplate and analyze. Without such awareness of suffering, we’d be missing the purpose of monasticism. It is to recognize the suffering that we take on this path. We are learning Buddha’s teachings to be parted from suffering.
This body is a composite of birth, aging, illness, and death. Illness is suffering, so is aging. Some may pass away in excruciating pain or without knowing. Birth, aging, illness, and death are a cyclic existence. To be away from suffering, we must practice shamatha (calm abiding) and vipashyana (special insight). Further, one should pursue nirvana. We can acquire shamatha and vipashyana through Chan practice. Be observant of impermanence in movements and activities. That way, we’d get a clearer sense of impermanence.
Life is filled with suffering. Although these students are still young, they’ve experienced much suffering. Which is why they’ve ended up at the school and studying the ways to be parted from suffering. Suffering is the result of our non-virtuous conducts due to the lack of awareness and clarity. Now, how do we be free from suffering? We must carry out ethical disciplines properly. Little by little, we’d become habituated with ethical disciplines and therefore, take proper conduct to stay away from the causes of suffering.
Ethical disciplines refrain us from non-virtues. At the same time, compassion will grow stronger. Confusion and ignorance of mind can be purified when we uphold ethical disciplines. Our mind becomes more stabilized. Stability is a state when the mind no longer be occupied by labelling (thoughts) and forms (visual perception).
When we gain clarity through Chan practice, the influence of labelling and forms are weakened. Gradually, wisdom will show. Such wisdom is an awareness arises from ethical disciplines and meditative stabilization. We can break through from suffering.
As samaneras, there are ten precepts to follow. Learn and execute them well in daily activities. Avoid improper desires and not to breach the precepts. Learn to be good monastics as this lifestyle is joyous free of suffering. It is to live up the Noble Eightfold Path. Being in such a great environment, I’d encourage you all to learn diligently - as you will be teachers in guiding sentient beings towards happiness and be free from suffering one day.