The Three Higher Trainings of discipline, meditation, and wisdom are crucial in Dharma practice. Discipline is about aspiration and bringing the mind back. It is the basis before proceeding to meditation. Discipline is the training of right mindfulness which would eventually become a natural habit. If one wants to enter meditation training without proper discipline, it’d be as challenging as catching a crazy monkey. Nowadays, even if people have entered the meditation hall with their computers or phones turned off – yet, their inner cellphones and devices are still running without the training of discipline.
With discipline, there comes the home of our mind, meditative stabilization. Without stabilization, home cannot be located for the mind to return. Meditative stabilization takes time to practice, yet, it is fundamental for all of us. Especially for monastic sanghas – who’d become homeless without meditation.
Now, what is wisdom? It is to break down and process through all phenomena. As the result, we can live a life with ease and freedom through the examination with prajna wisdom. To develop wisdom, practitioners should study sutras and learn from spiritual friends.
In summary, the Three Higher Trainings are the sequential stages for Dharma practice. Just like laws, when we act properly with discipline, our mindset becomes positive. To highlight the keys in reverse: wisdom brings out egolessness and ease; Chan brings us stabilization and emptiness; and discipline sets principle for daily living.
In the 6th CE, Daoxuan, the Patriarch of Vinaya School in the history of Chinese Buddhism, organized and implemented vinaya effectively across China. At this Age of Strife today, we need to observe precepts more strictly and thoroughly than ever. Without discipline, Buddhism will degenerate. Monastic sanghas rely on pure observance of discipline in order to sustain. Buddhadharma depends on discipline to continue in this world.