The foundation of Dharma practice is ethical disciplines. They are the primary root of all. Without ethical disciplines, we don’t know how to carry out proper conduct in life. They act as a guideline that sets the direction of our lives. We’d know how to work with others with a principle in mind. Our body and mind can be purified and so is our life. Ethical disciplines help to refrain non-virtues and inspire virtues. All the virtues start from here. By setting this foundation, we can learn about other Dharma slowly. Like a treasure bowl, all the virtues can be accumulated. Without ethical disciplines, the accumulated virtues would exhaust. In Buddhism, this is termed, “asava”, or “outflows”. The merits couldn’t be contained despite all the virtuous acts that one might have done. With ethical disciplines, virtues are non-outflows. Should one is careless about disciplines, one is not setting a strong foundation. The course of Dharma practice might be off-balance.
When one is ordained, one takes ethical disciplines as a primary reliance. By “reliance”, we are referring to the object of support. Making ethical disciplines as the principle of our behavior and our teacher in life. A ruler is there to measure our intention and acts. When a monastic member regrettably violates a vow, one’s monasticism is thrown off balance. Dharmapalas like nagas and devas would consequently withdraw their support. Please cherish the auspicious opportunity to take on monasticism. Perseverance is the key. By upholding pure ethical disciplines, present and future are also endowed with pure causes and conditions. If we can uphold disciplines properly, our lives would be less obscured in lifetimes to come. On the contrary, if we violate precepts this life, our future lives might also experience the same thing.
We should know that when we take on a precept, a Dharmapala would come to protection. Should a non-virtuous intention or an obstructing condition occur, the Dharmapala would remind us to be back on track. Disturbances can be prevented. Our mind is protected from improper thoughts. Dharmapalas are always present to safeguard our minds until Buddhahood.
Taking ethical disciplines as the principle, we’d find our lives becoming stabilized. Based on such stabilization, we can practice Chan. By then, we’d have an insightful experience when we read sutras and observe accordingly. Our life is chaotic and out of order before we learn about Dharma and disciplines. By losing the order, purity is hard to arise in mind. “Ethical disciplines” are the eradication of impurities, defilements, and non-virtuous intentions. Purity therefore emerges. Ethical disciplines are the basis of purification. Without a principle, our lives are caught up with afflictions and ignorance easily.
Be mindful that ethical disciplines shouldn’t be just precepts on the surface. One should know the essence of disciplines and apply this principle in life. Furthermore, we must apply our wisdom and insightful examination. Stabilization, therefore, arises to stabilize our body and mind. Next, our wisdom enhances. By uncovering our wisdom, we can benefit all sentient beings. Meanwhile, we can purify all the defilements that have been accumulated over lifetimes. We must practice the three higher trainings of ethical disciplines, meditative stabilization, and wisdom. From disciplines, stabilization is generated. Then, keen wisdom arises from meditative stabilization. Our bodhicitta can be inspired and the seed of virtues continues to grow. Eventually, we can enter the view of the tathagata. We can get over the threshold and get into the state of the tathagata. I’d encourage you all to uphold the precepts properly after you vowed. Our wisdom is well protected over this door. We can truly receive the benefits of Dharma this way.