The word “Buddha“, implying Enlightenment, means the Enlightened One. Thus cultivating Buddhism is cultivating awareness, and developing awareness is cultivating the mind. To repair things, we need tools, but to cultivate the mind, we have to depend on the mind itself.
In other words, it is only when there is awareness that the mind can be freed of illusion, therefore awareness should be kept up continually and persistently until the mind is completely denuded of conceptual thought and then one may be spontaneously enlightened. From this standpoint, Buddhism may be said to be a Course of Self-education and Self-Rectification.
In reality, there are no hard and fast rules for mind-cultivation, for just as there are different kinds of medicine for different diseases, there are infinite Dharmas to cure infinite “habits”. The Dharma of mind-cultivation, however numerous, maybe classified under the Six Paramitas: Giving– to transform greediness, 2. Discipline to cure laxity, 3. Tolerance to transforms humiliations and hatred, 4. Diligence to transforms laziness, 5. Meditation to transforms scatter-mindedness, 6. Wisdom– to transform ignorance. (Click here to our post on The Six Paramita for more information)
The Six Paramitas may be further simplified under the Triple Studies, namely, Discipline, Concentration and Wisdom. By keeping Discipline, one refrains from evil action, and if there is no bad karma, there will be no bad effect. On the other hand, without discipline, the mind would become defiled by wrong doing and would not be pure at all. From this it can be seen that Discipline is one of the most fundamental things for cultivating Buddhism, and this is the reason why every Dharma said by the Buddha always upholds Discipline. Samadhi means intense concentration. As the mind is usually agitated and unsettled all the time, it is highly important that it should be kept under control by concentration, and this is the reason why every Dharma said by the Buddha always stresses the importance of developing concentration.
Wisdom refers to the light of illumination, for it is only when the mind is “illuminating” (that is, when it is in awareness, it is undifferentiated) that it can be free from illusions, and for this reason, the Buddha says that every Dharma helps us to cultivate wisdom. To use a metaphor, Discipline is like guarding oneself against burglars, Concentration is like catching them red-handed on the spot and Wisdom is like putting them to sentence. Furthermore, any of the Three Studies includes the other two, e.g., Concentration and Wisdom in Discipline, Wisdom and Discipline in Concentration, etc., and all of them, complementary to one another and mutually influencing each other, are integrated into one harmonious Whole. In short, fundamentally Discipline, Concentration and Wisdom are the complete and all-embracing functions of the Self-Nature.
Although the principles of mind-cultivation are generally the same, nevertheless, the methods to put them into practice, are diversified and radically different from one another. According to the Ch’an (zen) Sect, the way to attain sudden enlightenment is to point directly to one’s own mind, and another Ch’an (zen) practice is to concentrate with all attention on a so-called “Hua-Tou”, a profound and unfathomable phrase or sentence to strip the mind of all thoughts so that there remains nothing but the self-mind; the Name-reciting method of the Pure Land Sect is to recite, repeat and hold on to the holy name of Amitabha Buddha with such intense and persistent concentration that as a result of long diligent practice, the mind would become oblivious of both the subject and the object of recitation, and the moment it is completely unperturbed, this is the Pure Mind itself. If one practices in accord with the principle of Buddhism, the mind will be free of illusion; from its elaborate and penetrating analysis, the Dharmalaksana Sect teaches us the fundamental truth that all phenomena are illusory and in order to understand this clearly, we have to transmute consciousness into Wisdom. Besides, there are other Practices to cultivate Buddhism, such as reciting sutras, ritual performance, preaching and expounding Buddhism, and so forth, which are too many to be described here. Those numerous methods, just like the medicine to be necessarily discontinued after the cure, should be discarded as soon as their common objective has been accomplished.