Author Topic: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?  (Read 9716 times)


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What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« on: August 26, 2012, 03:30:46 PM »

"Practice" often refers to the specific activity like meditating or chanting that one does everyday.
Many lay Buddhist maintain a home altar.Exactly what goes to the altar varies from Sect to Sect but most include a Buddha image,candles,flowers,incence and a small bowl for water offering.Taking care of the altar is a reminder to take care of practice.
Buddhist practice also include practicing the Buddhas's teachings in particular the eight fold path.The eight elements of the path are organized into three sections- wisdom,ethical conduct and mental discipline.
A meditation practice would be part of mental discipline.Ethical conduct is very much part of daily practice.We are challenged to take care of our speech, our actions and our daily lives to do no harm to others.To cultivate wholesomeness in ourselves. We are challenged to practice mindfulness at all times.
By remaining mindful,we remain clear to to present reality.not getting lost in a tangle of worries,daydreams and passions.Buddhist strive to practice Buddhism at every moment.
Making the effort in Buddhism though we fall short at times.Becoming a Buddhist is not a matter of accepting  belief system or memorizing doctrines.To be a Buddhist is to practice BUDDHISM.


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2012, 06:28:22 PM »
The primary practices of all forms of Buddhism are mindfulness and compassion. There are many ways to practice these, and most Buddhists have some sort of meditation practice, as well as a committment to skillful means of living in every day life.

Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to insight into the true nature of reality. Buddhist practices like meditation are means of changing yourself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom. The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource for all those who wish to follow a path — a path which ultimately culminates in Enlightenment or Buddhahood. An enlightened being sees the nature of reality absolutely clearly, just as it is, and lives fully and naturally in accordance with that vision. This is the goal of the Buddhist spiritual life, representing the end of suffering for anyone who attains it.

Because Buddhism does not include the idea of worshipping a creator god, some people do not see it as a religion in the normal, Western sense. The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have consequences; change is possible. So Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, caste, sexuality, or gender. It teaches practical methods which enable people to realise and use its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives.


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2012, 06:32:29 PM »
To practise Buddhism means to apply the Dharma immediately in our daily lives.  It means to go all the way.  It means to surrender our ego and to put others’ welfare first. It means to let go of our pre-conceived ideas of how things should or shouldn’t be. It means to follow our spiritual guide’s instructions faithfully and diligently.  It means to uphold our commitments consistently.   Finally to practise means to accumulate merits, to purify our karma and to transform our mind.


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2012, 07:32:55 PM »
To me, to practice is to push ourselves against the norm.  For example, by acquiring the knowledge of Buddhism and the guidelines and follow it and apply them into our daily lives and not sway by the samsara life that the norm is leading.  It is to be mindful of the knowledge and put into usage.  True practice is more than just chanting mantras, making offerings and meditate.  In today's world it is harder to practice dharma due to the degenerate age.  What we learn from the dharma totally contradicts our daily life.  Therefore, true practice is to go against our usual conduct and follow the dharma way.  By pushing the envelope, we will then bear fruits and see our minds change...


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2012, 07:50:33 PM »
Practicing Buddhism means that we do what is right and are always benefiting others instead of self. All that we do, whether it is for friends, family or even to people we do not know, we do it with all our heart in hopes that our action will bring happiness to the other person. That is Buddhism. In all actions, we should do it with a  kind heart.

On top of that, we should be gradually detaching ourselves from our daily attachments and worldly possessions. It doesn't mean that we give everything away and go live in a cave. What it means by detaching ourselves from our attachments is that we will feel fine if we lose the things we love. We can live with it or without it. With all the distraction in life, it is harder to give up on our worldly possessions, so we need to always practice so that it becomes a habit and second to nature to us.


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2012, 02:19:04 PM »
 Practicing buddhism mainly includes practicing the Buddha's teachings, in particular the Eightfold Path. The eight elements of the path are organized into three sections -- wisdom, ethical conduct and mental discipline. A meditation practice would be part of mental discipline.

Ethical conduct is very much part of daily practice. We are challenged to take care in our speech, our actions, and our daily lives to do no harm to others and to cultivate wholesomeness in ourselves. For example, if we find ourselves getting angry, we take steps to let go of our anger before we harm anyone.

We are challenged to practice mindfulness at all times. Mindfulness is nonjudgmental observation of our moment-to-moment lives. By remaining mindful we remain clear to present reality, not getting lost in a tangle of worries, daydreams and passions.


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2012, 02:49:49 PM »
A true buddhist follows Buddha's teaching to the tee...practise Buddhism means living life flown Buddha's teaching n make them our ways of lives.  This is a form of retreat., to put Buddha's teaching as our ways of like..
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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2012, 06:37:39 AM »
To practice Buddhism is to do whatever it take to follow buddha teaching ie study/learn dharma to gain knowledge so that we understand and can apply it to ourself in daily life. Its also including to do prayers, do offering to collect merit so that it support the practice that we apply to ourself. How to apply buddha teaching in our life? like what has been mentioned above to hold our vows well, to practice bodhicitta mind with people around us and to things to benefit other, help people who need help, cut out our selfish mind etc  all this is dharma practice..   


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2012, 10:41:30 AM »
For me, this is a good question and it made me think how I should be, if I were to regard myself as a practitioner of Buddhism. The Lord Buddha himself gave so many teachings and in our quest to gain knowledge it is possible that we fall into the trap of being a student but not a true practitioner.

The Buddha prescribed the following 3 practices which I think is simple enough to understand and if we can abide in these 3 observations, we can then say we are practicing Buddhism. They are:

(i) Do no harm
(ii) Cultivate virtue, and
(iii) Tame this mind of ours.

With regard to (i), we are to ask whether the things we do and say on a daily basis is harmful to others as well as ourselves. At the most basic level, we are to examine if the way we live our life is harmful. This includes the food we eat. If the food we eat is the cause for animals to be mistreated and slaughtered, and also the reason behind the creation of livelihood that involve killing, then perhaps we are not obeying the commandment of not doing harm. Because the way we live is the cause of a lot of harm to other beings.

With regard to (ii) understanding what the Buddha meant by "virtue" helps. It is more than avoiding immoral behavior and it is more than having certain qualities such as patience. The Tibetan word 'gewa' is often translated as virtue and 'gewa' is described as follows - making choices that extend our emotional and intellectual strength, illuminate our potential greatness, build our confidence, and enhance our ability to assist those in need of help. Simple put, cultivate our Buddha nature or in other words, behave like the Buddha.

With regard to (iii) the simplest guide is the powerful practice of the Eight Verses Of Mind Transformation:

With the thought of attaining enlightenment
For the welfare of all beings,
Who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel,
I will constantly practice holding them dear.

Whenever I am with others
I will practice seeing myself as the lowest of all,
And from the very depths of my heart
I will respectfully hold others as supreme.

In all actions I will examine my mind
And the moment an affliction arises,
Endangering myself and others,
I will firmly confront and avert it.

Whenever I meet a person of bad nature
Who is overwhelmed by negative energy and intense suffering,
I will hold such a rare one dear,
As if I had found a precious treasure.

When others, out of jealousy,
Mistreat me with abuse, slander and so on,
I will practice accepting defeat
And offering the victory to them.

When someone I have benefited
And in whom I have placed great trust
Hurts me very badly,
I will practice seeing that person as my supreme teacher.

In short, I will offer directly and indirectly
Every benefit and happiness to all beings, my mothers.
I will practice in secret taking upon myself
All their harmful actions and sufferings.

Without these practices being defiled by the stains of the eight worldly concerns
And by perceiving all phenomena as illusory,
I will practice without grasping to release all beings
From the bondage of the disturbing unsubdued mind and karma.

There is no confusion with the instructions about how to tame our mind.

To me, to always keep in mind the above 3 instructions of the Buddha, to live a life guided by them, minute by minute, is to practice Buddhism.


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2012, 04:20:54 PM »
Buddhism is a religion that has very straightforward look at our human condition; nothing is based on wishful thinking, at all. Everything that the Buddha taught was based on his own observation of the way things are. We are entirely responsible on what we are of today; we have to learn about the Teachings and create good Karma and cultivate a purified mind for a better destiny.

"Abandon negative action; create perfection virtue; subdue your own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha"

Buddhism is so different from other religions because the central focus of most religions is God, or gods. But Buddhism is non-theistic. The Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment.

Becoming a Buddhist is to make a commitment to practice Buddhism by taking the vows of refuge. The commitment usually involves a daily meditation or chanting practice as well as following and applying Buddhist teachings in our day-to-day life. The teachings of the Buddha do apply to our real-world, everyday lives and the choices we make, about how we conduct ourselves and how we relate to others. The focus of Buddhism is on practice rather than belief and the major outline of Buddhist practice is the Eightfold Path.

Tenzin K

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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2012, 05:11:02 PM »
Many people have the misconception that spiritual life or religious life is somewhere up there in the sky -- an ethereal or mystical reality -- and that our everyday life is too mundane and not so nice. Often people think that to be a spiritual person, we must ignore or neglect our everyday life, and go into another, special realm. Actually, I think being a spiritual person means becoming a real human being. Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Vietnamese monk, said, "It is not so important whether you walk on water or walk in space. The true miracle is to walk on earth." It's true. In other words, becoming a kind human being is probably the greatest miracle we can perform.

Upon Waking Up
How do we cultivate a kind heart? It is not enough to tell ourselves that we should be nice, because telling ourselves what we should or should not be, feel, or do doesn't make us become that way. Filling ourselves with "shoulds" often just makes us feel guilty because we never are what we think we should be. We need to know how to actually transform our mind. In other words, we must realize the disadvantages of being self-centered. We must truly want to develop a kind heart, not just keep thinking that we should develop a kind heart. In the morning, when we first wake up, before getting out of bed, before thinking about what we will eat for breakfast or which obnoxious jerk we will see at the office, we can start the day by thinking, "Today as much as possible, I won't harm anybody. Today as much as possible I am going to try be of service and benefit to others. Today I want to do all actions so that all living beings can attain the long-term happiness of enlightenment."
Setting a positive motivation the first thing in the morning is very beneficial. When we first wake up, our mind is very subtle and delicate. If we set a strong positive motivation at this time, there is a greater chance of it staying with us and influencing us throughout the day. After generating our positive motivation, we get out of bed, wash, maybe have a cup of tea, and then meditate or recite prayers. By starting the day in this way, we get in touch with ourselves and become our own friend by treasuring and re-enforcing our good qualities.

Finding Time to Meditate Each Day
Sometimes it is difficult to find time to meditate each day. But we always have time to watch TV. We always have time to go shopping. We always have time to get a snack from the refrigerator. Why is it that the 24 hours run out when it is time to meditate? When we understand the value and effect of spiritual practice, then it will become a high priority in our life, and when something is very important, we find time for it. In this way, try to set up a daily meditation practice of maybe 15 or 30 minutes in the morning. To do that, we might have to experience the "incredible sacrifice" of giving up 15 or 30 minutes of television the previous evening so we can go to bed a little earlier. In the same way that we always find time to eat because food nourishes our body, we will find time to meditate and recite some prayers because it nourishes us spiritually. When we respect ourselves spiritually, we respect ourselves as human beings. Nourishing ourselves in that way then becomes a very important priority.

Morning Meditation
In the morning, it is good to begin your meditation session with a few prayers and cultivate the altruistic intention to benefit others by doing the meditation. Then do the breathing meditation for a while. Sit calmly, experience your breath going in and out, and be aware of the breath nourishing you. Just be in the present moment with the breath, and let all the discursive thoughts and worries subside. You may want to chant Kuan Yin's (Avalokiteshvara's) mantra or that of the Buddha. It is helpful to remember the Buddha's qualities at this time for it inspires us to emulate the Buddha's kindness, wisdom and skill in our daily activities. Or you may do an analytic meditation, thinking about the meaning of a particular teaching the Buddha gave and applying it to your own life. This also steers your energy in a very positive direction first thing in the morning.
Some people say, "I have children. How can I meditate or say prayers in the morning when they need my attention?" One way is to get up earlier than your children. Another idea is to invite your children to meditate or chant with you. One time I was staying with my brother's family. My niece, who was about six or seven at that time, used to come into my room because we were the first two to wake up in the morning. As I was reciting prayers or meditating, I explained to her that this is a time when I am quiet and do not want to be disturbed. She would come in and sometimes she would draw. Other times, she would sit in my lap. Several times she asked me to sing to her, and I would chant prayers and mantras out loud. She really liked this and did not disturb me at all.
It is very good for children to see their parents sit still and be calm. That gives them the idea that maybe they too can do the same. If Mom and Dad are always busy, running around, talking on the phone, stressed out, or collapsed in front of the TV, the kids will also be like this. Is this what you want for your children? If you want your children to learn certain attitudes or behaviors, you have to cultivate them yourselves. Otherwise, how will your children learn? If you care about your children, you have to care about yourselves as well and be mindful of living a healthy and balanced life for their benefit as well as for your own.
You can also teach your children how to make offerings to the Buddha and how to recite simple prayers and mantras. Once, I stayed with a friend and her three-year-old daughter. Every morning when we got up, we would all bow three times to the Buddha. Then, the little girl would give the Buddha a present -- a cookie or some fruit -- and the Buddha would give her a present also, a sweet or a cracker. It was very nice for the child, because at age three she was establishing a good relationship with the Buddha and at the same time was learning to be generous and share things. When my friend cleaned the house, did chores or went places with her daughter, they would chant mantras together. The little girl loved the melodies of the mantras. This helped her because whenever she got upset or frightened, she knew she could chant mantras to calm herself down.

Practicing Dharma at the Workplace
Let's return to your daily practice. After your morning meditation, have breakfast and set off for work. How are you going to practice Dharma at work? First, try to remember the kind heart and the motivation you cultivated in the morning. Throughout the day, continually remind yourself that you don't want to harm anybody, that you want to be of service to them, and that you seek to do all actions for the ultimate enlightenment of yourself and others. To remind yourself of this, you can use a frequent event as a trigger to call you back to your motivation. For example, every time you stop at a red light, instead of being irritated and thinking, "Why is this red light so long? I'm late for work!" think, "Today, I want to have a kind heart towards others." Thus the red light becomes an opportunity to remember the kind heart. When the telephone rings, instead of rushing to pick it up, first think, "May I be of service to whomever is on the line." Then answer the phone. Every time your pager goes off, calmly come back to the kind heart, then respond to the call. A friend told me that her trigger to come back to the kind heart was her children calling, "Mommy! Mommy!" Since this happened frequently throughout the day, she became familiar with the kind heart and also was much more patient with her children.
Throughout the day, try to be aware of what you are thinking, feeling, saying, and doing, instead of living on "automatic." When we live on automatic, we go through life reacting to things but never really experiencing what life is about. This is why we feel out of touch with ourselves, like strangers to ourselves. For example, you get in the car and drive to work. When you got to work, if somebody asked you, "What did you think about during the half hour you were driving?" you probably wouldn't know. We are unaware of what is going on inside us. Yet a lot is going on and this influences how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to other people.

Cultivating Mindfulness
The antidote to living on automatic is to cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being aware of what we are thinking, feeling, saying, and doing each moment. It also means being mindful of our ethical values and of the kind heart, so that we can live according to them in our daily lives. By cultivating this awareness, we will no longer be spaced out, just reacting to things, and then wondering why we are so confused and exhausted at the end of the day. If we are mindful, we will notice that we have a kind heart and will enrich it and let our actions flow from it. Or, we might become aware that we are upset, irritated, angry, or are on the verge of scolding somebody. If we realize that, we can come back to our breath, come back to our kind heart, instead of throwing our negative energy out in the world.

Being Mindful of Living in an Interdependent World
We also become more mindful of how we interact with our environment. We realize that we live in an interdependent world, and if we pollute our environment, we are affecting ourselves, our children, and other living beings. Because we are mindful of being kind, we will curtail the ways in which we pollute the environment. We will carpool when going to work or school, instead of using up gasoline in a car by ourselves. We will recycle the things we use: paper, cans, plastic containers, bottles, glass jars, and newspapers. We know that if we throw these away in the garbage, we are destroying our planet and are affecting other beings in a negative way. Thus, we will re-use our plastic bags and paper bags when we go to the supermarket. In addition, we will not leave our air-conditioners or heaters on when we are not home, and will not use products, such as styrofoam whose production releases many pollutants into the air.
I think that if the Buddha were alive today, he would establish vows that said we have to recycle and stop wasting resources. Many of our monastic vows arose because lay people complained to the Buddha about what monks or nuns did. Each time this happened, the Buddha would establish a precept in order to curb the detrimental behavior. If the Buddha were alive today, people would complain to him, "So many Buddhists throw out their tin cans, glass jars, and newspaper! They use disposable cups, chopsticks and plates, which not only make more garbage but also cause the destruction of many trees. They do not seem to care about the environment and the living beings in it!" I would feel pretty embarrassed if I was doing that and someone complained to the Buddha about my behavior, wouldn't you? That's why I think the Buddha would definitely set down vows saying that we have to recycle and to curtail consumption.

Being Mindful of Our Actions
Mindfulness also enables us to be aware if we are about to act destructively as we go through the day. Mindfulness says, "Uh oh! I'm getting angry," or "I'm being greedy," or "I'm feeling jealous." Then we can apply the various antidotes the Buddha taught to help us calm our minds. For example, if we discover we are annoyed and anger is arising, we can stop and look at the situation from the other person's point of view. When we do this, we recognize they want to be happy, and because they aren't happy, they are doing that action we find objectionable. Then instead of harming them out of anger, we will be more compassionate and understanding, and will work with them to negotiate an agreement.
But how do we do this when a quarrel is just about to start or we're already in the middle of one? We have to practice beforehand, in our meditation practice. In the heat of the situation, it is difficult to remember what the Buddha taught if we haven't practiced it already when we were calm and peaceful. In the same way that a football team practices on a regular basis, we need to meditate on patience and to recite prayers daily to get well-trained. Then when we encounter a situation in daily life, we will be able to use the teachings.

Offering Our Food
Another practice to increase our mindfulness and help us remember our motivation is offering our food before we eat. We imagine the food to be blissful wisdom nectar -- something very delicious that increases our bliss and wisdom, not our attachment, when we eat. Then we imagine a small Buddha made of light at our heart. When we eat, we offer this nectar to the Buddha at our heart. The Buddha radiates light that fills us up. To do this, you don't need to sit in perfect meditation position in the middle of a restaurant! You can visualize and contemplate in this way while waiting for the food. While your companions or business associates continue to chat, you can do this visualization and offer your food to the Buddha without anyone knowing. Sometimes, for example, when you're at home with your family, you can pause and focus on offering your food. It's very nice for a family to recite together a prayer offering their food. I stayed with one family and their six-year-old son led us in reciting the prayer. It was very touching.
When you eat, eat mindfully. Be aware of the effort other people put into growing, transporting, and preparing the food. Realize your interdependence with other living beings and how much benefit you have received from them, such as the food we eat. If we reflect in this way before we eat, we will feel very happy and grateful when we eat, and we will eat more mindfully too. And if we eat mindfully, we won't overeat, and then we won't have to spend so much money on special diets to lose weight!
It is important to eat in a dignified manner. Sometimes we see people in a cafeteria line who haven't even paid for the food yet and are already shoveling it in. This is eating on automatic. It resembles a dog who runs to the bowl and slurps up the food. When we do this reflection and offer our food to the Buddha at our heart, we eat slower and are more relaxed. This is how human beings eat.

Reviewing the Day
In this way, we maintain mindfulness and enrich our kind heart as we go through the day. When we come home in the evening, instead of collapsing in front of the TV or dropping on the bed and falling asleep, we can take a few minutes to sit quietly by ourselves. We reflect about and come to terms with what happened during the day. We look back over our day and think, "What went well today? Did I act with a kind heart?" We notice the instances when we acted kindly and rejoice. We dedicate that merit, that positive potential, for the enlightenment of ourselves and others.
In reviewing the day, we may discover that we were angry, jealous, or greedy. We didn't realize it at the time when it was happening. But looking back over the day, we don't feel so good about what happened. It may have been our attitude, or what we said to somebody, or how we acted. To remedy this, we develop regret and do some purification practice so we can forgive ourselves and let that negative energy go. In this way, we "clean up" emotionally and resolve any uncomfortable feelings or misdirected actions that may have arisen during the day. Having done this, our sleep will be peaceful. When you lie down, imagine the Buddha sitting on your pillow and put your head in the Buddha's lap when you go to sleep. This is very comforting and helps you to remember the Buddha's good qualities and to have better dreams.

Our Life Becomes Meaningful
Practicing Dharma is not difficult or time consuming. We always have time; there are always 24 hours in a day. If we direct our mind in a positive direction, we can transform whatever action we do into the path to enlightenment. In this way, the Dharma becomes part of our life in an organic way. Getting up in the morning is Dharma, eating and going to work is Dharma, sleeping is Dharma. By transforming our attitude in the midst of daily activities, our life becomes very meaningful.


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2012, 05:43:06 AM »
Thank you all for the posts and detailed information on this.

I think it all sums up to one point : make dharma our way of life, be a true Buddhist 24/7, not just pray only when we need help. Personally I find it easier to remind myself on  8 verses of mind transformation, a simple yet profound principals yet applicable in our everyday life.

Let's walk our talk a be true Buddhist
Down with the BAN!!!


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2012, 10:30:51 AM »
To practice Buddhism, we must value LIFE. Not just ours, but every living being in the universe and the unseen realm. We must believe that every human being have the potential to become a Buddha and can outgrow ignorance, hatred, anger, spite, jealous and all the negative qualities which seems to be dominant characteristics in most normal human being. All this can be replaced by love, patience, generosity and kindness.

With this in mind, each individual should be responsible in cultivating all the good qualities which will eliminating suffering to oneself and others.

'You are unwise in acting in such a way since this will bring sorrow upon yourselves and others.' - Buddha

“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” Dalai Lama

Hence, anyone can practice Buddhism without being a Buddhist.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2015, 04:12:14 PM »
Wonderful guidance contributed on what it mean to practise Buddhism.  In my simple 3 words are:

1) Renunciation  2) Bodhichitta  3) Emptiness.

Lots of books by great masters of all traditions can be used as reference to our practice but one of my favourites is the 8 Verses of Mind Transformation by Vajratruth.  Once we have mastered the training and calming of our minds, half the battle is won.  It is this very difficult half that makes Buddhism such an empowering religion.


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Re: What does it mean to practice Buddhism?
« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2015, 07:46:31 AM »
Thank you tenzin K write up, I think what he said is very true in this modern age to practice is very difficult to a lot of people because a lot of them will said they have no time to practice, in actual fact being spiritual is not the time we spend on our prayer or doing chanting because the chanting is important but what more important is after the chanting what do we do are become more kind less angry or we become more unkind and more hatred I think this one we really need to ask ourselves those who claim that they are practitioner. We have to put the Dharma into our daily life is not just the one hour or more hour of chanting if we can practice what the Buddha said then I think that true practitioner being kind , tolerance and love to all living being.