By Lisa Knight (IBC in Was. D.C.)

 

            The Buddha tells us, ‘Hasten to do well, restrain your mind from evil.  He who is slow in doing well, his mind delights in evil.’

              He instructs us to purify our mind, remove the impurities.  How in our busy schedules can we do this?  Many of us find a little time to come to a temple but find it difficult to find the time to meditate or study Buddha’s teachings.  So how can we put more Dharma practice into our busy lives?  Mindfulness (Samma Sati) and right effort (Samma Vayama) can be practiced just about anytime and anywhere, as part of our daily lives.

              Samma Vayama involves four parts.  One part is preventing the arising of unwholesome thoughts, which lead to unwholesome words and deeds.  This is done by guarding the senses from things that disturb or overly excite the mind:  turning away from negative influences, such as violent movies, some shops which encourage greed or could tempt one to splurge money impulsively, and people who engage in unwholesome words and actions.  One can practice walking meditation while walking to work, just by focusing one’s mind on the sensation of the foot rising, moving forward, and touching the ground.  One can practice mindfulness of breathing while waiting in line or while on hold on the telephone, or in a few moments between projects at work.  Otherwise during those times our minds may be occupied by unwholesome thoughts and distractions.

              The second part is to abandon unwholesome thoughts that have arisen, to avoid retaining or dwelling on unwholesome thoughts.  This can be done by replacing it with a wholesome thought.  For example, if one has an angry thought because someone has done something offensive, one can replace it with a compassionate thought of the pain or hardship that person must have suffered to cause him to act offensively.  If one has a thought of jealousy, one can replace it with the thought of the karmic effect of that jealousy, the suffering to yourself that the habit of jealous thoughts produces.  If one has a judgmental thought, one can replace it with a thought of one’s own related weakness.  For example if one judges another person as overweight, one can replace it with the thought of one’s own greed.  Otherwise, one can try to analyze the origin of the thought: what fasciantion or fear caused the thought to arise?

              The third part is to encourage wholesome thoughts.  This can be done by reading Buddha’s teachings, association with virtuous people, engaging in meritorious acts, and helping others, even in small ways.  One can bring Dharma articles or a small Dharma book and read it while traveling on airplanes, subways or trains.  One can listen to Buddhist songs, chanting or lectures while driving a car or cooking.  One can practice metta when hearing strangers in conversation by feeling the same positive thoughts toward these unknown people as one would feel when hearing an unknown bird singing.

              The fourth part is to develop, maintain and perfect wholesome states.  This requires determination and vigilance, watching or being mindful of one’s thoughts, words and acts, and developing and maintaining good habits.  We become increasingly sensitive to and aware of negative or unwholesome thoughts that arise, and act quickly to abandon them, overcoming our defenses and excuses for allowing them to continue.

              These efforts do not require large blocks of time from our schedules but only require our remembrance of who we are: Buddhists, that is, people who practice Dharma, who are trying to purify our minds by our own effort.  Once we start developing good habits in practicing right effort, we notice the happy feeling we get in knowing that we are improving ourselves, and this motivates us to practice more.  As the Buddha told us: “Wake up, be diligent!  Lead a righteous life.  He who dwells in Dharma lives happily in this world and the next.”