Tuesday, August 8, 2017

9 Negative Habits to Be Abandoned by Advanced Practitioners

           Tonight, we did a Guru Rinpoche Prayer under the guidance of Acho Rinpoche. After which, he shared with us the following story about a student who consulted Venerable Hui Lu of Taiwan on his spiritual practice. The student is a practitioner who abides strictly by the precepts; however, he just cannot tolerate his fellow practitioners who fail to do so. He criticized others for failing to abide by the precepts and felt troubled by this matter. Venerable Hui Lu asked him if Sakyamuni Buddha would feel troubled in the same way that he did. The student said that he did not think so. Venerable Hui Lu told his student that Sakyamuni Buddha would certainly accommodate the shortcomings of others and would not criticize them. He told his students that the latter only scored 50 marks out of 100 for abiding by the precepts, and the remaining 50 marks will need to be earned based on his tolerance of the shortcomings of others. Sakyamuni Buddha was a very disciplined person but he accepted the fact that others were not. When a person thinks that he has done better than others in terms of upholding the precepts, he will inevitably start scrutinizing the shortcomings of others and criticize them, thus committing negative karma through his speech. In that sense, he will not score 100 marks in his practice of upholding the precepts. The student returned to his own Buddhist center and continued to do his practice by focusing on his own conduct and not paying attention to the shortcomings of others. People of his center noticed the change in him and later learnt the teachings given by Venerable Hui Lu too. Acho Rinpoche advised that a practitioner should not criticize the shortcomings of others but, on the contrary, wish for their gradual improvements instead. Not only that, a practitioner should learn to rejoice in the good deeds of others. Generally, a person will feel jealous about others doing better than himself out of ego, and fail to rejoice in the success of others; such mindset will only impede his progress on the path to enlightenment.

          Next, Acho Rinpoche shared an article he read on the Internet which talked about 9 negative habits in spiritual practice which should be abandoned. Initially, a practitioner will be told to abandon his attachment to his family, his wealth, his career, his relationships etc., which are considered the more obvious attachments in our worldly pursuits. However, to an advanced practitioner, there are more subtle attachments in the spiritual practice that should also be abandoned.
1st, abandon the “duration of practice” one has gone through. An advanced practitioner tends to feel proud about his long duration of practice and thinks that he is more advanced in his spiritual practice than others. However, spiritual accomplishment is not measured by the duration of practice because there are those who had attained enlightenment immediately when being initiated into the practice.
2nd, abandon the “number of sutras” one has read. An advanced practitioner tends to feel proud about the large number of sutras he has read. However, the amount of reading does not translate into a true spiritual accomplishment of a practitioner. The Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Master Hui Neng, understood the teaching of Diamond Sutra when he first heard it. There are many who have read the numerous sutras and yet do not understand the teachings expounded.
3rd, abandon the “spiritual experience” one has attained. There are numerous methods expounded by the Buddha, tailored for the different needs of the individuals. Every method is designed to lead a practitioner to the state of enlightenment one day. So, an advanced practitioner should not assume that his own experience is the only authoritative method.
4th, abandon “arguments”. An advanced practitioner tends to assume that his views about the Buddhist teachings is the most accurate and ultimate one, and like to debate with others to prove his points. So, he should abandon the differences in opinion and not debate with others.
5th, abandon the “tendency of wanting to teach others”. An advanced practitioner tends to assume that he knows a lot more than others and like to teach others, and claim credit when others seem to be making improvements. However, a person will naturally attain spiritual realization when the time is ripe, not because of the teaching given by someone. There is no need for one to claim credit over the progress of others as that will only create a sense of arrogance in the “teacher”.  
6th, abandon the “merits of offering”. A practitioner should understand the profound meaning of “Formless Offering” and “mental activities free of attachment”, and does not feel attached to the merits of offering.
7th, abandon the pride of making “connections with the great masters”. All the great maters are great because of their high spiritual attainment, which has nothing to do with us. One should not brag about his connections with the many great masters and take their glamor as his own.  
8th, abandon the “wish for recognition”. When one yearns for the recognition and praises of others, he is desiring a worldly achievement which will impede his spiritual progress and binds him to the state of suffering.
9th, abandon the “practice”. When a practitioner has reached the final stage of spiritual cultivation, he must abandon even the conceptual thinking of “practice”. When one attains the state free of ego, what is the basis for a conceptual thinking of “I” who does the “practice”? When one still has the concept of “I” who does the  “practice”, he is still bound to the state of worldly achievement.
Acho Rinpoche said, “practice” is only an expedient method. In the past, those who were busy cooking in the kitchens and cleaning in the toilets were the ones who finally attained enlightenment, simply because they were selflessly working for others.  These 9 negative habits to be abandoned are targeted at the advanced practitioners because they are the ones who will face the dilemma of “self-attachment” and “teaching-attachment”.  As long as one has not truly abandoned such habits, he will never attain the state of enlightenment.

Reported by Sun-moon KFS on 6-8-2017