Best three ways to practice Buddhism
Accordingly to three ways of practice (ethics, concentration and wisdom), Buddhist texts are divided depending on their subject to discipline, Buddha’s dialogs and metaphysics. If practitioner is truly able to start mastering these three ways of practice and study those texts and convey the same to others, we can say he is really a follower of Buddha Teachings. The need to practice and study these three ways of practice is generally the same for both men and women. There is no much difference between the genders of practitioners from the point of view of Buddhist practice and theory. However, there are a number of differences in monastic rules, which regulate practice of ethics, regarding both sexes.
The main basis of moral restraint is to refrain from ten unwholesome actions, three of which are related to the body, four to the speech and three to thoughts.
Three unwholesome actions in respect to body are:
1. Murder - an intentional killing of living beings - whether human, animal or insect,
2. Stealing - appropriation of another's property without the owner's consent, regardless of the value of the object stolen, and
3. sexual misconduct - committing immoral acts.
The four unwholesome verbal acts are :
4. Lying - cheating others by word or action,
5. Slander – inflating hatred so those who agree wouldn’t agree and those who don’t agree wouldn’t agree even more.
6. Harsh speech - verbal abuse of others;
7. Gossip - talk about stupid things, motivated by lust, etc.
Three unwholesome actions of thought are:
8. greed - the desire to possess what belongs to another,
9. malice - the desire to harm another, it does not matter much whether or not,
10. False conception - the belief that such realities as the reincarnation or the law of cause and effect, or the Three Jewels does not exist.
Moral principles, which are underlying the moral way of life and are regulated by some instructions, are called the discipline of personal liberation, or pratimoksha. Four main schools were formed in Ancient India, which were distinguished by different order of enumeration of these rules and slightly different understanding. Later those schools split into eighteen philosophical movements. Each one of the four major schools was offering their own version of the Sutra on personal liberation, which represented recommendations of Buddha regarding the ethical standards and basic rules of monastic life. Instructions regarding monastic life and ethical norms of it, which are accepted in Tibetan Buddhism, are coming from Mulasarvastivada School. According to the version of Sutra of personal liberation of this school, written in Sanskrit, there are 253 rules for fully ordained monk and 364 rules for fully ordained nuns. However, the same sutra in Pali language in version of Theravada school contains only 227 rules for monks and 311 nuns.
Keeping the moral precepts – guarding three “doors”: body, speech and mind from unwholesome actions – gives us concentration and awareness. These two qualities help us to avoid coarse negative physical and verbal actions, i.e. actions that are destructive for oneself and for others. Thus, morality is the foundation of Buddhist path.
The second stage is meditation – i.e. practice of higher concentration. Speaking on Buddhist meditation very generally, we can distinguish two main types of it – fixed and analytical. Fixed meditation is the practice of successive stages of "peacefulness", including various techniques of contemplation. Main features of this type of meditation are – one-pointed concentration of the mind and absorption by the object of meditation. Analytical meditation, on opposite, is characterised by more active meditative states in regard to their interaction with the object of meditation. It includes methods which are characterised not only by mind's ability to concentrate, but are also related to deep analysis. However, in both cases it is important to have a reliable foundation of alertness and awareness, i.e. those qualities which we develop maintaining moral discipline. It’s worth to remember importance of alertness and awareness also in ordinary life.
To summarize, we can say that by following moral principles, we are laying the foundation to our mental and spiritual development. Practicing concentration we are making our mind ready to attain this goal and to prepare it for the next highest practice – practice of wisdom. Due to ability to focus, which we develop practicing concentration, we are able to direct all our attention and mental energy to the chosen subject.
Then, due to a very stable state of mind, we can truly penetrate into the true nature of reality. This kind of direct insight into the state of selflessness is the only real method to eliminate confusion, because it alone is able to liquidate our ignorance and all defilements of mind and negative emotions caused by it.