Zen Wisdom 30

Fixed, structured practice is clear, but how do you practice when working, commuting, entertaining, socializing and so on? It is possible to practice in all these situations. Usually, when people think about practice, meditation or studying Buddhadharma comes to mind, but Ch'an stresses that you should take advantage of all moments, whether practicing in a structured manner or following a daily routine. All times, situations, and environments are opportunities to practice.

In the Avatamsaka Sutra, there is a famous chapter, in the form of a gatha (verses), from which the Three Refuges were taken. This chapter speaks of all the human activities: eating, sleeping, walking, resting, talking, et cetera. It says that in all activities we should have in the forefront of our minds the well-being of sentient beings, called bodhi mind. This teaching is the essence of the chapter.

A person on the Bodhisattva Path should think of helping sentient beings. This is the first of the Four Great Bodhisattva Vows. If you can consistently think of other sentient beings' welfare, compassion will naturally arise in your thoughts and actions. The greatest problems a practitioner faces are arrogance, greed and anger which manifest when we place ourselves ahead of others.

One who foregoes pride and puts others ahead of oneself will realize that attainment is possible only with the help of sentient beings. Only through interacting with others can one live and grow in knowledge and ability. It is also wrong to expect gratitude when we do something for others. Indeed, we should thank sentient beings for giving us a chance to practice bodhi mind and to cultivate merit and virtue.