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How to Achieve Success of Life through Buddhist Meditation

By Bhante T. Seelananda, Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, High View, WV

 

The purpose of Buddhist life is living  peacefully, happily, successfully with a light heart and full of contentment.  In order to achieve this success of life, there is a way. The way is  nothing, but the 'Middle Way' which is based on morality, concentration and wisdom.[1]  Being in such a virtuous ground, if one is concentrated on what one is engaged in right now, he or she definitely would be able to develop mindfulness, clear comprehension and wisdom. As such, they  can lead a very successful life with a pacified mind. The one who leads such a life, rejoices here in this world and the hereafter.[2] That is the Buddhist way of life.  

 

Success is Twofold

 

In general, success is twofold; worldly success and spiritual success. Here, in this article, we mainly focus our attention on the spiritual success of life. It does not mean that we simply neglect and forget about thinking of and encouraging worldly success.  We accept the fact that worldly success is certainly necessary for the success of spiritual life as well. However, we know well that so called worldly success has no limit. Unfathomably, endlessly, they  reach for more and more opportunities in the name of earning more money or more things because of attachment and craving.

 

Since we need more and more things to be happy, we normally enjoy grabbing or collecting material items small or big. Eventually, one day we understand that such possessions are junk  and then we arrange a 'yard sale.' This is the gap in our mind, which cannot be filled up easily until we reach our own death. As long as there is craving and clinging, people are insatiable and are not contented with what they have. Being mentally lacking something, they become  slaves to craving (uno loko atitto tanhā dāso).[3] However much they have gained, collected, hoarded, they have no satisfaction. Their thirsty is endless and unquenchable. Even though they are given the whole treasures in  the whole world, there is no satisfaction at all. The Buddha says, "For them, there is no satisfaction even with a  rain of gold coins. Having understood this, the wise man, the disciple of the Buddha, delights in the destruction of craving."[4] 

 

For the Success of Worldly Life

 

The Buddha taught many discourses giving kind admonisions for the success of worldly life. For instance, once he said, one has to  avoid manily four things for the success of worldly life. They are: 1. Taking life (Becasue life is dear to all beings. They all want not to die but to live. Therefore, 'live and let live others' became a principle); 2. Taking that which is not given (Everybody wants to keep his or her own things because they dear and delight to them. Therefore, one should not take another's things. When one protects others' things he or she protects his/her own) as well; 3. Sexual misconduct (It is  not sexual conduct, but misconduct. It is condemned in civilized societies because for the wellbeing of a society; the mother should be protected. When the mother is protected, the daugheters and sisters are also protected. Then, the whole family is protected); 4. Using false speech (This is  because those who tell lies can do anything harmful, evil to anybody.  The Buddha once said, "Those who deceive others with false speech have no evil that they cannot commit." Therefore, his kind admonition is: "Do not deliberately  tell lies even for fun."[5]

 

Earn Energetically, but Righteously

 

            In order to lead a successful worldly life, one has to earn energetically but rightleously. Therefore, the Buddha said, "earn energetically when you are young, protect what you have earned, associate with a good friend, and having understood your income and expenditure lead a balanced life."[6] In the discourse on advice to lay people (Sigalovada Sutta), the Buddha pointed out six different ways of wasting your hard earned money and weath.  Make sure that you are not engaged in these things. They are: 1. Addiction to intoxicated drugs and liquor; 2. Haunting the streets and unsuitable places at the improper time; 3. Attenting too many occasions for amusement, such as films, clubs, and dancing or singing; 4. Addiction to gambling like casinos or games of chance; 5. Association with bad friends; 6.  Habitual idleness.[7] It is indispensable that one's worldly success should lead to the success of spiritul life too. Every person should have a spiritual life. Life without spirituality is entirely unsuccessful; eventually, it ends up with regrets, remorse, repentence and misery and even after death, such a person will be born in woeful state of perdition or hells. The Buddha says, "Here he suffers, hereafter he suffers, he suffers in both the worlds. Having reached the realms of woeful state, he suffers more and more."[8]

 

For Spiritual Success

 

On the contrary, in order to achieve spiritual success, one has to follow the right path taught by the Buddha. As said earlier, the path taught by the Buddha is clear and based on morality, concentration and wisdom. The two synonyms for the path are the Eightfold Path and the Middle Path.  Referring to this Path, the Buddha said, "Of all paths, the eightfold path is the best".[9] Unlike worldly success, once you gained spiritual success that can never be defeated by anyone in the world.  The Buddha said, "Neither a god nor an angel, nor a Mara or a Brahma or any other can turn into defeat the victory of such a person who has achieved spiritul success."[10]  It is crystal clear that if one wants to live happily, peacefully, lightheartedly by achieving  the spiritual success,  one has to follow that path.  That path is the path to live without fear and worry, without attachment and repulsion. It directly leads from right understanding to right liberation through right concentration and right knowledge.  Persons who experience this state of mind are contented and unperturbed. They live here in this very world with us. They are  friendly amidst the hostile, peaceful amidst the violent, and unattached amidst the attached.[11]   

 

For this purpose, first one has to be virtuous and then one should follow the Buddha's unique teaching. The followers of the real teachings of the Buddha are not extremists. They are following the actual words of the Buddha. They completely  avoid all types of extremistic teachings and particularly they do not follow a certain 'ism' or rites and rituals; instead, they follow the middle way and mindfulness meditation taught by the Buddha. This is nothing but Buddhist meditation. When the Buddha's method of meditation is practiced and developed, one can develop mindfulness, clear comprehension and wisdom together. As a result, one can be calm and relaxed, while at the same time, see things as they really are, with vipassanā or insight.

 

How to Follow the Teachings of the Buddha

 

In order to follow the Buddha, one has to go to the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha for refuge and should follow the Four Noble Truths as a refuge. That is the real refuge, refuge secure and refuge supreme.[12] In the Mahanama Sutta of the Numerical Discourses, [13] the Buddha himself clearly said how to become a lay follower of the Buddha. He says, "When one has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, in that way, one is a lay follower." Then, as a lay follower, what should one do?  He/she should abide by the precepts and being virtuous should practice more and more concentration meditation. When the lay person is practicing in this manner focus on concentration meditation such as reflection on the qualities of the Buddha, loving friendliness, repulsiveness of the 32 parts of the body  or awareness of death, he/she can switch to insight meditation as well. It is the second level of Buddhist meditation which is unique to the teachings of the Buddha. 

 

Buddhist Meditation

 

As above mentioned, there are two levels of meditation; namely, concentration or serenity (samatha) and insight (vipassanā) meditation. Buddhists practice the above two with a clear purpose. In order to practice virtuous behavior, daily meditation plays a very  significant role. The Buddha has pointed out benefits of such and such sustained practice. Once the Buddha traced the purpose of practicing as follows:  Addressing his attendant monk Venerable Ananda he said,  “Ananda, the purpose and benefit of wholesome virtuous behavior is non-regret; the purpose and benefit of non-regret is joy; the purpose and benefit of joy is rapture; the purpose and benefit of rapture is tranquility; the purpose and benefit of tranquility is pleasure; the purpose and benefit of pleasure is concentration; the purpose and benefit of concentration is the knowledge and vision of things as they really are; the purpose and benefit of the knowledge and vision of things as they really are is disenchantment and dispassion; and the purpose and benefit of disenchantment and dispassion is the knowledge and vision of liberation. Thus, Ananda, wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost.”[14]

 

The Way to Right Liberation

 

In this manner, the Buddha very clearly has mentioned the path to develop one's mind. For this purpose, he has delivered a special discourse as on the technique of meditation. The name of that discourse is “The Great Discourse on the Establishment of Mindfulness” where he elaborated the four establishments of mindfulness that are to be practiced, cultivated and developed by all of us.[15]  In reference to the complete eradication of all taints, and to be free from taints, the Buddha taught another very special  discourse. That is the discourse of Proximate Cause (Upanisā Sutta)[16] where he says, dependent on birth unsatisfactoriness comes to be (Jāti upanisā dukkham). This is to be understood as a factor of life. If we are aware of unsatisfactoriness that we experience now, then we can develop our confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha. Then, we  can practice and experience gladness, rapture, tranquility, happiness, concentration, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are, disenchantment, dispassion, liberation and the knowldege of complete destruction of taints respectively.  The one who has experienced this state of mind is called the  Awakened One whose mind is completely free from all defilements, taints or impurities. Thus, he lives in this society entirely free  from all impurities. That is the spiritually successful life which is the peak of human perpection. This is the real purpose of human life. The one who has achieved that spiritual success has a mind which is called featureless mind (anidassana viññāna). After his/her passing away, such a person will never come to the samsāric cycle to be born again and again and fill up the grave yards again and again like you and me.

 

 

[1]  SN. 56. 11.  (1) Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dhamma

[2] Dhammapada, verse 18

[3] MN. 82. Ratthapala Sutta

[4] Dhammapada, verse186

[5] MN. 61. Ambalatthika Rahulovada Sutta

[6] AN. 8. 55. Ujjaya Sutta

[7] DN. 31. Sigalaka Sutta

[8] Dhammapada, verse 17 

[9] Dhammapada, verse 273 

[10] Dhammapada, verse 105

[11] Dhammapada, verse 406

[12] Dhammapada, verse 188

[13] AN. 8.25. Mahanama Sutta

[14] AN. 10.1 (1) What Purpose?

[15] DN. 22. Maha Satipatthana Sutta

[16] SN. 12. 23. Proximate Cause