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September 2019
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We should view our whole life as practice

In general, Buddhists maintain that accomplishing Buddhahood is possible for every individual, yet enlightenment is not easily attainable, especially if we fail to follow the right path. We all begin learning Buddhism by reading books, listening to teachings, and sharing our understanding with our teachers. However, without also engaging in contemplation and meditation, our liberation is not guaranteed.

Initially when we begin to follow the Buddhist path, learning is important because whatever doubts we may have can be resolved by listening to the teachings. However, in order to retain what we have learned, we must contemplate on it deeply, since it is contemplation that facilitates better understanding. Even though listening and contemplation contribute greatly to our knowledge, if we do not then engage in meditation our success on the spiritual path will be limited. Therefore, we need all three practices of listening, contemplation, and meditation. If we separate these three practices by leaving out one or the other, then we have made a fundamental mistake that is an obstacle to progressing on the path.

It is important that we put what we learn directly into practice. For instance, when we learn about loving-kindness, we should not wait until we get old to practice it. The time for practice is now. We learn about Buddhism not only to practice at some future time but also in the present moment. When we learn about practices such as loving-kindness, we should attempt to practice it straight away according to our own abilities. It would be unwise to expect that we might compare ourselves with the Buddha, but still we should do our best and practice what is possible for us.

To sum up, correct Buddhist practice is well-rounded. It includes learning, contemplating, and meditating. Most importantly, one should not merely see the times of learning, contemplation, and meditation as the only times of practice, but we should view our whole life as practice. Everyday, from the moment we wake until the moment we go to bed, whatever we do should support our effort to achieve enlightenment and live in accord with the Buddha's advice for how to lead a good life.Boston.1/10/13