Practitioners today are filled with materials and have an extensive Buddhist knowledge. However, one should truthfully ask whether your practice matches exactly with the material or the teachings of the Patriarchs? Are you spending time truly practicing according to the teaching? Does the environment of your practice center support and provide the necessary karmic conditions? Does it have the atmosphere and continual practice that truly leads to path of liberation and enlightenment? Is there a virtuous teacher to provide guidance and encouragement? Is there enough time to commit and foster these knowledge? What is the goal and aspiration that you wish to achieve from practice in this lifetime? Do you have the confidence that you will achieve something based on the current practice? In the history of Buddhism, is there a successful patriarch who reached attainment according to your way of practice? If you practice like you are now, in such an environment or monastery, what kind of results will you achieve before you die? Does it meet the initial intention of becoming a monk or studying Buddhism?
All of the above points need to be meticulous examined. Lacking any one of those conditions, it is difficult to achieve any success. If the practitioners or monastery environment do not meet the above conditions, how can one call themselves practitioners or self-proclaimed to be the righteous monastery? If the current place or teaching can’t help practitioners to liberate and end the cycle of birth and death, then it is only focusing on following the formality of the monastery. All practitioners, ask yourselves truthfully, and do not deceive yourselves and others. If you do not exert effort to practice correctly, not only you are powerless to save yourself but many afflictions will continue to rise. It’s bad enough that you don’t want to become enlightened yourself, but you must not spread falsehoods and mislead other sentient beings. It is harming both yourself and others while believeing you are protecting the righteous Dharma and practicing good deed.
All religions, sects, and monasteries have their own set of educational sayings to convince disciples and beleievers that their belief is ture, real and unique. They also persude these disciples to commit and follow the actions, wishes and instructions of their leader by donating resources, time and effort to the practice center. What’s more, there are those who spend their entire time not related to the Dharma, wasting both merits and wisdoms, and do not realize their mistakes while on their deathbed. These ill-informed individuals falsily claim to be protecting the Dharma and teaching, and devoting themselves to the Dharma by sacrificing their bodies.
In order to know whether the knowledge and conduct of a religious center are correct, it is necessary to examine the purity by referencing Buddhas’, Patriarchs’, and virtuous ancients’ practice and morality, teachings and lectures, and practice customs. The teaching of the monastery should conform with “The Three Practices” (Precepts, Samadhi, and Wisdom), “The Eightfold Noble Path”, “Practice subsumed in the Six Perfections”, and stay far away from worldly defilements, and have a pure self-sustainable living. It should set practice as its primary duty, make achievement in this lifetime as its primary goal, and spread Dharma as its primary vow. Learn what the Buddha and Patriarch taught, and practice the way that the Budda and Patriarch did. Do not refabricate, do not make grandstanding, and do not be tainted by worldly glory, fame or fortune. The teaching, the practice, the vow, the effort, the Dharma, the precepts, the attainment, and the Dharma realm all need to be pure. If these rules are met, then all nonsense will automatically depart, all confrontation will inherently cease and attainment will naturally be realized. In the Dharma-ending era, the force of Mara is strong and the force of Dharma is weak. Many will use Dharma as the cover to hide the wickedness on the inside. Fish eyes and pearls are mixed together making it difficult for practitioners to discern. The worm in the lion’s body eats the lion’s meat, the writings in the Sutra is not false!
If you can implement the knowledge of the Dharma of mind in every moment of your life, everything you see and hear is your mind, what is right and wrong is a reflection of your own mind, and your health is a manifestation of your own mind, then being a layperson is the same as being a monk. If you can’t implement the knowledge of the Dharma of mind, and you can’t observe with the mind at every moment, then being a monk is no difference than being a layperson.
The real purpose of Buddhist sects, monasteries, rules and regulations, practice methods, etc., internal software or external hardware, is to provide students with the environment, conditions, time, and education to make them truly practice, follow the path of the Buddha, and attain enlightenment and liberation either in this lifetime or in the future. A true practitioner does not depart from breaking attachments, removing defilements, purifying the nature of the mind, realizing the intrinsic nature, entering the home of Tathagata, attaining the land of Tathagata, and practicing the duty of Tathagata. If deviate from this core purpose, then practice center is just a shell and the practice or being a monk is simply a playful act.
The worldly people are ignorant, they don’t see their faults, they don’t exert effort to practice, they fool themselves by entertaining themselves , and live comfortably without worries. Their desires flourish while their blessings dwindle, their habits grow while their practice fade, and their wisdom dimishes while they follow blindly. Majority of the practitioners are like this. It is rare to hear a person who is truly motivated, who really wants to end the cycle of life and death, who truly pursues the path of enlightenment and liberation, and who is determined to cultivate diligently and make accomplishments in this lifetime. If the intention is not there, where is the practice?