The Three Pathways of Buddhist Practice

Give up all negative actions,
Fulfill perfectly what is good and
Harness your mind.
This is the teaching of Buddha.

The first three verses contain The Three Pathways of Buddhist Practice and these are: the way of a small capacity person, average capacity person and of high capacity person.

The way of a small capacity person.

The first goal that we must achieve in this life, the first point to meet, is giving up negative actions and maintaining proper ethics. It is a fundamental practice of Dharma which allows us to obtain safety and freedom in terms of our future existence.

It corresponds to the first level of the way: that of the small capacity person.

First, we must learn to live in a positive manner.

How to proceed?

By abandoning negative actions. Thus our life becomes useful and we free ourselves from obstacles. But we should not wait too long to take this way because our current life is not permanent and will end very quickly. This is the essential attitude that we have to develop.

Being involved in all sorts of negative actions only creates difficulties, even if we have very lofty goals (such as full illumination). In this case, all our desires will be just dreams, because, in order to achieve these goals, the causes must be favorable.

Abandoning the ten negative actions is, therefore, the quintessence of the small capacity person’s way.

The way of an average capacity person.

Is it enough to give up the ten negative actions? Not at all, because even with proper ethics, it does not allow us to achieve the ultimate goal that we have set.

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Of course, the fulfillment of positive actions in order to achieve a good, positive life, and thus benefit from favorable rebirths is a necessary objective.

However, it is not the ultimate goal: indeed, the latter is not just to achieve the release of difficult existences, but especially that of the entire lifecycle.

It is necessary that the actions (in thought, word or deed) that we fulfill to be not only positive but also perfect. In other words, it is not just about living a useful, positive and honorable life; in addition to this, our actions should be pure.

In order to fulfill them so, we have to perform with an attitude of surrender. Thus, all of our actions become pure, so that we achieve liberation from the cycle of existences.

This is what the second line of the text expresses and which also corresponds to the attitude of the average capacity person in Buddhist practice.

The way of a high capacity person.

One may wonder if the way of the average capacity person is enough. The answer is the same: it is not. Indeed, by abandoning negative actions and fulfilling the positive ones, with an attitude of surrender and even wisdom, we can achieve liberation from samsara, but looking around us we see that a large number of sentient beings continue to suffer on the grounds of existences’ cycle.

Obtaining individual liberation will not be enough.

The ultimate goal of the high capacity person will be to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, or, in other words, to achieve liberation from all suffering for all beings.

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To achieve this goal, we need to educate our minds.

Education, in this case, refers mainly to selfish attitude, the attitude directed toward ourselves. As long as this attitude will continue to be present inside, we will not be able to reach this ultimate goal.

Bodhisattva (one who seeks awakening) follows the way of the high capacity person in Buddhist practice. The main obstacle in our mind is selfishness, and the attitude directed toward ourselves is an attitude that needs to be removed.

As long as it will still leave a trace, however small, even if we reach individual liberation, we won’t be able to reach our own goal and that of all beings: the state of complete enlightenment. At this level of comprehension, the third line corresponds to the way of a high capacity person, that of the Bodhisattva.

Post inspired by the teachings of Gonsar Tulku Rinpoche.

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