Sila as Guru

Yutang Lin

Sila as Guru means to practice according to causal laws;
Let Bodhi guide our intentions to channel all to Dharma.
Diligent practitioners would stay away from controversy,
Not falling into grasping to forms lest became entangled.


A Buddhist came to visit. He asked me to write an article on the importance of upholding Sila (i.e., observing the rules of conducts as set down by Buddha and maintained in the Buddhist traditions) because he found that it is a topic that I have seldom expanded on.

Sila set in details how practitioners should regulate their intentions, speeches and actions so that they would stay away from harmful deeds, accumulate good deeds, benefit other sentient beings, and move toward ultimate enlightenment. Thus they are certainly of great importance and are beneficial to uphold. Among the Six Paramitas, Sixfold Sublimation, Sila Observance is listed as the second main item. I have written articles in Chinese and English on the Six Paramitas; readers might want to look into them.

"Sila as Guru" was the final teaching of Buddha before he entered Nirvana. Basically the essence of this teaching indicates that a Buddhist should cultivate views, motivations, speeches and actions that are in accord with enlightenment. As to the details of those rules that were set as remedy to some events in the distant past, as times and circumstances have drastically changed, they might have lost the significance that was originally intended. Therefore, even at the early time when those rules were compiled into canons there were proposals from some elders to omit all minor rules.

Once norms were set up, due to worldly custom of grasping to forms, it could hardly be avoided that controversies and pretentious activities would ensue. For diligent practitioners, how could they have the leisure to argue or haggle with others, or to become attached to formalities? To follow the path of solid practice they could only reflect on themselves in the face of each and every event by asking the following questions: Do my intentions stem from Bodhicitta? Are my approaches in accord with ultimate enlightenment? Will the results be conducive to propagation of the Dharma? Thereby, throughout the course of their lifetime of practices, they would gradually amend and improve toward enlightenment. Therefore, in my works I seldom touched upon details of Sila; instead, my emphases are on expounding basic views and correct motivations, and on illustrating how to apply Buddhist principles in real-life situations.

Written in Chinese and translated on July 20, 2003
El Cerrito, California

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