Buddhist practice generally involves seeking answers through initial faith, practicing after seeking answers, and gaining confirmation through practice. The practice of subduing afflictions and delusions, and eliminating habits is what is referred to as practice or cultivation. Our afflictions and habits are a result of many past lives, as well as the environment we are born into in this life. These afflictions and habits include views related to the body, other views, deviant views, views on precepts, views on attachment, and afflictions such as greed, anger, delusion, arrogance, and doubt. Buddhist practice aims to eliminate afflictions and subdue delusions. However, it is not easy to eliminate habits that have been accumulated over many lifetimes. The attainment of the four stages of enlightenment, including becoming an Arhat, is required to eliminate views and thoughts completely, but there are still hindrances and fundamental ignorance present. Therefore, “eliminating delusions” is not an easy task.
However, “the principle can be instantly understood, but the practice must be gradually cultivated.” Through long-term practice and training, genuine sincerity and the elimination of habits can be achieved gradually. In terms of practicing Buddhism as a lay person, it is not necessary to isolate oneself from society and enter deep mountains and ancient temples to eliminate thoughts related to the five desires and six senses. Afflictions and habits are often triggered through interactions with people and events. Thus, one of the ways to subdue afflictions is to hone and train oneself through all kinds of situations and circumstances.
The true spirit of Mahayana Buddhism is not satisfied with merely freeing oneself from suffering. By developing the bodhi mind and practicing the six perfections, one can not only benefit others but also oneself.
In the process of practicing and training, people often experience the following:
Before learning Buddhism, one is often troubled by delusions, mistaking them for reality, and being blinded by the three poisons of greed, anger, and delusion. Once the roots of virtue from previous lives mature, one may encounter good spiritual teachers and become a Buddhist. Typically, when one first learns Buddhism, one is half-believing and half-doubting, and one’s focus is uncertain. Moreover, under the treatment of opposing afflictions and habits, delusions seem to be difficult to control. When beginners practice chanting, meditation, or other techniques, they may expect to have a focused mind, but find themselves plagued with wandering thoughts. This does not mean that there are more delusions and wandering thoughts when practicing, but rather that delusions arise and fall unnoticed in everyday life. In this process, as long as one is diligent and mindful of all circumstances, including their order and sequence, preferences and dislikes, right and wrong, love and hate, they can recognize that these are all illusions created by delusions. With time, the power of concentration and wisdom will gradually increase, and afflictions and habits will diminish.