Prelude to Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation
Before you start practicing the meditation, it is very important to build a strong foundation of morality (sīla). If you don’t even practice the five precepts, you will lose interest and finally stop meditating, because you think that the technique is incorrect.
Actually the Buddha’s technique works very well. This is just a case of not having the complete practice and not doing it in the correct way. Keeping the precepts is essential to the development and purity of mind. If you break any of these precepts, you will experience a lot of restlessness, remorse, and anxiety due to your guilty feelings. This causes mind to be tight and clouds your thoughts.
These precepts are absolutely necessary for any spiritual attainments. They support your general mindfulness and awareness to help you to have a peaceful mind that is clear from any remorse due to wrong doing. A peaceful calm mind is a mind that is tension-free and clear.
Thus, it is a very good idea to take these precepts every day, not as some form of rite or ritual, but as a reminder for your practice. Taking the precepts every day helps to keep your mind, speech, and actions uplifted. There are people who recite these precepts in the Pāli language. However, it can turn into an empty exercise if you don’t completely understand Pāli. For the earnest meditator it is best to recite these precepts daily in a language that you understand so that the meanings are clear without a doubt.
These precepts are:
1. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain from killing or harming living beings on purpose.
This precept includes non-killing of beings like ants, mosquitoes, wasps or cockroaches, etc.
2. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain from taking what is not given.
This covers any forms of stealing, which even includes taking a pencil from work without permission or using equipment like copy machines for personal use.
3. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain from wrong sexual activity.
Basically, it means not having any sexual activity with another person’s partner, or having sexual activity with someone that is still under the care of a family member. It also means that one must follow the sexual laws of the land.
Any sexual activity that causes undue pain to another being will cause one to have remorse and guilty feelings to arise.
4. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain from telling lies, using harsh speech, slandering others, and speaking gossip or nonsense talk.
This means abstinence from any type of speech, which is not true or helpful to others. It also includes abstinence from telling white lies.
5. I undertake to keep the precept to abstain from taking drugs and alcohol which dulls mind.
Many people think that drinking one glass of beer or one social glass of wine or smoking a joint of marijuana would not affect their mind. But this is not true! If you are seriously practicing meditation, you become very sensitive and will notice the effects of even taking something as harmless as aspirin. It can dull your mind for a whole day. How much more will this happen with alcohol and other drugs?
However, when you are sick and the doctor says that you must take a certain drug as medicine, then please take the medicine. This precept refers to taking drugs or alcohol in order to relax and escape from the stress of the day.
As soon as you realize that you have broken a precept, you should first forgive yourself and acknowledge that you are not perfect. This helps you to free your mind a little. You then retake the precepts as soon as possible and make a determination not to break the precepts again.
Taking the precepts again will help to re-purify mind. Over a period of time, you will become more aware and naturally abstain from breaking them because you realize these harmful effects.
Please practice only one meditation technique at a time because mind will become confused if you try to mix and match various meditations. Mixing and matching only stops your progress.
How do you find a good teacher? The best way is to pick only one teacher who truly understands the meditation and can explain things clearly and precisely.
The way to select a good teacher is by seeing if the teacher is teaching you about how to know and recognize the links of Dependent Origination and the Four Noble Truths. Then, stay with that teacher for a period of time and see for yourself whether your mind becomes more happy and peaceful; not just while meditating, but in daily life as well. This is ultimately the best way to choose.
Does your awareness of mind states become clearer and easier to recognize, can you let go of them, relax and smile during your daily activities as well as during the sitting practice? If not, check with the teacher and the suttas to see if what is being taught agrees with them. As your practice deepens and the meditation becomes better, the suttas get easier to understand. This always happens when the teacher is using the suttas as their guide.