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Volume 6 no 3


Cultivating our actions, speech and mind

In the Noble Eight-fold Path[1] taught by Buddha, the Right Action[1] advocates practitioners of Buddhism to pursue all that are virtuous with zeal and a commitment to progress. Such should be the correct attitude whether in our career or in pursuit of the ultimate truth. The following short story may help to illustrate Buddha's teaching more clearly.

Karma refers to the actions committed by human beings. We commit positive and negative actions called virtuous karma and evil karma respectively. If we wish to part with suffering and attain happiness and blessings, then we have to eradicate our evil karma and make every effort to perform virtuous karma instead.

Regardless of virtuous or evil karma, they are all created by the actions of our body, speech and mind. These are called the Three Karmas – body karma, speech karma and mind karma. When we are virtuous in our actions, speech and thoughts, then we are virtuous in the Three Karmas, otherwise we are evil in the Three Karmas. If we wish to detach from the virtuous and evil karmas, and cultivate the pure karma, which of the Three Karmas should we begin with?

According to the sutra there was a king who asked Buddha which of the Three Karmas is most important.

Buddha replied, “The mind karma is most important, followed by the speech karma.”

The king asked, “Why is this so?”

Buddha answered, “All the actions of human beings originate from his mind, followed by his words and eventually resulting in actions such as the taking of lives, stealing or sexual misconduct which are either committed by themselves or by other parties. All of people’s offences and karmas are committed concurrently in this manner. A person’s karmas go with him when he dies. Yet, although his body and tongue are still intact when he dies, he can neither talk nor move. Why is this so? Because, when a person dies, his mind consciousness leaves his physical body and is no longer there to direct his tongue or his body. We know from this that the mind is the principal architect. Therefore, we have to cultivate the mind first. When the mind is pure, then all the Three Karmas will be pure.”

On hearing this, the king replied, “World-honoured One. I understand now.”

Buddha gave another example, “The human mind is like the grass or wood drifting in the river. They drift individually. They do not look at each other; those in front do not care about those who are behind and vice versa. It is the same with the human mind. One thought arises and another ceases, much like the grass or wood drifting in the river. They do not care for each other and they just flow with the current.”

We can see that what Buddha said proves the existence of the sentient being in the human mind and the difficulty in subduing our thoughts. Therefore, I constantly advise all the cultivators of the world that:

To cultivate our actions is not as good as to cultivate the body,
To cultivate the body is not as good as to cultivate the mind,
To cultivate the mind is not as good as non-arising of the mind.

When a cultivator maintains the stage where illusory and distracting thoughts no longer arise, then all his endeavours will be very smooth.

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre