Daily Buddhist Practice
Lecture No. 15, 8th April 2000

Author: Venerable Dhammasami,
Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre, London.

Daily Buddhist Practice

        This topic can be explained in two ways: what Buddhist should do daily or what they actually do to practise their religion in daily life.

        I shall be focussing on both briefly.

What a Buddhist should do in daily life?

Devotional activities


Religious acts through social work

        Devotional activities are to develop devotion and confidence in the Buddha. Devotion must be developed; it does not come automatically just by professing a Buddhist. Devotion in the Buddha will increase only once we learn more of him. We can recite the stanzas everyday mindfully knowing their meaning. Offering flowers, candles and food to the statue of the Buddha with the living Buddha in our mind can be a very good practice. We have to know the message behind each offering. For example, light symbolises wisdom of the Buddha and we are reminded of his wisdom, to follow his footstep whenever we see light offered to him. Or it will become a mere ritual which the Buddha went against.

        Flowers symbolise his goodness in words, deeds and thoughts. As flowers are dear to people, making them happy, confident and reputed in society, the Buddha has been known to us through his morality. We should be inspired by the example of flowers and become motivated. This is the way to cultivate devotion that can strengthen our determination to practise. This is just to give you some thoughts on devotion development.

        Contemplation is to make use of our mind more effectively and deepen our understanding of nature. While reciting a stanza or looking a flower you offer to the Buddha, you may contemplate on his morality, and at the same time the impermanence of flowers that our physical body is likened. Flowers fade away gradually, so does our physical strength and beauty. Gradual contemplation leads us to accepting the nature of being impermanent and not to feel upset about the reality. Contemplation includes meditation practice. Meditation on daily basis, no matter how short you do at the beginning, is essential to become a good Buddhist.

        We can read Holy Scriptures, like Dhammapada trying to discover the wisdom of the Buddha in them. Devotional aspect is as much important as contemplation. Contemplation makes sure we go the right way, while devotion gives strength in times of difficulty. A mother's devotion to her child is what makes her go through all the hectic life of a mother. She enjoys it. With devotion, we enjoy more of having to contemplate.

        Social work through Buddhist practice is like observing precepts not to hurt, harm, kill etc. It is good to repeat this on daily basis to remind ourselves what a human can do to each other and what we can be best.

        Sharing is another thing; sharing what we have with others, like money, other material things, time, knowledge, and peace of mind. People often offer alms to the Sangha, and the latter in turn share with them the teaching. Giving donation to charity is a good one, even sharing among family members is considered not only a social duty but a religious one as well (for more please read the Discourse on Blessings).

What do Buddhists do in their daily life

        Regarding the second definition, what do Buddhists do in their daily life is a tricky question. The answer is as varied as individuals.

        Some recite some pieces of scripture everyday. It is not a prayer though. Prayer in a sense of asking for something from the Buddha is not a correct practice. The Buddha is not God and he does not believe in it. We have to depend on ourselves.

        Offering food, flower, and light to the Buddha image is a common practice to all Buddhist traditions. Many reaffirm their taking refuge in the Triple Gems (Buddha, his teaching and Noble Disciple).

        At least most of them bow down in front of the Buddha image on daily basis at home or in a nearby temple to dedicate their mind towards spiritual aspect of life. This is to develop humbleness in our heart.

        For those advanced, of course, Buddhist practice is everywhere since it means mindfulness. It can be there when you are driving or working at home or office. Mindfulness gives us to see the danger of anger, harsh words, wrong motivation in life, bad associates etc. and provides us a chance to develop and renew loving-kindness, compassion and understanding as days go by.

        For ordained ones like monks and nuns, daily practice is more intensive and in some cases different from laity's.


Related articles for further reading selected by the Course Organizer:

         A Buddhist Family in Burma, by U Kin Maung, 1958

        The Daily Routine of a Buddhist , Extracted from 'The Teachings of the Buddha', Basic Level, 1998.

(Next Week: "Taking the Three Refuges and Precepts")

(14 Previous Lectures)

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