These days I am offered plenty of opportunities to PRACTICE and do the work of living as a Buddhist. I have relocated to a new part of the country, started a new job, and am living in dorm-style company housing with a lot of new people.
I learn something new everyday. Often I quickly forget whatever I have learned and find myself relearning it the next day, over and over.
Mostly, I am working with the precepts. The Three Pure Precepts...The Five Layperson's Precepts...The Ten Mahayana Precepts. The book featured below is the one I am currently reading.
For me, on a minute by minute basis, the most difficult precept is Right Speech. Right speech means a lot of things. It means that the practitioner should try not to lie, try not to gossip, and try not to engage in idle conversation. This can also be phrased in a positive light...that we try to be honest and to say things which are helpful and useful.
Other aspects of this precept are that we should try not to speak of others' faults and mistakes. We should avoid blaming others. And we should avoid praising ourselves.
I never realized how difficult all these things were until I tried to get through a work day following the guidelines!
The guidelines are only that...guidelines. They are meant to help us create a world where beings can coexist peacefully. The precepts can be practiced by anyone of any religion.
The idea is to focus on our samenesses, not our differences.
Being kind, gentle, honest, helpful etc are all ways we can create an atmosphere of loving-kindness in our immediate environment.
Sometimes it is hard when the urge is to join a conversation and say things that make you "fit in" as part of the group, or to commiserate about a bad experience, or to lash out at someone whose negativity has disrupted the work place, and so forth.
Some things I am doing which may help others who are looking for ways to practice the precepts or simply to have a better daily experience (or which may prompt you to find your own methods):
*Whenever someone bugs me, I try to focus on his positive qualities. Granted, these are sometimes difficult to see, especially in the heat of the moment. But perhaps it is enough to say to yourself...this person is doing the best they can, perhaps they have never been taught another way of being/doing.
*I remind myself that everyone wants the same basic things...peace, happiness, food, shelter, love. We really do have more in common than not, regardless of religious beliefs or political ideologies.
*I remind myself that the goal is to create harmony, not to be right or to "win".
*I remind myself that I do not wish to do harm or add harm to a difficult situation.
Every day, I do not meet my own expectations. Sometimes (ok, often) I fail at the above. That is okay. The point is that we earnestly TRY. Every new moment is a new opportunity to do better.
I truly want to do whatever I can to make this world a better place for all beings, and so I will continue to work with the precepts!
I pray that my words may reach and inspire others to focus on making this world a better place for everyone!
I wish YOU peace and happiness!