Updated: Aug 26
The previous article introduced The Six Paramitas as six virtues that help us to cultivate our mind. The mind is the root of all our actions; therefore, sharpening the mind will improve our performance on anything and everything we do. Practicing The Six Paramitas will not only increase our productivity, but also improve our happiness, serenity, and success.
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Here is a quick review of The Six Paramitas:
1: Giving is about letting go of our attachment to self and expanding our hearts. Giving brings us happiness and peace of mind. According to karma, those who give will in return receive.
2: Precepts is about following rules and instructions. It is a form of respect, and we gain reap benefits intended by the rule makers.
3: Endurance is about persevering through difficulties and overcoming negative emotions. As the Buddha said, "The success of everything depends on endurance."
4: Diligence is about constant improvement, especially in our virtues, but also in our work.
5: Concentration is about being focused on whatever we are doing. It also means being fixed on the Six Paramitas and never forgetting to practice them in daily life.
6: Wisdom encompasses rationality and clarity of mind to differentiate good from bad, right from wrong, and benefit from harm. We all have inner wisdom that can flow out if we can get rid of mental afflictions and practice the previous five paramitas.
This article will showcase real life stories of how to practice The Six Paramitas. Since Venerable Jing Kong is the person whom I learned The Six Paramitas from, it is only suitable that I share stories of his role modeling. Of course, I also need to walk my talk, so I will share my experience practicing The Six Paramitas as well.
Here is a table of contents to help you navigate this article:
Venerable Jing Kong's Role Modeling
How Venerable Jing Kong Role Models The Six Paramitas
Venerable Jing Kong not only preached The Six Paramitas, he also walked the talk. There are many examples and stories in the book The Old Monk's Role Modeling (the book can be found here, but it is in Chinese), and I will share some below.
Venerable Jing Kong taught us "Think of others with your every thought", and he really practiced this.
Example 1: Walk or Drive?
One time, while he was giving a lecture, it started raining heavily outside. Hence, a driver was sent to pick him up. Venerable Jing Kong's lecture went over time, and by the time he exited the building, the rain had stopped. He only needed to walk 10 minutes or so to reach his next destination, so his attendant asked him, "Master, do we walk or take the car?"
Venerable Jing Kong looked at the driver in the car, smiled, and said, "Sorry, I made you wait so long. Let's take the car."
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He really didn't need to take the car, but he didn't want the driver to feel like he waited for no reason, hence he took the car.
Example 2: Looking down while walking
His kindness is not only for people, but towards all living beings. When walking in nature, Venerable Jing Kong always looks downwards. A student asked him why. He explained that there are a lot of bugs on the ground, and he wants to avoid stepping on them and accidentally hurting or killing them.
Example 3: Three Treasures Hospital
When Venerable Jing Kong practices giving, he really lets go of "I". One time, the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand invited Venerable Jing Kong for dinner, so he and some students went. During the dinner, the Deputy Prime Minister had to leave briefly, so his wife was talking to them. She mentioned that she's going to go on TV in a few days to sing. One of Venerable Jing Kong's students felt confused about why the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister would sing on TV and asked the reason.
She explained, "There are a lot of monks in the outskirts of Thailand, and it's very difficult for them to access hospital care. Hence, my husband and I want to raise money to build a hospital for them. It's going to be the Prince's 50th birthday soon, so maybe this can be a way to commemorate his birthday. Unfortunately, we're still short on funds, so I'm singing on TV to raise money."
Venerable Jing Kong replied, "Building a hospital is a great act of kindness. It is a pity that you're lacking money. How much money do you lack?"
She wasn't sure, so she got the person in charge of the project to come and explain the situation. That person said they are lacking about two million American dollars.
Venerable Jing Kong said, "This is such an important project. How about I chip in the final two million?"
His student was shocked and quietly said to him, "Master, it's American dollars, not Thai Baht."
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In other words, Venerable Jing Kong didn't hesitate to give to an important cause. But we don't need to worry, Venerable Jing Kong is not an irresponsible or rash person. He has lots of connections to wealthy people who would love to donate to a good cause. Within four days, he amassed two million American dollars and donated it towards the hospital. Afterwards, he never asked about it again.
Many years later, the hospital was completed, and they invited Venerable Jing Kong to attend the opening ceremony. Venerable Jing Kong had to take a military plane from Bangkok over to the hospital because it was in such a remote area. In fact, the hospital would serve not just Thailand's monks, but also monks from bordering countries.
Later, Venerable Jing Kong returned to his usual residence and told a student, "Not good, not good. They called the hospital 'Jing Kong Hospital'. They shouldn't name the hospital after a person. Please tell them to change it. I suggest calling it 'Three Treasures Hospital.'"
(Note: Buddhism has something called "The Three Treasures", which are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Another version of The Three Treasures is enlightenment, proper teachings, and purity of mind.)
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From this story, we can see that Venerable Jing Kong not only does not hesitate to give to an important cause, but he doesn't attach to "I" when giving. After he donated the money, he let go of the whole thing. He didn't keep thinking about how great he is or have any demands towards the project. When he found out they named the hospital after him, he didn't even want the name. He wanted people to be grateful to Buddhism, not to him, so he urged them to change the name. This is a great example of letting go of "I" through the paramita of giving.
Venerable Jing Kong often quotes this line from the Brahmajala Sutra:
"Don't be a country's thief. Don't slander the country's leaders. Don't evade the country's taxes. Don't break the country's laws."
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Example 1: Public Events
One time, he heard that a group of people wanted to host a Buddhist event where a lot of Buddhists walk around the city wall. When he heard this, he told them to not do it because it's against government law to host religious events in the public. Buddhists should be role models for society, and that means being law-abiding citizens.
Example 2: Airplane Ride
Even in small matters, Venerable Jing Kong is very conscientious about following rules and order. His book shelf and table are always extremely neat and tidy despite having so many books. When flying on an airplane, most people will unbuckle their seatbelts as soon as the plane slows down, even though the seatbelt sign is still on. Venerable Jing Kong will wait until the seatbelt sign is off before unbuckling his seatbelt.
Example 3: Yielding to the Government
Another time, Venerable Jing Kong went to the United Nations Peace Conference to share his ideals on how the virtuous education of traditional Chinese culture can bring world peace. The leaders there basically said, "Your ideals are great but not doable."
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He was shocked and realized that the biggest crisis right now is a lack of belief in virtuous teachings. Hence, he partnered with the government in his hometown, Lujiang, to set up a traditional Chinese culture education center to teach all the city's citizens about morality and virtues. Within a few months, the city's divorce rate and crime rate dropped significantly. After a year or so, the only people who still got divorced were the people who traveled outside of the city for work, meaning they didn't attend the classes held by the education center.
The United Nations sent many leaders from various countries to come and audit this city, and everyone was thoroughly impressed.
All of the education centers' staff members felt extremely proud and happy of their great accomplishment. But within a few years, the government of Lujiang asked them to shut down the center. Everyone was shocked and disheartened. They didn't understand why the government would shut down such a great thing. Was it because it was attracting too much attention? No one knew.
But Venerable Jing Kong said, "This great deed is not the merit of me, you, or any of us. It is the merit of the Buddhas and our ancestors. Now, the government has ordered us to shut it down. We don't fight the government."
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From this story, we can see how respectful Venerable Jing Kong is towards rules and order, and the foundation for his second paramita of precepts is in letting go of "I". Although he did such an amazing deed for the United Nations, he didn't attach to it. He was able to let it go when the government ordered for it to shut down.
Venerable Jing Kong's endurance is one of the main traits that everyone admires him for. He never gets angry or upset, even at what would be unbearable for most people.
Example 1: Unreasonable demands
His benefactor, Mrs. Han, has a very bad temper. But she is the person who provides him with monetary support, otherwise he'd have no place to stay and no place to lecture on Buddhism, hence he only thinks of her gratitude and never complains about her.
Mrs. Han often picked on him purposefully, perhaps because she wanted to test Venerable Jing Kong's endurance. She would buy him clothing that didn't fit or ask him to do seemingly unreasonable things. Venerable Jing Kong always complied and said, "Yes." His student commented that Venerable Jing Kong seemed to have an un-movable calmness.
Example 2: Rude Anger
One time, he was lecturing, when suddenly, Mrs. Han stormed in, pointed at him, and shouted, "You come down here!"
He calmly came down from stage and listened to Ms. Han rant about how his student disrespected her. The thing is, Venerable Jing Kong didn't get to choose his students. These students are all people that Mrs. Han forced him to accept. Despite this, he bowed and said to Mrs. Han, "Sorry, I didn't teach my student well."
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Mrs. Han didn't have anything left to say. Then he calmly returned to stage and continued lecturing as if nothing had happened.
Example 3: Wrongful Slander
Before Venerable Jing Kong's teacher passed away, he gave him a book called The Infinite Life Sutra, but it was a new compilation of an old Buddhist text. He received a lot of criticism from around the whole world for promoting this book. Most of these criticisms had logical flaws, but Venerable Jing Kong endured the unfair criticism for years.
At the peak of the criticism, people were saying "Bring down Venerable Jing Kong!", to which he replied, "It's OK to bring down Venerable Jing Kong. Just don't bring down the newly compiled Infinite Life Sutra."
He also said, "If these people truly understood, they wouldn't oppose the book. It's because my virtues aren't good enough, so they actually are opposing me, not the book."
He even said, "I trust my teacher. Even if the whole world goes against this book, I will promote it until my death. I'd rather set an example of being respectful to my teacher than to go against my teacher's teachings just because others criticize me."
In 2013, a book came out that proved this new compilation of The Infinite Life Sutra is correct and proper, and everyone came to greatly admire and respect Venerable Jing Kong for enduring all those years of unfair criticism without the slightest anger or upset. Because Venerable Jing Kong endured so many years of unfair criticism, his prestige and influence soared after being proven correct.
Example 1: Work
One of Venerable Jing Kong's teachers told him to learn from Shakyamuni Buddha, and he learned that the Buddha was a selfless educator who taught class every single day of the year for 40 years. Venerable Jing Kong followed this role modeling, and he himself taught class every single day of the year for over 60 years. Talk about diligence! No one in Buddhism history has done such a feat, and who knows if anyone in the future will be able to.
Example 2: Long-Distance Travel
In his later years, he often flew around the world to give talks. Sometimes, the plane ride would be over twenty hours. If you factor in travel time to and from the airport, the whole trip would be well over thirty hours. During these trips, most people would be sleeping or watching movies. However, Venerable Jing Kong would be diligently studying.
One time, he listened to a 7-hour audiobook three times while on a trip to another country. He doesn't waste a single minute of his life.
Example 1: Lecturing
Anyone who has watched Venerable Jing Kong's lectures knows that he is very stable and calm when speaking. He often has noticeable pauses in his speech, and one reason is to help the listener calm down and absorb what he had just said. He never rushes, stutters, or says filler words like "um" when talking. He is clearly very concentrated and calm when speaking, and that energy can help his listeners calm down and concentrate.
Example 2: Every Movement
Outside of class, Venerable Jing Kong's every movement is also extremely calm and serene. He never rushes or accidently hurts himself because his mind is always stable. When a sudden situation arises, his students get nervous and spring into action. Venerable Jing Kong then tells them, "Slow down. Slow down."
Example 3: Influencing Others' Energy
One time, he and ten of his students were waiting for Mrs. Han. They were on the fourth floor, and Mrs. Han was on an upper floor talking to the owner of the building about matters related to their residence. It was lunch time, and his students were hungry. But his students saw him waiting there calmly and silently, so they didn't dare to say anything. They just waited there with him.
Slowly, they calmed down, and their hunger faded. After an hour and a half, Mrs. Han finally came down, and they had lunch. Venerable Jing Kong's strong concentration was able to influence his students to calm down and no longer feel hungry.
As mentioned before, our inner wisdom arises from a pure and concentrated mind. This wisdom does not require us to analyze or think. It flows out naturally.
One of Venerable Jing Kong's students said that Venerable Jing Kong's mind is like a drum. When you strike a drum lightly (ask a small question), you get a small response. When you strike the drum strongly (ask a big question), you get a big response.
When you don't strike the drum (don't ask a question), the drum is silent (his mind is empty and pure). He's never seen Venerable Jing Kong say, "Oh that's a good question. Let me think about it…" Venerable Jing Kong is always able to answer promptly and with wisdom.
Example 1: World Peace
The people at the United Nations asked Venerable Jing Kong for advice regarding world peace. They were trying to tackle this problem from the angles of government, economics, technology, and military. But Venerable Jing Kong said, "When our body gets sick, we need to cure the cause of the illness, not just treat the symptoms. The root of world peace is in the family."
All of them were surprised and confused. How is family interactions related to world peace? Venerable Jing Kong explained, "A family to the society is like a cell to the body. If the cells get sick, the body will get sick. If people cannot get along harmoniously with their family, who are supposed to be the closest people to them, who have the greatest gratitude to them, then how can they get along with others when they go into society? If they have lots of conflict in their family interactions, then naturally they will have conflict with others outside the family."
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The United Nations leaders nodded in agreement. Then Venerable Jing Kong said, "But we can go deeper here. Why can't people get along with their family members? Because the world has neglected teaching morality and virtues, so people have become selfish."
This is just one example of Venerable Jing Kong's wisdom. While most people are trying to achieve world peace via government, economics, technology, or military, he saw that these only addressed the symptoms of the problem. The root of the problem lies in teaching people about morality and virtues so that people would be less selfish and more loving towards others. In the past, religious teachings were about morality and virtues. Now, they've become more about praying and superstition, which is a shame, and hence why Venerable Jing Kong is urging all religions to go back to morality education.
Example 2: Connecting The Dots Within and Outside of Buddhism
Within the various schools of Buddhism, there is sometimes conflict and misunderstandings, but Venerable Jing Kong is always able to connect the dots between different schools and show that there is in fact no conflict or contradiction.
Venerable Jing Kong also united all the religions in Singapore and Toowoomba, and a big factor to his success was his ability to connect the dots. To paraphrase his words:
"All the religions are the same at their core, which is love. We all believe our religion's creator is almighty, right? Well, in the past, transportation was not advanced. People lived their whole lives in a small village and never heard of other villages or countries. Every little group of human civilization had their own cultures. In order to help different civilizations, our almighty God had to manifest different forms to appeal to different cultures. In reality, all the religious creators are one entity, and all the religions are one family.
To give an analogy, we can imagine a hand. The core of all religions is the palm of the hand. From the palm springs out different forms and manifestations, which are the fingers. But the fingers and the palm are all one entity! If we are all one entity, why would we fight? If the right hand fought with the left hand, we'd think that person is crazy. We are all one entity, one family, so naturally we should mutually respect each other and get along harmoniously."
Venerable Jing Kong is also able to link Buddhism to the newest quantum physics reports even though he is not a quantum physicist. When he heard that quantum physicists kept splitting matter smaller and smaller, from atoms to electrons, to quark, to neutrinos, until finally there was nothing, he said that the Buddha knew this 2500 years ago. He connected the dots between the terminology used by quantum physicists to the terminology used by the Buddha.
All in all, Venerable Jing Kong's wisdom is not just an accumulation of knowledge. It is truly inner wisdom that flows out from a deeply concentrated and pure mind.
How I Practice The Six Paramitas
It's not enough for me to simply admire Venerable Jing Kong's practice of the Six Paramitas. I also need to practice it myself! Obviously, Venerable Jing Kong is at level 9000, and I'm probably at level 9. But I'm working on it!
I've been practicing Venerable Jing Kong's teaching: "Think of others with your every thought." In fact, I recently started to journal on it every day. I've come to realize that there are so many opportunities to practice this in a day. These are just some examples I recorded:
When cooking, I think of what my mom likes to eat. Even though I like my veggies to be crunchy, she likes them soft, so make it soft for her.
When working, sometimes my mom will interrupt me. Before, I would be annoyed. But now I remind myself to let go of "I" and listen to her attentively. I'm less annoyed, and she's happy. Win-win.
When my mom took my book without letting me know, instead of being annoyed, I told myself, "It's OK, our stuff is shared. It's good that she wants to read that book. I'll ask her about it later."
When my mom asks me to do chores even though I didn't plan to that day, I tell myself to let go of "I" and help out full-heartedly. After all, without my mom, I wouldn't have this great house to live in. I would feel a little bit uneasy if she did all the chores while I kept doing computer work.
When having meetings with other teachers, I remember to give them more encouragement and praise as opposed to just advice for improvement. Their smiles bring me smiles.
When attending class, I try to dress respectfully to set a good example for others as opposed to only wanting myself to feel comfortable.
When talking to people, I try to lighten my expression and give them a smile. I don't always remember, but I'm working on it!
I've always been pretty conscientious about following rules. I'm the type of person who looks at assignment instructions very carefully and follows every single step by the word. I'm also very careful about time, and I always make sure to arrive a few minutes early. When driving, I make sure to follow the speed limit and not care if others are speeding. When on a plane, I learned from Venerable Jing Kong to not undo my seatbelt until after the seatbelt sign switches off.
This is the paramita that I probably struggle with the most. I easily get upset at misunderstandings and annoyed towards other people's unreasonable or rude behavior. It's no wonder why I have so many blog posts about this paramita, such as:
In brief, the paramita of giving and letting go of "I" really helps with endurance. Annoyance and anger come from an attachment to "I". If we can focus on understanding the other person and on helping the other person, our negative emotions will naturally diminish.
In my experience, letting go of "I" might be a big jump, so a good stepping stone is to practice humility, which is viewing others as more important than myself. If we got in line at the same time as the leader of our country, we would naturally yield to him or her. Similarly, we can practice humility by viewing all others as more important than me, thus we put their needs above mine, which helps us to dampen the attachment to "I".
We can also remember that everyone is trying their best to do what they think is right. No one is trying to be wrong or stupid. Therefore, I shouldn't be so quick to judge others or be upset at them. Moreover, I need to be strict with myself and lenient towards others because I am the one trying to cultivate my virtues, not them. If I use my mind correctly, then my cultivation will rise. If I use my mind incorrectly, then my negative emotions will rise. Focus on cultivating myself rather than demanding others to be different.
Ever since I started learning ancient wisdom a few years ago, I've basically spent all my free time learning it. To me, it is extremely gratifying and enjoyable, so I naturally am diligent in my studies and cultivation. I've been keeping a cultivation journal for nearly two years now, and I've never missed a single day.
In my cultivation journal, I write about virtues that I cultivated and want to grow, as well as faults I committed and how to prevent it in the future. Sometimes at night, I'm very tired, and I lie down only to realize I forgot to do my journal entry. Then I get up, do it, and then go back to bed.
Although I don't lecture every day like Venerable Jing Kong, I write a blog post every week. Doing this has really helped me advance in my studies and cultivation.
I know that true diligence is not simply writing in my cultivation journal every day or posting a blog post every week, it's about actually correcting bad habits and improving relationships with others. I can confidently say that I've had improvement on both fronts, and I've reported a lot of my progress on my blog. However, the deeper we dig into our faults, the more we realize there's still a lot more work to do. Thus, the cultivation continues!
Ever since I was a student in school, I've been able to sit down and study for hours without getting up. Of course, it's important to take short breaks once in a while, otherwise it's bad for our eyes. But when I get really into something, I can really focus and even get into flow state sometimes.
In my experience, this ability came from years and years of practice. I cared a lot about my grades because my family is not well-off, and I wanted to attend a good university to get a good job and support my family. This intention of giving helped me to endure and concentrate on my studies. Nowadays, I write, and I am able to write for hours because of my previous years practicing concentration as a student.
In terms of meditative concentration, I am still quite weak. When I try to meditate, I have a ton of wandering thoughts. But I do find that after half an hour of meditating, my mind becomes calmer. I've also tried meditating for a whole day or even for three days. Again, I have tons of wandering thoughts, but I'm working on it.
Obviously, I don't have any inner wisdom flowing out like the Buddha or Venerable Jing Kong. The best I can do right now is to follow the wise teachings left behind by the ancient sages. I've compiled some principles for making wise decisions here.
The one teaching I use the most is this one from Liao Fan's Four Lessons:
"Do not just consider the present action, but also consider its side effects. Do not just consider immediate effects, but also consider the long-term effects. Do not just consider the effects on one person, but also consider the effects on the greater whole."
I gave many examples above in the precious article, so I won't give anymore here.
The other way I practice wisdom is to calm down before making decisions or replying other people's messages.
I can feel when my mind is agitated or annoyed or opposing the other person. When this happens, I stop myself from making a decision or replying a message. I might go do something else for a while or meditate. Once my mind has calmed down, I return to the matter and approach it with more detachment and logic.
I feel very fortunate to not only receive the wonderful teachings of The Six Paramitas from Venerable Jing Kong, but also to read stories of his real-life role modeling, which really adds color and substance to the theory. I'm still a beginner in all of this, but I can feel that The Six Paramitas will be useful for my whole life, and they are worthy of a lifetime's effort. How might you practice The Six Paramitas in your life?
Weekly Wisdom #251