Buddhist Practice in Everyday Life
By Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn

First Sunday of the Month of November ( 3 rd November, B.E. 2545), Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn, expert on religious comparative studies, Assumption university, was the guest speaker of the Buddhist Forum on "Buddhist Practice in Everyday Life." She began her talk with an example to show that the teachings of the Buddha hold tremendous sway over the hearts and minds of people in the West. She picked up the story of Tenzin Palmo, a Tibetan nun who was nee Diane Perry, daughter of a fishmonger from London's East End as written by Vicki Mackenzie. Diane Perry 's encounter with a group of Lamas who attended universities in England and disseminated Buddhist wisdom in the West encouraged her to search for truth as proclaimed by the Buddha. She cut herself off from the rest of the world including the idea of marriage and went to live in a remote cave 13,200 feet up in the Himalayas where she engaged in intense Buddhist Meditation for 12 years in order to attain enlightenment as a woman. In 1988, she was forced to break her silence to settle the issue of her overstays in India and could not go back to the cave. With a vision to build a convent dedicated to achieve spiritual excellence, Tenzin Palmo became a globetrotting fundraiser, talking to thousands of people from the fount of her profound wisdom. Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn also mentioned about Mr. Martin Seeger, the guest speaker for Buddhist Forum in October 2002. He was so deeply touched by the Dalai Lama 's loving kindness and infinite wisdom that he has engaged in research of Buddhism for his doctorate degree and once ordained as a Buddhist monk. According to Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn, Mr. Martin Seeger told his audience in a Dhamma talk at Samphraya temple," I cannot say that I have been unhappy or suffering. Nor am I so poor that I have no way out in my life, and yet I took the yellow robe, because knowledge of Buddhism has no meaning unless one has strong faith in the teachings of the Buddha and practices them."
With reference to what was said by Dr. Alan Lopez, former Director of the Buddhist Forum, "At our meetings in America, everyone seemed to have a different agenda and all brought with them their own particular brand of Buddhism", Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn pointed out that all who step into the Headquarters of the WFB are at various stages of learning and practicing Buddhism. She said that we might hold different views on what Buddhism is, but then again, this is part of becoming a Buddha or one who knows. One of the most revered monks in Thailand actually told her that the purpose of the Dhamma and its practice is to overcome suffering. The recognition that there is suffering, the understanding of what the causes of suffering are and how to arrive at the cessation of suffering through the eightfold noble path will lead to Nirvana. Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn said that from time to time understanding the Dhamma does not come through reading, experience can be conveyed through non-verbal means and images. The sight of a group of monks in their yellow robes with their lively chatter and smiling faces brought the speaker true happiness. The Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in a discourse entitled "the True Nature of Things" explained the significance of the four noble truths and the Eightfold noble path. The latter is a clear instruction of how to proceed in the practice of the Dhamma by keeping to the right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. The Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu was a great advocate of insight meditation. If one is to practice this successfully, one must, before one can gain insight into the true nature of things, learn to look into oneself. The Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu maintained that natural concentration is enough for such reflection, and it can be done any place, any time. In her experience, Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn can meditate in a crowded bus, standing in a long line or while doing chores like cooking or washing dishes. This requires the term "citta", as deep knowledge of psychology that characterizes Lord Buddha's teaching. Nina van Gorkom explains in her book, " Each citta that rises falls away immediately to be succeeded by the next citta. Cittas determine one's own life and the life of other people, they condition the actions one performs in life." It is important to understand one's cittas, because there are both unwholesome mental states and wholesome mental states that are the realities of daily life. Chief of all teachings or the heart of Buddhism is " Avoid evil, do good, purify the mind." It is easy enough to understand what it means to avoid evil and do good. Yet, how one can purify the mind. The Venerable Buddhadsa Bhikkhu explains thus: As long as the mind is not free from domination by things, it cannot be a clean, pure mind. Mental freedom must come from the most profound knowledge of " what is what." Basically, we human beings are subject to just two kinds of emotional states: liking or disliking. Liking has the characteristic of seizing on things and taking them over; disliking has the characteristic of pushing things away and getting rid of them. As long as these two kinds of emotional states exist, the mind is not yet free. When the mind has been purified of these two emotional reactions, it will become independent of things..
Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn ended her presentation by reading a poem entitled "Master Takes a Disciple" involving how to meditate to understand and see things as they are.
When the floor was open, Dr. Ekachai from Assumption University pointed out that the word Dhukkha is quite vague with the translation in English as suffering or misery. In Theri Khatha Suttantapitaka, a Bhikkhuní exclaimed when she was enlightened that nothing is happening, nothing is sustained and nothing is ceasing. Only Dhukkha is happening, Dhukkha is sustained and Dhukkha is ceasing. This keeps us the new insight for Dhukkha as anything up and down. He suggested another perspective of the Eightfold noble path that Buddha's way is the pathless path. For the four noble truths, we really do not need to complete it all. Once we realize anyone of these, we will complete the rest. He said the first two are quite important-Dhukkha and the cause of Dhukkha. He also said the keyword for practicing Buddhism in everyday life is self- monitoring. We have got to know by ourselves. His last point related to the question of not touching his wife at home to practice Sunyata. He quoted the Zen teaching:
" Follow no precepts
Do all the sins
Condemn the Buddha
Condemn the Dhamma
Condemn the Sangha
Unless you cannot go to Hell
You shall not be enlightened."
Dr. Suthira agreed with Dr. Ekachai 's viewpoint and said that once we become ready for something, we can do it.
Dr. Nantasarn Seesalab, WFB Hon Sec-Gen., asked how to harmonize all the sentient beings of different faiths with the principle of Buddhist practice in daily life in the global context. He also asked if it is necessary for some people who belong to other faiths to covert to Buddhism in order to practice Dhamma. Dr. Suthira Duangsamosorn answered from her own experience that once we come in touch with Buddhism and we want to learn, it probably means that our own religion could not give us much spiritual sustenance. From what she has read, she found that in Buddhism there is no conversion as such. All we have to do is taking refuge in the Buddha and his teaching saying Buddhang Saranang Ghajjami. It is one of the most marvelous religions that there is very little punishment. Buddhism is quite generous and Globalized. The Buddha actually started globalization by spreading the faith in Southeast Asia at that time and then to the West through various channels. Once we come to Buddhism and we like it, there is no need for conversion. It would be actually against the intention because we should realize by ourselves what it was. There would be no force.