Ethics, Samadhi and Wisdom
Hello everyone, this is today’s Dharma Espresso on Ethics, Samadhi, and Wisdom.
In Buddhism, what we need to know first are the Three Non-Outflow Studies, or Ethics (Sila), Concentration (Samadhi), and Wisdom (Prajna). Non-Outflow means no more affliction, suffering, sadness, or the cycle of birth and death. There will be nothing to make us lose our merits. We lose our merits when we are sad, angry, unhappy, jealous, or when we hate. Therefore, the Three Non-Outflow Studies are the most basic lessons that I have taught many times. In this Dharma Espresso, I would like to review a few points for us to remember.
The Three Non-Outflow Studies include Ethics, Samadhi, and Wisdom. These three phases are very close and equivalent to the techniques, the art, and the Tao, which are the three stages of our evolvement in life that I have often mentioned.
Everything we do has to start from the techniques until we are used to it. Once we’re proficient in what we do, then it becomes the art. When we master it, we attain the Tao. When we have reached the Tao, we can extend it to all aspects of our daily life. For beginning cultivators, Ethics are the rules and regulations to follow. Samadhi is the peace of mind. Wisdom is the clarity of mind resulting from the peace of mind. That is the most popular meaning.
The Buddha once gave an example, “When you want to light a candle and there is too much wind, you use your hands to protect it. When you protect it from the front, the wind will come from behind; when you protect it from the back, the wind will blow from the side, when you protect it from the side, the wind will blow from below. How then do you handle it? You need to bring it inside the house and close the door to get away from the wind so the candle is not blown out. The closed room is like Ethics or regulations to prevent outside wind from blowing in. When there is wind, the candle flame always flickers. In a closed room, the flame is steady and it burns stronger, and brighter. That strength and brightness is Samadhi and Wisdom together. Samadhi is the calmness of the flame, Wisdom is the brightness or clarity; these two always go together.” That is the best example of the Three Non-Outflow Studies, the most basic principles of Buddhism that the Buddha himself taught us to cultivate.
When we study deeper, we will see that the example of the candle flame is like our innate wisdom. The flame has to be settled before it can shine better and brighter. If there is no flame, there is no light, so the first thing we need to do is to bring forth our Bodhi mind. Bringing forth the Bodhi mind requires a person to strike a match for the fire to flame up. Once the mind is made up, ethics follow. What is the definition of bringing forth the Bodhi mind? It is the resolve to have more mental clarity, because most sufferings in life are caused by the lack of mental clarity.
One woman asked me an interesting question, “Dear Master, how do I cultivate Ethics, Samadhi, and Wisdom when I am doing business in my own store?”
I told her,” Ethics are the rules and regulations. When you set up your shop, you need to know what products to sell, the sales process, and the market prices so you can set your prices accordingly, not too high and not too low. You should not be greedy. You need to arrange clear schedules and responsibilities for your employees. What are the consequences if they don’t do a good job? What are the rewards if they perform well? Everyone should be clear about their assigned jobs and follow a certain system. There should be weekly and monthly planning. How do you manage your expenses and income?”
When I asked that, she sat dumbfounded, then said, “Oh, really? I only go with the flow.”
I answered, “Oh, no, you need to set clear rules and regulations about your sales system and methods. Business is a system. You need to clearly define who will do what task? How is that task performed? Planning must be done a whole month or year in advance. You also need to know how certain products may change in the future. If you have a clear plan, you will not have problems later, and your business will run smoothly.
She then asked me, “After everything runs smoothly as planned, what will happen then?”
I answered, “We’ve talked about rules, a clear business system, the incoming and outgoing of store products, and inventory checks, etc. Now, we need to talk about Samadhi or Concentration. What is Samadhi? What is your goal of doing business?
She said, “I just want to be rich”.
I asked, “Between richness and happiness, which would you chose?”
She replied, “I want to be both rich and happy”.
I said, “In that case, you have to understand that if you want happiness, you should be happy not only after selling a product, but while selling it too. Why should you be joyful when you do business? It’s because the buyers can feel your honesty. They feel that your price is right, that they can trust you and your product, which they can return later if it’s damaged, and that they can ask you if they have a problem. A successful business goes hand in hand with satisfying your customers, making them happy, and building their trust so they want to do business with you in the long run. Why do they come back to your store? Because they feel that you are nice, sweet, and trustworthy.”
For your customers, when you bring joy, faith, and trust to them, it is called Samadhi. For your employees, you follow your system and treat them fairly. In doing so, you can spread joy to both your employees and your customers.
In Buddhism, Samadhi meditation joy is often mentioned. What does that mean? Meditation always creates joy. When you are happy doing business, that means you are doing very well. When you are happy because you can trick a customer into buying an overpriced product, it is not true happiness from Samadhi. The joy from Samadhi comes when both the seller and the buyer are happy, and everyone in the store is also happy.
When your products are reasonably priced, your customers trust you like a friend and feel they can talk to you about anything, you’ve attained Samadhi. If we are greedy and always wanting more, it is not Samadhi. When you spread trust and happiness to the buyers, you are cultivating Samadhi while doing your business and running your store. Can you see how wonderful that is? Samadhi is not just sitting quietly in one place. Samadhi is when we do business not to get rich but to always feel happy, gentle, and peaceful each minute, each second, when we meet our associates or our customers. In so doing, you won’t lose your merits and won’t have afflictions.
The third one is Wisdom. What is Wisdom? Wisdom is the spreading of joy and light from our heart. That means we need to create a culture of trust and joy for the customers. We also create an environment of predictability, which is easy for the employees to understand, so they all know that we are predictable and can be trusted. We don’t keep changing procedures and plans daily. When we have a system and a clear philosophy of life, we automatically create that culture. If our store is like that, naturally the neighboring stores will imitate our way, since they notice how busy our store has grown; then the next store will also follow suit. Gradually, the whole market will follow too, starting with a culture of living in joy and happiness, with trust and honesty.
When we do business, we don’t just sell products, but actually share our joy with those who come to us. When we finish talking and look at everything like in a movie, our interaction with others is really interesting. Whether we are a customer or a seller, we can see clearly that life is for sharing joy, happiness, and honesty with each other. Therefore, we need to cultivate Ethics, Samadhi, and Wisdom while doing business. Wisdom is creating a culture of trust, joy, and honesty. We don’t need to lie.
We can cultivate Ethics, Samadhi, and Wisdom from setting up our business system to interacting with employees and customers, to creating a business culture, and to developing a market. Those who live around us will see the value of spreading trust, joy, and honesty. That is propagating the Dharma right in our daily life.
Today, I talked about Ethics, Samadhi, and Wisdom while doing business. Next time, I will talk about a different field.
Thank you for listening. I wish you all a happy and invigorating day.
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)