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Ask A Buddhist: Daily Practice

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By Ven. Thubten Chonyi

What is the daily practice routine of a Tibetan Buddhist?

Every Tibetan Buddhist you ask will describe a different practice routine based on personal circumstances. Monks and nuns have more time for practice than lay practitioners. Buddhists with young families generally have less time than retired practitioners. Fortunately, Buddhist practice is adaptable to every situation. Furthermore, the more Buddhists train in formal practice, the better able they are to bring their spiritual ideals into daily life.

Ideally a typical Tibetan Buddhist practice might look like this:

First thing before getting out of bed, we take refuge in the Three Jewels—the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha—and set a virtuous motivation for the day. Then we make three bows to the Three Jewels.

Most Tibetan Buddhists also begin their day by making offerings on their altar. It’s a practice of generosity whereby we show our appreciation to our spiritual guides and the Three Jewels.

Morning is the ideal time for meditation practice, since that’s when the mind is fresh and clear. The meditation session could be 15 minutes or two hours. We begin by setting our motivation, followed by concentration meditation where we focus on the breath or a visualized image of the Buddha.

What comes after that will be unique to every meditator, depending on a teacher’s recommendation or on personal preference. There’s a huge variety of reflections, prayers, meditations, and visualizations in Tibetan Buddhism. All are designed to deepen love and compassion for all beings, and to gain insight into the nature of reality

We conclude morning meditation with an aspiration to maintain our Buddhist values throughout the day: to act ethically and refrain from harming anyone, to help wherever we can, and to generate a mind that aspires to become a Buddha ourselves so that we can be of maximum benefit to all beings.

Buddhists train to bring our spiritual practice into all aspects of our life—family, work, and leisure—so we cultivate mindfulness of our values and precepts and apply introspective awareness that monitors our thoughts, words, and deeds. We try to be aware of the kindness of others and to reframe situations so that we don’t get angry when things don’t go the way we’d like them to. In that way, try to apply our Buddhist ideals into all of our activities during the day, not just the identifiably religious ones.

For example, my teacher, Ven. Thubten Chodron, has just published a new book, “The Compassionate Kitchen”, which describes how anyone—Buddhist or not—can transform the activities associated with food into rich spiritual practice.

At night, before we go to sleep, we review the day. Did we fulfill the aspirations we set in the morning? Where we did, we rejoice and determine to do it again tomorrow. Where we fell short, we purify our mistakes and determine to try again. Then, aware of our refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, we fall asleep with the wish that even our rest can be of benefit of to others.

Ven. Thubten Chonyi

About Ven. Thubten Chonyi

Ven. Thubten Chonyi is a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She has studied with Sravasti Abbey founder and abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron since 1996. She received novice ordination at the Abbey in 2008 and full ordination in 2011 in Taiwan. Ven. Chonyi regularly teaches Buddhism and meditation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane and other local locations.

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