There are many ways to put the teachings of the Buddha into practice. These are just some of the forms that are found in the Tendai school.
Meditation is at the core of Tendai practice. It is through different meditation, through cultivating concentration and insight, that we can work through karma, learn to think, speak and act with integrity and heart, and realize the true nature of reality. Meditation will help develop skills to be used in all aspects of life; mindfulness, wisdom and compassion.
Esoteric rituals serve multiple purposes in Buddhist practice. It provides the practitioner with a way of expressing qualities and realizations which are otherwise beyond conceptual perception, and thus impossible to communicate or relate to. These rituals allow the experienced practitioner an experiental realization of the unborn and the deathless – the unconditioned. In esoteric rituals body, speech and mind are engaged, thus serving to bridge the apparent gap between our conditioned efforts and the goal; the unconditioned.
Devotional practices are not well known in the West. Often practices like prostrations, chanting and devotional work are thought of as ‘cultural bagage’, easily dispensable in the cultivation of the Buddhist Path. However, these practices have been an integral part of Buddhism from the very start, and for good reasons. Devotional practices help develop faith, gratitude, happiness and other positive emotions, while strengthening equanimity and calm.
Everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking and gardening are part of the mindfulness training that takes place during retreats and other periods of intense practice. Learning to stay with the present, and to devote full attention to the task at hand, is a spiritual practice as valid as any practice that takes place on the cushion, and is at the same time an important Dana (generosity) practice.
Study and practice are both important features of the Path. While the true nature of reality must be realized directly, study of the traditional texts and the modern commentaries will support the process. How can you really put the teachings of the Buddha into practice if you don’t know the teachings? There is a long tradition in the Tendai school for scholarship, and while not all are scholars, we acknowledge the importance of at least some intellectual understanding on all levels of practice.