(Skeletor has stressful days too…)
Speaking from my limited, personal experience as a carbon blob on this pale blue dot, a person can be good at meditation and still be mean, selfish or arrogant person. Such a person sees meditation as a tool to relax to be happy. Their concern is still entirely selfish, and that selfishness will “color” their actions.
First, one must have kindness. Do not practice meditation out of curiosity, to gratify desire for limitless sensual pleasures, to extend one’s longevity, or to activate supermundane powers in order to get revenge. Rather one should be motivated by kind thoughts and want to practice meditation for the benefit and happiness of sentient beings. With kindness, one will have a gentle heart and can easily succeed in one’s practice….Second, one must receive and keep the pure precepts (the Ten Good Deeds, etc) with virtuous conduct, both physical and verbal. If one acts improperly, then practicing meditation will attract demons and evil.
A person might scoff at this, but haters gonna hate…
Just kidding. Seriously though, what Yin-Shun is trying to say is that if one’s lifestyle is unbalanced, meditation won’t fix this. It might even worsen the problem. Same goes with esoteric Buddhist practices too.
The Buddha, like a good doctor, prescribed a balanced approach:
It’s fun to focus on practice, because people expect results. Conduct is boring, it grates against habits we have (i.e. drinking alcohol, killing spiders), and the payoff doesn’t happen right away. But the Buddha taught that conduct was the foundation for the Buddhist lifestyle. For example the first lines of the famous Metta Sutta are:
This is to be done by one skilled in aims who wants to break through to the state of peace: Be capable, upright, and straightforward, easy to instruct, gentle, and not conceited, content and easy to support, with few duties, living lightly, with peaceful faculties, masterful, modest, and no greed for supporters. Do not do the slightest thing that the wise would later censure.
In modern times, the Buddhist teacher Thannisaro Bhikkhu wrote about the healing power of good conduct:
The Buddha’s path consisted not only of mindfulness, concentration, and insight practices, but also of virtue, beginning with the five precepts. In fact, the precepts constitute the first step in the path. There is a tendency in the West to dismiss the five precepts as Sunday-school rules bound to old cultural norms that no longer apply to our modern society, but this misses the role that the Buddha intended for them: They are part of a course of therapy for wounded minds. In particular, they are aimed at curing two ailments that underlie low self-esteem: regret and denial.
Still, people might bristle at the idea of following good conduct, but if you want to get the most out of the Buddha’s teachings, it’s the best place to start, even before meditation.