The world is full of hatred and misery. But the cause of misery is ignorance; and, therefore, the direct remedy for ignorance is knowledge — the knowledge of the ultimate truth or prajna. Only when this is realised can ignorance be permanently eradicated. But prajna can’t be realised until there is a stable and one-pointed mind, settled and under command.
This stability of the mind (samadhi) can be brought about through sustained practice of meditation on one subject. At the same time, an orderly mind is necessary for the effective practice of meditation.
However, to achieve a qualified samadhi, we must also have acquired, before and during our meditation practice, good conduct and high moral standards.
These perfections make up sila. The three — sila, samadhi and prajna — according to the teachings of the Buddha, are interdependent. Samadhi is related to sila, as it puts the activities of the body and the tongue in order. Only when samadhi has been achieved can we reach deeply into the reality of phenomena and realise wisdom (prajna).
Sila is like a body. For example, if we cut down a tree, we need a sharp axe.
We also need a strong body and hands or else we won’t be able to cut the tree. Sila may be likened to a healthy body, samadhi to the strong hand, and prajna to the sharp axe. If they act together, the tree of ignorance can be cut down.
But shall we be able to do all these by leading a normal life? It is unlikely that any of us will be able to give up our social obligations and escape from the world. That would be cowardice.
What to do then? Let me suggest that you draw up a plan and strictly adhere to it. Whatever your action, it should be centred around the practice of sila, samadhi and prajna. The point is that anyone who is aware of what he is doing, whether it is in order or not, lives a disciplined life. This discipline is sila.
(Edited extracts from Buddhist Meditation, Wisdom Tree)