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Fundamentals of Buddhism

MENTAL DEVELOPMENT
Our topic today is mental development. We are
going to look at the steps of the Noble Eightfold Path
that fall into the group known as mental development,
meditation or Samadhi. We have spoken about how the
steps of the path are interrelated and in this context it is
particularly interesting to understand the position of
mental development because standing as it is between
good conduct and wisdom it is relevant and important
for both of them. You may ask why this is the case. In
fact sometimes people have said to me regarding the
need for meditation: if one simply follows the moral
precepts, is that not sufficient to lead a moral life?
I think there are several answers to this question.
First of all, in Buddhism there is not only one goal.
Besides the goal of happiness and good fortune, there is
also the goal of freedom. If one wants to attain the goal
of freedom, the only way that can be achieved is
through wisdom. And in order to achieve wisdom one
has to purify the mind, develop the mind through
meditation. Even for the practice of good conduct, for
the observance of moral rules, mental development is
necessary. Why? Because it is relatively easy to follow
the rules of good conduct when things are going well. If
we have a good job, if we live in a stable society, if we
earn sufficiently to support ourselves and our families, it
is relatively easy to observe the precepts. But when we
find ourselves in circumstances of stress, of instability,
as for instance when we lose our job, when we find
ourselves in a situation where lawlessness prevails, this
is the point at which the observance of good conduct
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