Believe it or not, at one point in my life many years ago, I was an intensely dedicated body builder. And one of the most important aspects I learned about proper training was to breathe correctly. Getting a good supply of oxygen into the body and therefore the muscle, is critical to achieving the maximum benefit to every exercise. The goal in body building is of course to increase your strength, size, stamina and perhaps quite often, our ego.
In the Buddhist training regimen, the aim is quite different, and of course includes the elimination of the ego. But developing strength and stamina is what would be called saddha (conviction) in the Buddhist vernacular. But most importantly, the breath is the foundation of the practice. It lies at the core of our training, and without which we can accomplish nothing. Call it the foundation of our training.
I find the word training to be ideally suited to what we do in this practice. We train to develop our minds, to become increasingly present and aware, and to begin to understand more clearly the realities of life. With understanding comes wisdom, acceptance, patience and virtue. A strength if you will, that eliminates that which is useless for more wholesome goodwill and loving-kindness. Perhaps a loving-kindness that blossoms into living-kindness once fully developed.
Most recently I have been doing a great deal of research about the eight precepts. For many years now, I have simply accepted what I had heard about them as the Eight Lifetime Precepts. But these eight lifetime precepts seem to be something that Bhante “G” wrote up many years ago for lay practitioners. They are not something that the Buddha especially taught directly in the Tripitaka. With the closest sutta that I can find being the Visakhuposatha Sutta. The basic idea is the same, but it is not stated as precepts nor for a lifetime. The Buddha simply states that when undertaken with its eight component practices, entered on, is of great fruit, great advantage, great splendor and great range.
The Buddha does not say it is necessary, required, nor for a lifetime. Only that what results can then be seen through training and practice. The keyword I believe is practice, and practice means every single day, and every breath. From my perspective it is not something we should do once a year, or only on full moons and the like. Which is not to say that it is unwholesome to have a special observance of the precepts at certain times of the year, but to do so with a deeper understanding of what the Buddha taught.
With so many wonderful teachers available to each of us, I think that sometimes it becomes easy to forget the source of this wisdom (panna). And while I am immensely grateful for all of the teachers in my life, I find it highly beneficial to remember to return often to the man himself as my personal trainer.