As I sat and listened [to Ajahn Mun], I reflected that this teaching conformed with the eight ways for measuring the true teaching of the Buddha: any teaching that speaks of the diminishing of defilements [imperfections]; which leads out of suffering; which speaks of renunciation (of sensual pleasures); of contentment with little; of humility and disinterest in rank and status; of aloofness [non-clinging] and seclusion; of diligent effort; of being easy to maintain – these eight qualities are characteristics of the true Dhamma-Vinaya, the teaching of the Buddha. Anything in contradiction to these is not.
- from Understanding Vinaya in The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah
(available for free download here: http://fsbooks.org/viewBook.php?id=50&ref=vec)
In the quote above, Venerable Ajahn Chah describes his experience listening to one of his teachers, Ajahn Mun. He enumerates eight ways in which we can discern whether something is in accord with the Buddha’s teachings, and the first of these criteria is: does this help or encourage us to diminish the defilements? And the second to last criterion is: does it encourage “diligent effort”? Diligence is the direct remedy for negligence, the last item on our list of the defilements.
Most people, when they think of the teachings of the Buddha, start and finish with the image of a person sitting cross-legged in meditation. But how can one sit peacefully in meditation if there is no skill in recognizing and overcoming the defilements in our minds? The first priority in learning how to tame the mind is to work directly with the defilements as they come up, both in sitting meditation and in our “walking around” life.
So whether we are interested in sitting meditation or not, the Buddha’s teachings on mind-training are available to us. If we actually try to work with the imperfections in our minds, we are both clearing unwholesome states out of our hearts, and laying the groundwork for a sitting practice, if we so choose. Anyone who sincerely undertakes the practice of working with the defilements will quickly experience the benefits, both internally and interpersonally. By gradually coming to understand our own minds better, we can deepen our understanding of others, and of how the world works.