The Central Practices of the Ten Dharma Realms

The tenth dharma realm: The “hell”/bottom realm. Central practice: Present Moment Awareness/Counting Exhalations to cultivate happiness as the antidote to the unhappiness that leads to the lowest dharma realm.

The ninth dharma realm: The realm of hungry ghosts. Central practice: Loving Kindness/metta to cultivate goodwill as the antidote to ill will that leads to this realm.

The eighth dharma realm: The realm of animals. Central practice: Silent Present Moment Awareness/shikantaza. (I am listening: Speak!). To this we add the daily practice of charitable giving as the antidote to greed that leads to animality.

The seventh dharma realm: The realm of asuras/fighting titans/gods of strife. Central practice: Mindfulness of the body to cultivate peace as the antidote to aggression and struggle.

The sixth dharma realm: The realm of humans. Central practice: Mindfulness of Feelings as the antidote to the five hindrances of sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and anxiety, and doubt. To Mindfulness of Feelings we add practice of the Ten Cardinal Precepts.

The fifth dharma realm: The realm of the gods of the six lower realms/worlds. Central practice: Mindfulness of the Mind/the jhanas as the antidote to the desire to remain in the desire realm. To Mindfulness of the Mind we add Buddha Name Recitation.

The fourth dharma realm: The realm of the Arahants (Pali) or Arhats (Sanskrit). Central practice: Mindfulness of mind objects/the immaterial attainments as the antidote to the desire to remain in the world of form, the fine-material realm (the sixth fetter).

The third dharma realm: The Pratyeka Buddhas. Central practice: Applying the super power mindfulness developed by the above steps to the doctrine of dependent arising/the twelve Nidanas as the antidote to the desire to remain in the formless world (the seventh fetter).

The second dharma realm: The Bodhisattvas. Central practice: Applying the super power mindfulness developed by the above steps to Zen koans as the antidote to conceit, restlessness, and ignorance (the eighth, ninth, and tenth fetters, respectively).

The first dharma realm: The Buddhas. Central practice: Teaching. Returning to the marketplace refers to what an awakened Master does. Instead of spending all of his or her time on a meditation mat, removed from society, an awakened Master teaches the Buddhadharma.

How To Practice Zen