By Living Buddha Sheng-yen Lu
Translated by Janny Chow
Each time before doing the practice, one must first "purify the body." What does this mean? It is a kind of preliminary preparation for the actual practice itself, and many people know that it refers to "taking ablution and avoiding eating excessive and unnecessary food." "Taking ablution" means washing the body, and "avoiding eating excessive and unnecessary food" means eating a pure and simple meal. One's stomach should not be too full or too empty. If one does meditation right after a meal, the stomach will be so distended that it can cause the same kind of distraction as does a growling, empty stomach. So meditation should be done at a time when one is neither too full nor too hungry.
One should at least rinse the mouth, brush the teeth, and wash the hands. It is best, of course, to take a shower or bath. By cleansing the body and consuming only a simple meal, one is preparing oneself physically, emotionally, and mentally for the practice.
When one enters into the Tantric shrine, one's mind should be solemn, respectful, and restful. In other words, both the mind and body should be relatively relaxed. It is very important to be relaxed, but one should not be so relaxed that one is ready to take a nap at the shrine! On the other hand, if one comes directly from jogging or running and one's heart is still racing, when one sits down at the Tantric shrine to do meditation, it will be very hard for the mind to become quieted. Furthermore, if one has just had a heated argument with a family member, so that one's blood is still boiling and one's face is contorted in anger, it will be very difficult, under such circumstances, to achieve a quiet mind even if one goes to the Tantric shrine to attempt the practice. There are also situations where, after hearing some bad news, one's mind is full of anxieties and worries. If one chooses to do a practice at such a time, it will be very difficult to achieve a "spiritual response" or spiritual union with the Deity on which one is meditating.
Therefore, when one enters into the Tantric shrine, one's body should be clean and one's mind should be as calm as the mirror-like surface of a lake without ripples. Such preliminary preparation predisposes one to achieve spiritual response during the practice. If one's mind is agitated, angry, or full of complicated thoughts, achieving a spiritual response will be very difficult. When one is both physically and mentally relaxed and not bothered by any business, one can then enter the Tantric shrine to do the practice.