Just prior to the moment when the Buddha attained Maha-Nivana, leaving this world, he said to his dearest disciple Ananda:
“The highest virtue is patient perseverance. The highest is unbinding.”
The question that should be reflected upon is simply, “What is unbinding, and from what are we to unbind?” As with all Eastern scriptures, the method of discovering the meaning of a passage is to take the words of wisdom in the order they are given. The foundation of patient perseverance lies upon taking an initial step of setting a model of action before which we intend to adhere. This is discipline, pure and simple!
Just after the Buddha told Ananda that the “highest is unbinding”, he declared that all compounded things are subject to corruption. To most, this sounds like ‘tall talk’ - elated and difficult to grasp. The Buddha did attempt to clarify this statement with many parables, as did Jesus, and the description he most often used took place on a battlefield, with soldiers engaged in a fight to the death.
“It is better to conquer yourself
than to win a thousand battles.
Then the victory is yours.
It cannot be taken from you,
not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”
Victory in battle comes through discipline and endurance. Victory in disciplining the mind comes through applying habits that control the tendency of discontinuous thought. The great theologian, Dietrich van Hildebrand, once said that the entire difficulty with mankind attaining the heights of spiritual perception is a discontinuous mind.
The way of the Buddha could not be more clear; shape your minds, we are shaped by our thoughts, we become what we think.
He also recommended that the road to Truth lies first in perfecting a normal life of discipline, then spiritual life will follow - like a shadow that never leaves.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Discipline: the High Road to Heaven