Tuesday, May 8, 2012

At Last, Let's Talk About... The Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path is the substance of the Fourth Noble Truth and a set of Buddhist guidelines for living with purpose that will lead to living without suffering. Now, these do not claim to be an ironclad set of rules or commandments - that is not how The Buddha taught. They are a guided suggestion, a framework, that will make life a little bit easier, a bit simpler and will lead to eliminating suffering.

  • Right understanding: this means recognizing that all things must come to an end; life is not permanent. Suffering is linked to desire, and desire is linked to the human untruth that we are constantly lacking something within our lives. Right understanding has also been described as realizing the truth of karma (remember what we talked about when it comes to karma?) and the unity of all beings.
  • Right thought: this means thinking kindly and refusing to engage in cruel, mean, or nasty thoughts. "What you think, you become." - The Buddha
  • Right speech:  let's think back to the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts - "don't lie" was one of them. This relates directly to that precept - do not lie, be mean, gossip, command all attention, or attack people. Right speech should be kind, wise and minimal. You do not need many words to say something nice - "Thank you". Try not to be a chatterbox - this is something I should constantly work on.
  • Right action: this generally means following the Five Precepts (Buddhist morals). These are: nonviolence or refusal to kill, refusal to steal (this includes shoplifting, plagiarizing, or even stealing attention away that is not yours), control of the sense and appetites from overeating to lust, talking sincerely and honestly, and, refusal to alter the mind with intoxicants - this doesn't mean we can't enjoy a nice glass of wine with a meal it just means don't get smashed.
  • Right livelihood: this is an interesting one. It means choosing an occupation that is not harmful of unjust but, instead, is honest, upright, and furthering of love and compassion in the world. Let's think about The Sims here; you can be employed in the Criminal career path and this would not go over well with the Eightfold Path! The 'professions' generally, well, frowned upon by Buddhists include; trading of weapons, people, sex, drugs, alcohol, or poison. Also frowned upon (especially in Eastern countries where many Buddhists are vegetarian) that involve a degree of killing would be: fisherman, soldier, hunter, etc. However, this is different in different parts of the world, and means different things to different people. Right livelihood is not about telling other people they are doing it wrong, but finding what we feel is right livelihood and reflecting upon ourselves.
  • Right effort: this means making a conscious attempt to create positive qualities, thoughts, and actions in ourselves while also working to prevent or be rid of negative qualities, thought, and tendencies. Simply put, right effort means self- discipline.
  • Right mindfulness: means working on being mindful at all times. Being mindful means being constantly aware of our feelings, our surroundings, our bodies, and our thoughts and ideas. Buddhists believe that everyone has a Sixth Sense - no, we cannot all see dead people - of awareness. This means having a "Zen mind" - getting up and living rather than just going through the motions.
  • Right concentration: this means working on achieving a "one-pointed mind". If we are doing something, we should concentrate solely on it. This is absolutely NOT EASY, but we can achieve it if we put our minds to it. Sometimes this can be achieved through meditating and much self-discipline. The better our mind gets at completely surrounding itself with whatever we are doing (even if its folding sheets), the less we will be distracted by desires, and our daily existence will become easier and more fulfilling.
There are more points to this list; remember there are different takes and schools on Buddhism, but they are all come down to the same point: be true to yourself and be the best person you can be.
The Eightfold Path is beautiful and idyllic. However, I am not committed fully to it, but I rather embrace it and hold it dear. The oppurtunity to learn about the Eightfold Path is amazing to me, and trying to follow it, as little as I can each day, is extremely motivating. It is not that hard to tweak it so that it works for you; remember, the Eightfold Path is not a enforced set of rules, but is, essentially, a path that we may walk on.


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