Tuesday, December 13, 2005


The Eightfold Path is a clarification of Buddhism’s ethical precepts. It’s a practical way to wisdom, to moral conduct, and to intellectual development. It’s a passage to awareness. It is aimed at freeing oneself from attachments.
The Four Noble Truths form the cornerstone of The Eightfold Path.
  1. Suitable Understanding, also called Right View. Suitable understanding means to understand thoroughly The Four Noble Truths. It means to recognize the nature of suffering and dissatisfaction. It also means to not be sidetracked by false appearances, and to see clearly in yourself what is off-kilter.

  2. Suitable Intention. Suitable intention means to decide you want to do something about what you see is wide of the mark. You want to fix the breakdown.

  3. Suitable Speech. Suitable speech means to avoid verbal distortions, empty words, and discourteous words. To tell the truth, to speak in a courteous manner, and to talk only when necessary. It also means to speak in a positive, hopeful way in regard to yourself and to all others.

  4. Suitable Behavior, also called Right Action. Suitable behavior means to conduct yourself positively, being honest with yourself as well as with others. It also means to respect all life.

  5. Suitable Vocation or Livelihood. Suitable vocation has to do with having an occupation that is satisfying for you and which does not harm others.

  6. Suitable Effort. Suitable effort means to keep your mind calm and unruffled in order that you can see into your own true nature.

  7. Suitable Mindfulness. Suitable mindfulness means to be aware of your condition constantly without griping about the issue to others.

  8. Suitable Meditation. Suitable meditation means to meditate with the deep mind, to the exclusion of all thoughts. Here we start to approach Zen.
     Anyone is capable of practicing the first six steps on the Eightfold Path. Anyone can learn to think and speak with care, and be truthful. Anyone can abide by basic moral laws, earn a living in ways that are not harmful to others, and maintain the pursuit of one’s goal.
     Achieving awareness and being in charge of one’s mind through deep meditation takes some doing. But by doing, one gains freedom from the ego and from harmful behavior. Then, when one has gained that freedom, one realizes the complete harmony of being.
     This is what—in Buddhism—is called enlightenment or Nirvana.
The Buddha was not interested in precise rules and regulations, or in behavioral itemizations. These lists were produced by followers. The Buddha was once asked if a true disciple should live a hermit’s life, and he answered, “If you want to live in the forest, live in the forest. If you want to live in the city, live in the city.”
     What matters is not where one lives, but how one continues in the path of enlightenment.
In Part One of this talk I said The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path represent the elemental principles of Buddhism. They are not rules but guidelines, bits of wisdom fundamental to living a full life and to participating in the ideal state of being.
     Consider using a rowboat to cross a river. Once you’re on the other side you don’t need to carry the rowboat with you. The boat is not the point. The point is crossing the river. Once you do that, you can forget how you did it.
     This is awareness.
     This is Zen.


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