Monday, December 12, 2005



One way of uncluttering and systematizing thoughts is to neaten them into interrelated lists. Traditional Buddhism has lots of matter-of-fact lists that go way back in time and offer excellent guidance. But because Zen is more intuitive than practical, Zen offers comparatively few lists, unless you count Dogen’s rules for monastic life, or the ten ox-herding pictures.
     For now, let’s stick with Buddhism, and see if it leads to Zen.
You’ve probably heard of, or read about, two sorts of lists in Buddhism. One is referred to as The Four Noble Truths; the other is called The Eightfold Path. They are reputed to have come from the mouth of Guatama Siddartha himself, as his first sermon after his awakening experience. This may be a legend—a tale handed down—or it may be a factual account.
Remember how the Buddha came to recognize that suffering is a fact of life.
According to legend, he encountered an elderly person, an ailing person, and a dead body. Through these brushes with reality, he became conscious that life is not permanent, and that, in one form or another, suffering is the fate of humanity.
     Where ever the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path came from, they are not edicts. They are not commandments. They are not decrees.
     They are guidelines, bits of wisdom fundamental to living a full life and to participating in the ideal state of being. The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path represent the elemental principles of Buddhism.

Noble Truth Number 1.  Human existence involves suffering.
Suffering doesn’t mean we go around in a wretched condition, though some people are victims of self-infliction. You know the sort of people. They perceive gloom and misery everywhere, especially in their own life. They seem actually to enjoy distress. They aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy. They suffer in their own way.
Perhaps a better word than suffering is dukkha. That’s a Sanskrit term that means anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction with life. It’s an unrequited quest for perfection, in all things, including one’s self.
But, as you know, there’s no such thing as perfection.
Distress, anguish, and heartache are part of existence. We catch a cold, or we whack our finger with a hammer, or we have to put up with difficult people, who themselves are unhappy because of their own dissatisfaction. We lose a job. We endure ice storms in the winter and heat waves in the summer.
We expect everything, including nature, to go our way, and it seldom does.
Face it. That’s life. For some people, it can be a hell of a life. And by the time they get used to it, life is over.
Frustration, dissatisfaction—call it what you will—is a real part of living. The Buddha recognized this, and he found the cause. The cause isn’t someone else or somewhere else. The cause is you, and your attachments.
Do you remember Pogo Possum’s words? “We have found the enemy, and it is us.”

Noble Truth Number 2. The cause of dissatisfaction is craving—that is, attachment.
In short, we want more than we have. We are discontent because we constantly long for something, or because we are too attached to what we have.
By being materialistic and possessive we bring misery on ourselves. By being self-inflicting, we generally get what we deserve—more distress.

Noble Truth Number 3. Attachment—that is, possessiveness—can be understood and overcome.
     Aha! There is hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel. If only we can navigate the tunnel without stumbling over our own feet and falling on our faces. Dissatisfaction can be overcome by recognizing and removing the cause of attachment. Dissatisfaction can be brought to a close by abandoning attachment.

Noble Truth Number 4. The overcoming of dissatisfaction—dukkha—is achieved by following a certain pattern of behavior.
     This behavior pattern is a course of action termed The Eightfold Path. It spells out eight requirements that liberate us from dissatisfaction—or at least they alleviate dissatisfaction—by leading us to a true knowledge of our selves.
     Think about these Four Noble Truths and reflect on their validity in your own life.  
Part Two of this talk addresses The Eightfold Path.


Blogger Digital Art Photography for Dummies said...

Why are there so many different kinds of Buddah monuments in Asia?

Monday, December 12, 2005 9:08:00 AM  

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