Bodhidharma says: “People who seek blessings by concentrating on external works instead of internal cultivation are attempting the impossible, What you call a monastery we call a sangbarama, a place of purity. But whoever denies entry to the three poisons and keeps the gates of his
senses pure, his body and mind still, inside and outside clean, builds a monastery.”
The fifth step in the Eightfold Path is Right Livelihood. This means for followers of the path that certain professions do not align with the teachings of the Buddha, particularly anything that does not respect the equality of all living beings and life. For instance this would include professions that involve intoxicants, firearms, or the destruction of animals. If we think about professions in our time, then here are a few examples of those that are not considered Right Livelihood:
- Brewing beer or liquor
- Owning a liquor store
- Bar tending
- Member of the military
- Making or selling guns
- Cattle farmers
There are many more of course, but if you think about cherishing equality and life, then you can figure out what type of work does not support these precepts. It is also common that one reserves some time part of their time for community service.
Practicing Right Livelihood builds on Right Understanding, Right Intent, Right Speech, and Right Action all steps in the Eightfold Path. In my next post I we will explore Right Effort.
Bodhidharma says: “Those who aren’t affected by impurity are sages. They transcend suffering and experience the bliss of nirvana. All others, trapped by the impure mind and entangled by their own karma, are mortals. They drift through the three realms and suffer countless afflictions and all because their impure mind obscures their real self.”
The fourth step in the Eightfold path is Right Action. For followers of the path Right Action guides what we do in this world. Right Action asks us to follow an ethical approach to life that considers how we treat each other. Right Action follows the five precepts of Buddhism:
- Do not to kill
- Do not steal
- Do not lie
- Avoid sexual misconduct (adultry, rape, etc.)
- Do not take drugs or other intoxicants
So it is not enough to have good intentions towards others, you must also follow through with actual behavior. The five precepts may appear fairly simple, but dig a little deeper and you find that they are not so easy to follow. For instance to not kill is not reserved for humans but for every living being. Have you ever lied about something? Do you drink or smoke marijuana? Most of us must come to grips with the behavioral changes that it will take to truly live a life of Right Action.
The third step in the Eightfold Path is called Right Speech. As we travel the Eightfold Path we often find that the steps build on each other. In Right View we learned about adopting a realistic view of the world and with Right Intent we would adopt a mindset that values all human life and act with compassion. As much of our communication is centered around speech, we must understand the impact that our words have on each other. The power of our words and what we say to each other can have a positive influence or be extremely detrimental. Here are a few examples of Right Speech:
- Being truthful
- Refraining from gossiping and spreading rumors
- Speaking with kindness not anger
- Not criticizing people
- Speaking words of encouragement
These are just a few examples of Right Speech, but I think you get the idea. Right Speech should be speech that first does no harm. This requires a great amount of self control and relies heavily on to what degree you have mastered Right Intent. In my opinion you can also apply Right Speech to the written word as the overall goal should be the same.
How many times have you let your anger get the best of you and blurted out some hurtful language even to those you love? When was the last time you criticized someone to another behind their back? How often have you been fast and loose with the truth? I know that I need to work on Right Speech and I’m guessing it will take a while before it is mastered. If it were easy we would all reach enlightenment in a matter of days, but we should be grateful that the Buddha provided the path for us to follow, which will guide us along the way.
In my last post I wrote about Right View which is the first step of the Eightfold Path. As you recall the Right View helps us see things as they actually are. The second step is called Right Intent, and builds upon Right View. Right Intent means that you are committed to the path and you are passionate about pursuing it. To have Right Intent also means that you understand the equality of all life, and practice compassion for all living things, including yourself. Without Right Intent you have little chance of following the path. With Right Intent you begin your journey with passion and compassion, and the realization that it is your own desires that are the cause of your suffering.
In my post the Fourth Noble Truth I discussed how to overcome suffering by following the Eightfold Path. The Buddha wanted us to have a way forward instead of just letting life happen to us. The Eightfold Path is the way, and guides our practice. Each of these precepts deserves an explanation because they are not always what they seem on the surface. In this post I want to focus on Right Views. The path is as follows:
- Right Views (understanding)
- Right Intent
- Right Speech
- Right Conduct
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
To be honest I write about the Eightfold Path as much as a way to reinforce my own knowledge, as it is to share with you. I wrote the Eightfold Path on my white board in my office as a way to keep myself focused on my own practice. It acts as a reminder to me every time I walk into that room.
Right View is to see the world as it really is, not as we wish to see it. Often times Right View is also interpreted as Right Understanding. It is almost impossible to follow the path if we perceive the world in an unrealistic fashion. From a personal perspective we cannot view it as all bad or good, for this would be deceiving our-self. Look around you there is evil in the world, suffering, pain, and many problems too numerous to list. Conversely there is opportunity, charity, compassion, and love that surrounds us. Right View helps us see the world as it is, not through rose colored glasses, but for what it really is. We can then use this Right Understanding to set the stage for our practice. The Buddha did not want us to go through life without understanding the reality of our existence and others in this world. I wanted to share a few examples examples of not having the Right View:
- All politicians are all self centered, egotistical beings, that do nothing for society.
- The world is a safe place, and there is nothing to fear.
- The majority of people in the world are self serving, ignorant, uncaring individuals motivated only by greed.
- Your future is predestined at birth and you have no control over the present or future.
Are any of these examples actually true? Right View will allow you to see things as they are, not in some absurd generalization. One bit of advice I have if you would like to begin moving in the direction of having a Right View, and it would be to stop watching so much news on the television. Watching CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and even local news provides a prescribed view of the world that does little to help you understand reality. I recently quit watching the news and instead now have more time for writing, reading, and viewing YouTube videos where the focus is on learning. Most of the news media focuses disproportionately on the negative, which can only lead to wrong views.
My next post will be about Right Intent. Please share how you are working towards obtaining right understanding in your life.