Tag: Buddha

The Eightfold Path

If you have read any of my earlier posts you were exposed to the Four Noble Truths and each of the steps in the Eightfold Path. I like to look at the Eightfold Path as the process and guidance that can help you end suffering and lead an ethical life. I attempted to provide some detail about each of the steps in the Eightfold Path that relate to living in this world, although what the Buddha taught is as applicable in this age as it was then. As I studied each of the steps I found the concepts to be fairly straightforward, but difficult to implement. The benefits far out way the challenges, and it may take years before you master all the steps, or you may already be living a life that puts you very close to attaining enlightenment. Of course there is no specific time table for any of us, and the journey should be viewed as a great reward unto itself. You can read about each of the steps in the path by following these links:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

nobleeightfoldpathbyajourneyintobuddhism

I hope this post will help you has it has helped me be more centered and live in the present. I am still working on each of these steps, and need to review them periodically as my own journey has just begun.

Namaste

 

Right Livelihood

right-livelihood

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
  • Hunters
  • Cattle farmers
  • Butcher

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.

Namaste

 

Right Action

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:

  1. Do not to kill
  2. Do not steal
  3. Do not lie
  4. Avoid sexual misconduct (adultry, rape, etc.)
  5. 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.

noble-8-fold-path

Namaste

Right Views

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:

  1. Right Views (understanding)
  2. Right Intent
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Conduct
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. 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.

three-things-cannot-be-hidden

My next post will be about Right Intent. Please share how you are working towards obtaining right understanding in your life.

Namaste

 

The Fourth Noble Truth

In prior posts I outlined the First Noble Truth “suffering”, the Second Noble Truth “Craving”, and the Third Noble Truth “ending craving and suffering”. If suffering can be overcome by ending craving, then how is this accomplished. The Fourth Noble Truth provides the answer in the form of the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path in its simplest form is:

noble-8-fold-path

In my next post we will look at Right View and what that really means.

Namaste

 

Buddhism a concise introduction

Buddhism a concise introduction

I wanted to share with you a book I’ve been reading called Buddhism A Concise Introduction written by Houston Smith and Philip Novak. I’ve read a number of books on Buddhism, but this is by far and away my favorite. The book provides many of the basics about Buddhism such as how the Buddha began his journey, some of his fundamental teachings like the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and some other concepts including nirvana. I have read the first 6 chapters several times to help reinforce my knowledge and help center me from time to time.

The book is extremely well written, and goes into depth about what the Four Noble Truths really are and what it means to follow the Eightfold Path. After you have absorbed the first 6 chapters the authors begin a journey on how Buddhism split into different factions include Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism. Finally in the second section of the book the authors discuss how Buddhism came to America and the impact it had there.

If you are looking for a book to introduce you to Buddhism that thoroughly explains the concepts and types, this book is a great place to start. I like this book so much that I have taken a highlighter to it several times, so that I could focus on certain aspects of it. The authors are scholars who make no judgement about Buddhism, but instead provide insights and research that bring the life of the Buddha and his teachings to the reader in a way that is both easy to understand and yet very detailed. I have the hard copy version which is 239 pages, with a what looks like 12 pitch type, and is an excellent example of how you should print a book. The book is also available in soft cover and Kindle versions.

You can click on the link below and find it at Amazon at very reasonable prices.

http://amzn.to/2b9OWNq

At the end of the way is freedom. Until then, patience

One of my favorite quotes attributed to Buddha is “At the end of the way is freedom. Until then, patience”. This seemingly simple quote speaks volumes in terms of guiding us in the direction of a much happier existence. Whether your preference is toward Buddhism and achieving enlightenment which in this case would equate to freedom, or if you are a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or maybe not a follower of any formal doctrine the intention of this quote should provide some guidance on how to live your life. I know this may sound a bit over the top, and you may feel advocating patience is little solace during times of duress, but  let me make a case for the value of patience in your life. Here are a few ways that patience will enrich your existence:

  • buddha patienceLong term goals require action, but they also require patience. Many of us give up on a goal or dream simply because we do not have the patience that would allow us the time to achieve them. Name a major goal that did not require a fair amount of patience, and I’ll show you a goal that was far too easy to achieve.
  • Patience is the cornerstone of practices like meditation and yoga, which will enrich your life, but without patience neither of these practices are possible.
  • You may never attain a state of complete freedom, but your ability to be patient makes it much more possible, and provides a means to cope with everyday stresses and desires.
  • In the context of this quote the word patience takes on additional meanings implying kindness, compassion, and determination. If freedom, enlightenment, or some form of happiness is your end goal, then you will need all the patience you can muster to achieve it.
  • One constant in our lives is everything changes, and sometimes we go through a cycle or event that can be measured in months or even years, but because everything changes we know that patience is an asset in coping with this cycle until it inevitably ends.
  • Let’s face it no matter what you do, both good and bad things will be part of your life, and your ability to be patient will greatly affect how you react to what happens to you. Patience is the tool that when applied has a smoothing effect on both the highs and the lows of life. Those people that survive great tragedy in their lives use patience to ride out the storm.
  • Patience and the other things it implies acts to counteract destructive thoughts like comparing yourself to others, envy, frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger.

I ran across this quote a couple weeks ago and I wrote it down on an index card, pinning it to my cork board in my office. I often look at it when I am in my office, and recite it when I meditate. My journey is probably much like yours, filled with suffering, happiness, and all the emotions in between, but this little quote has brought me great personal relief.

May you seek freedom at the end of the way, but until then use patience to guide your thoughts.

Namaste

 

 

 

Too busy to meditate?

Too busy to meditate?

There is an old Zen saying that goes something like this:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour”

I have been guilty of going not just days, but weeks without meditating because I claim to be just too busy. Going back to the Zen saying it becomes obvious that the busier you are the more you need to meditate. The world will not stop if you sit for 20 minutes, in reality there is nothing you can do to make it all go away. Your only respite in a busy world may just be the thing that you don’t have time for. The question is can you afford not to meditate? An existence that is so busy that you cannot find 20 minutes out of the 16 waking hours, is an issue unto itself. If you are feeling like a puppet on a string, then you have yet another reason to meditate so that you can be less overwhelmed by it all. It all comes down to how much you value your piece of mind. I like to refer to a quote from Buddha:

What have I gained from meditation

So it appears it is not what you have gained but what you will lose by meditating. As I mentioned before I have fallen prey to the I’m just too busy syndrome, and vow that this must be reversed.

Now I need to go sit for a while, come join me if you can.

Namaste

The Lectures (1 Theory and Practice of Zazen)

The Lectures (1 Theory and Practice of Zazen)

In my last post I mentioned that I was reading a fascinating book called the Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau.  I mentioned the practice of zazen which is arguably a very prescriptive form of meditation. As my reading has progressed the author is covering lectures given by his master Yasuntani-roshi starting with 1 Theory and Practice of Zazen. It should be noted that even the Buddha Shakyamuni devoted himself exclusively to zazen for six years before attaining enlightenment. Now he was the Buddha so for the rest of us your time may vary, and yes for most of us could be considerably longer. However with that said there is no average time frame and one should not feel any sense of urgency as the journey is as important as the goal.

In this lecture Yasuntani-roshi goes further into some of the details around the practice of zazen; here are a few points made during the lecture:

  • Work on creating a base when sitting full lotus (see picture), half lotus, or quarter lotus sitting positions are preferred. However there are other sitting positions that will provide a good base such as the Burmese posture (see picture below) or traditional Japanese knelling posture (see picture below).
  • Notice the back must be erect and straight, the eyes open, and the hands will typically be held with the right hand underneath the thumbs touching.
  • Yasuntani-roshi recommends sitting no more than 30 – 40 minutes at a time, otherwise the mind will lose its sharpness. Beginners should start with 5 – 10 minutes until they become comfortable. I started out with about 10 minutes, and now can sit for 20 minutes or so after several weeks of gradually adding time. It was not something I did in any systematic fashion, instead it just naturally became easier to sit for longer periods of time as the frequency of sitting increased. The more you sit and meditate the more you look forward to it, and the easier it becomes to sit for longer periods of time.
Burmese sitting position
Burmese sitting position

full lotus

full lotus

 

As zazen is the key element to Zen Buddhism it is very exacting. It is worth studying to make sure you are approaching it correctly.

Japanese sitting position
Japanese sitting position

Namaste!