Tag: Buddhism

The End of Suffering #3 – Right Speech

In my previous posts on ending suffering it was discussed how Right Understanding and Right Thought are key components of the Noble Eightfold Path and lead to the cessation of suffering. I used some quotes from other websites to define Right Understanding and Right Thought, but in this post, I would rather quote the Buddha’s own words from the Pali Canon (SN 45:8, V 8-10):

“And what, monks, is right speech? Abstinence from false speech, abstinence from malicious speech, abstinence from harsh speech, abstinence from idle chatter: this is called right speech.”

As a follower of the path, you may ask how can “right speech” contribute to the end of suffering? I think with “right speech” the Buddha is not so much focused on your suffering from some lack of “right speech”, but more on how the wrong speech causes suffering to others. Although we may find that wrong speech can be damaging not just to others, but also for ourselves.

Let’s break it down a bit when you abstain from stating knowingly false speech you cease lying. This lying to others can be harmful in so many ways where you are spuing untruths, feeding others with misinformation, and with each lie, you chip away at your own integrity. Some common reasons for lying include making up things that bolster your ego, where you blatantly tell others about things you never did or you make them out to be more important than they really were. Another common lie would be to tell others about some tragedy that never occurred in an attempt to garner sympathy from the listener. We often see politicians or others in power make up lies to further their own interests. Lying about climate change to increase profits from drilling oil or burning coal are a couple examples, where the truth is ignored for generating profits.

Malicious speech can best be categorized as trying to do harm to others. One example of this might be spreading malicious gossip about an individual or group to harm their reputation. In any case, the use of malicious speech is always to hurt someone else. Note this malicious speech may even be true but it is the intent that is in question here. Those that spend their time spewing malicious speech are simply fools that want to hurt someone else. This is a pretty obvious cause and effect targeted at creating suffering.

So what is meant by harsh speech? We often use harsh speech when we are angry or upset in some way. Harsh speech that might include swearing, but is often a mixture of harsh speech with malicious intent or at best just a lack of control. I’m sure you can recall times when you did this recently, but for followers of the path, we must practice self-control. Often these little tirades of ours come across as not just rude, but can also be attacking in nature and cause suffering if not to yourself, certainly to those who had to listen to it.

Finally, why did the Buddha include abstaining from idle chatter as a component of right speech? I mean how much harm can this do? Have you ever spent time with people that just love to hear themselves talk? It can be a painful experience listening to someone go on and on often about nothing. While this is probably the least severe form of wrong speech, it at best is just a waste of time for you who must endure listening to it.

The Buddha knew about the power of words and clearly identified what is right speech and what is wrong speech. I hope this post sheds a little light on how practicing right speech can lead to ending suffering. In my next post, I will look at how right action contributes to the end of suffering. By now you are seeing the power of the Noble Eightfold Path and how interrelated each of the elements of the path is to the whole. Truly the enlightened one Master Gotama (Pali form of  Gautama) was a prophet.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from Manly Palmer Hall was a Canadian-born author, lecturer, astrologer and mystic.

Namaste

 

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The End of Suffering #2 – Right Thought

In my previous post The End of Suffering #1, I tried to show how Right Understanding could help alleviate suffering. In this post, I would like to illustrate how Right Thought the second element of the Noble Eightfold Path also contributes to the end of suffering. Remember the Buddha taught that those that master the elements of the Nobel Eightfold Path will end suffering and even attain enlightenment.

So just what is Right Thought (Samma sankappa)? The following is a pretty decent definition:

Right thought denotes the thoughts of selfless renunciation or detachment, thoughts of love and thoughts of non-violence, which are extended to all beings. It is very interesting and important to note here that thoughts of selfless detachment, love and non-violence are grouped on the side of wisdom. This clearly shows that true wisdom is endowed with these noble qualities, and that all thoughts of selfish desire, ill-will, hatred, and violence are the result of a lack of wisdom in all spheres of life whether individual, social, or political.

Right Thought provides the wisdom we need to stay detached and extend love to those we encounter. As we mentioned in The End of Suffering #1 our suffering is manifested in our attachment to things. With the “right thoughts”, we are able to break the chains of attachment by being more detached from things and people. Right Thought provides us to view the world in a more selfless way, leading with love and compassion towards humanity.

As you cultivate “right thought” you begin to look at your thinking more critically, which helps you understand when you are deviating from the path of detachment, selflessness, and love. When you begin to catch yourself becoming angry or selfish you are on the path to mastering “right thought”.

One of the interesting aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path is that none of the eight aspects of the path operate independently. Without “right understanding” it would be impossible to attain “right thought”. So once you understand the cause of suffering with “right understanding” you can begin to do something about it by controlling your thoughts. More importantly, you begin to think with the right intentions as we mentioned selfless, detached, and loving.

I would suggest that you will not reach a state of right intention or right thought, where one day you are an angry selfish person and then the next day you magically practice 100% right thoughts becoming selfless and loving overnight. This like all the other aspects of the path must be cultivated one day at a time.

I wish you all the luck as you follow the path and may all be well with you.

Namaste

Reference: https://tricycle.org/magazine/noble-eightfold-path/

 

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Root of suffering according to the Buddha

This little graphic above is a quote I shared on Instagram. In my previous post, I wrote about the Cause of Suffering from my own experience. Here I would like to discuss the root of suffering as spoken by the Buddha from the Pali Canon one of the earliest discourses on what the Buddha actually said.

The backdrop to this discourse occurred when the Blessed One was dwelling in a town of the Malans named Uruvelakappa. The Bhadraka the headman approached the Blessed One and he said to him “It would be good, venerable sir, if you would teach me about the origin and passing away of suffering.”

The Buddha goes on two provide three examples that illustrate how desire is the root of suffering:

  1. The people of Uruvelakappa
  2. The headman’s son
  3. The headman’s wife

The premise here is for those that the headman holds desire and attachment, will ultimately cause suffering if they were executed, imprisoned, fined, or censured. For those where there is no desire or attachment, there is no suffering. Here is an excerpt from (SN 42:11; IV 327-30)”

“What do you think headman? Before you saw your wife or heard about her, did you have any desire, attachment, or affection for her?”

“No, venerable sir.”

Then was it, headman, only when you saw her or heard about her that this desire, attachement, and affection arose in you?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“What do you think, headman? If you wife were to be executed, imprisoned, fined, or censured, would sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and despair arise in you?”

“Venerable sir, if my wife were to be exectured, improsoned, fined, or censured, even my life would seem futile, so how could sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and despair not arise in me?”

“In this way too, headman, it can be understood: ‘Whatever suffering arises, all that arises rooted in desire, with desire as its source; for desire is the root of suffering.'”

In this example from the Pali Canon, the Buddha is posing the question to the headman what if one of those terrible things (execution, imprisonment, fined, or censured) happened to people of his town that he knew and cared about, his son, or his wife. So, in this case, the word desire is also synonymous with people that the headman is attached to.

This desire or attachment may also be applied to material things, status, or power. Think about it for a while. Our whole society fosters desire, claiming that desire is necessary for achievement whether it be a new home, a new car, or a new business or job. We are told that desire equates to achievement, but never to suffering. People with great desire are put on a pedestal and celebrated for the desire that drives their work ethic and attainment of material things.

The Buddha was not wrong, desire begets attachment and attachment will only lead to suffering. What happens when the new car gets damaged in an accident, your son is killed in a war, and your parents die. Even the mere fact that you desire immortality due to your attachment to your life and others will ultimately lead to suffering. Understanding that desire will cause suffering is the first step in the abandonment of suffering.

Namaste

Reference: In the Buddha’s Words, An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon, edited and introduced by Bhikkhu Bodhi

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Cause of Suffering

I think we can all agree that there is much suffering in the world. I have yet to find someone that doesn’t feel this to be true. However, as a practitioner of the Dhamma, it is important to realize the cause of suffering. Why are we suffering? Once we understand the causes of our suffering we are in a better position to address the causes. You already know there is the potential to end suffering by walking the Noble Eightfold Path. I like to look at suffering not just from Buddhist definitions, but also from a personal perspective. I would hazard to guess that most of the things I consider the causes of suffering are pretty universal and will resonate with you.

Suffering is caused by:

  • Craving – It’s pretty obvious that all those things you crave only bring suffering in the end. You might be craving material things, sex, alcohol, drugs, money, status, or any number of stupid things. Time spent craving something inherently brings you pain, feelings of unease, a focus on the future, and dissatisfaction with what you have. For most of us, craving is the #1 cause of suffering and encompasses other causes.
  • Ego – For me, this means a sense of self that craves recognition because I have some inflated view of myself. We all want to be special, but a life that is driven by ego will forever feel disappointing. We create an image of ourselves based on what we do for a living or how talented we think we are. This is a false self, one we create for this world we live in, not our true nature.
  • Envy – To some degree, we are envious of others because we crave what they have. We perceive their life to be better than our own. Envy often manifests itself in resentment. We resent that the others have it so much better than we do. They are more successful, have more money, are more attractive, have more leisure time, and the list goes on and on. Instead of being grateful for the small things in life we are envious of someone or some group of people and this causes suffering.
  • Death and Aging – We realize that someday we or someone we care about will die and leave this earth. This fact alone causes us to suffer, knowing that our time is limited and that we have wasted much of it. As we age we experience pain and the inability to do what we did when we were young and healthy, thus causing more suffering. Sometimes it just comes down to the underlying fear of death that hovers over us every day of our life.
  • Attachment – “If you observe yourself and others then you will see that people crave for pleasant experiences, crave for material things, and crave for eternal life. We are attached to sensual pleasures, wealth and power but also to ideas, views, opinion, and beliefs. Taken together, the four types of attachment are the main problems that Buddhists need to understand. The four types of attachment are 1) sense objects, 2) opinions and views, 3) rites and rituals, and 4) self-hood.” Buddhism seeks to break this attachment to these things and ideas.

There are possibly dozens of other causes of suffering, but recognizing that any of these causes may be the root of your dissatisfaction is really a good thing. Without understanding the cause of suffering all the meditation in the world will not lead to its cessation. This is maybe the most fundamental truth that Buddhism seeks to address. Life is suffering, there are causes, there is a solution, and the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

You will never change your behaviour by changing the way you think until you realize what are the primary causes of your own suffering. These defilements or taints you suffer from must ultimately be addressed and eradicated. There is no Nibbana for someone that does not address their issues with ego, craving, envy, and their own mortality. In my next post, I will make a case for moving your thinking from ego and craving to service, which is another key tenant of Buddhism.

Namaste

Reference:

Guide to Buddhism: Step 5 – Eliminating Attachments

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Mediation Experiences – Cuatro

This is the fourth installment “Cuatro” in my series on my meditation experiences. The previous installments included:

Meditation Experiences – Uno where I covered some of the basics of meditation and how I began my own practice.

Meditation Experiences – Dos was targeted at a discussion on some of the benefits I have received from my practice.

Meditation Experiences – Tres is where I tried to make the case for having no expectations from your practice.

Ok enough about the past, but if you haven’t read these posts I recommend you do so, as this has been a journey for me, and you get a better context for what I have experienced if you start at the beginning. During the time that I have written this, I have been meditating on a daily basis for about 3 months. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but my practice has also included studying Buddhism, which I have been doing for maybe around the last 10 years or so. So when I talk about my practice it is comprised of meditation and Buddhist studies.

All of human history has been turbulent, but we are living in a strange era with this pandemic and technological advances that have brought so much prosperity to the world and at the same time caused so many people to be displaced. If there was ever a time that we needed something to provide a lifeline or an anchor in our world the time is now.

As I went beyond just studying and dedicated myself to daily meditation, I feel that this might be an answer to living a meaningful life amidst all this craziness. In fact, it may be the only true way out of this situation. The Buddha spent years coming to the realization that suffering exists as a natural state for human beings and that there is an end to suffering. His prescription was developing a practice of meditation and following the Eightfold Path. You might be thinking this is bullshit, how can I benefit from studying an applied philosophy created 2,500 years ago. I would argue that Buddhism has survived so long because it was relevant in the past and is relevant today and will be relevant in the future. The basic premise of Buddhism that life is Dukkha (suffering), is as true today as it was yesterday.

As I have become consistent with my practice and specifically the meditation component of it I have found it to be the lifeline that I so badly needed. I won’t kid you there are times when I sit down on my cushion and have trouble tuning out the world around me, thoughts about my work, or other things become so prominent that I have trouble staying present. While some sessions seem better than others, all of the time spent meditating is a respite from the insane world we live in. This daily practice starts out as somewhat of a challenge, but as you persist it becomes a habit, and you will start to look forward to it. You become your practice, you become compassionate, and ultimately you become Buddha. Your practice will soon become the most important thing in your life because all good things result from it. You might just become a better spouse, parent, or friend. You might even start seeing the world as it really is and you will start seeing the good in people.

I will leave you with this somewhat funny quote from the Dalai Lama:

Namaste

 

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Worthy of happiness

Worthy Of Happiness

I was reading a quote this morning and thought it was very interesting. I knew little of Immanuel Kant, but what intrigued me was the premise that to be worthy of happiness you need to live a moral life. As I processed this thought that the possibility of happiness can be earned as a result of morality I thought about The Five Precepts in Buddhism, which are:

  1. to abstain from taking life
  2. to abstain from taking what is not given
  3. to abstain from sensuous misconduct
  4. to abstain from false speech
  5. to abstain from intoxicants as tending to cloud the mind

In Buddhism, the five precepts are a moral code for laypeople, or one could think of them as the fundamental baseline of morality. Read them and you begin to realize how broadly they can be applied and how powerful their influence could be on your personal conduct.

Personally, I tend to stay away from talking too much about morality, as it is often applied for example in religion to various behavior that I may see as moral and not immoral. Still, there is something about this quote that made me think that maybe we all need to strive to be more moral, and by doing so provide an opportunity to be a bit happier.

Note Kant does not equate morality to happiness only to being worthy of happiness. To me, this means real happiness like everything else must be earned, and in Buddhism, this starts with the Five Precepts. Can you be happy without striving to live a moral life?

If you are aware of the consequences of your actions and the impact they have on others, then the answer is no.

Who was Immanuel Kant?

He lived in the 1700s to early 1800 and was an influential German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; “things-in-themselves” exist, but their nature is unknowable.

Kant’s theory is an example of a deontological moral theory–according to these theories, the rightness or wrongness of actions does not depend on their consequences but on whether they fulfill our duty. Kant believed that there was a supreme principle of morality, and he referred to it as The Categorical Imperative.

Well enough, for now, I need to start making myself worthy of happiness and do something good today, guess I will start by reflecting on the Five Precepts.

Namaste


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Reference:

Five Precepts of Buddhism Explained

 

A little information on Immanuel Kant

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant

 

 

Driven

Random Thoughts / Poetry

Driven

We make so much of every situation

It all seems so important

A heightened level of anxiety becomes our natural state

We are told to escalate for every issue

Everything becomes critical

Our life is one of hyperactivity

Driven to achieve by ourselves and others we are exhausted

Is it any wonder we are so unhappy?

We are asked to do more and more with the same amount of limited time

Our life is now dominated by schedules and to-do lists

The pace we set for our life cannot be sustained

We seek the answer in meditation, yoga, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and any other number of ways to calm our mind and give our life meaning

The days become a blur as they pass us by

You tell yourself someday I will jump off this hamster wheel, once I earn a little more money

That day never happens and you die never having really lived

Is that really what you want from your life?

Stop deferring your fucking life

Today I will jump off the hamster wheel even if for an hour or two

Once I taste freedom I will cease to jump back on the wheel

Remember the world will always try to pull you back into the vortex

Only you can save yourself

 

Namaste

 

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The end of suffering

Random Thoughts / Poetry

The End Of Suffering

You know everything is impermanent

Yet you choose to suffer

Only change is certain

Yet you choose to suffer

You are aging day by day

Yet you choose to suffer

Life and death is ever-present

Yet you choose to suffer

Love and joy surround you

Yet you choose to suffer

You have no direction

You can find no end to suffering

The end to your suffering is a walk down the Eightfold Path

 

Namaste

 

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The way

I’m paraphrasing here, but from the book UNFU*K Yourself by Gary Bishop, he says something like “Only You Can Save Yourself”. So when I say let your practice be your salvation, it means your practice, not someone else, but you must become your own salvation. Your practice and I mean meditation and studies are the means that will lead you to find yourself.

The only way to reveal the true you, the you that is buried deep inside is through your practice. Without daily practice you continually let yourself become some manifestation of your environment and you move further away from who you really are. Either you direct your mind or the world around you will do it for you. I think this quote from the Buddha illustrates my point about why your practice is so important.

For a Buddhist, there is only the way, and the way is to practice.

Namaste

 

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Taking life to seriously

I sat around this morning drinking coffee, and playing my To-Do list in my head over and over like I typically do wondering if I would ever get it all done on time and how all these future events would transpire. Does any of this sound familiar? Anyone with a modicum of drive and determination falls victim to this kind of routine, and quite frankly it sucks. Here’s the thing we all take life too seriously and we suffer because of that. Sometimes I have to remind myself that a year from now I probably won’t remember all the shit I worried about today, and ironically no one else will either.

The Stoics especially Marcus Aurelius often thought about just how insignificant we are in the scheme of things. I can assure you that no matter how successful you are at work, once you move on and within a couple years or less you will be just a distant memory to those who remain. The company or organization you work for will march on without you because that’s what they do. So lesson one is stop taking your work or yourself so seriously, really in the scheme of things, it’s not that important. I know this is hard to hear because you put so much of yourself into your work, you have tied your identity to what you do, not who you are.

I can hear you now and I can hear myself saying, well that’s great, but I have a lot of shit to do, and if I want to keep earning a living I need to get it done. Most of us can’t just jump off the hamster wheel and join a Buddhist monastery, we need to provide for our families and all that other stuff. When I talk to myself and yes I talk to myself, I try to simplify and tell myself it will all get done, but only if you focus on one thing at a time and stay present. Being present not only makes you more productive so you can eradicate that to-do list, but it also reduces your anxiety as you are not focusing on the future.

Another benefit of focusing on the present moment is that you begin to find joy in what you are doing. Here’s my advice, fuck the productivity benefits, screw the fact that you are getting more done for others; focus on the present for yourself so you can gain some enjoyment from what you are doing.

Namaste

 

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