Tag: buddhist

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 #1 – Right Understanding

In my last post Root of suffering according to the Buddha, it was declared by the Blessed One that desire was the root of suffering. However, there is one exception and that is when desire is used to understand the dhamma. In one of the discourses from the Pali Canon, where the Buddha speaks about the steps towards the realization of truth he states:

“Desire is most helpful for application of the will, Bharadvaja. If one does not arouse desire, one will not apply one’s will; but because one arouses desire, one applies one’s will. That is why desire is most helpful for application of the will.”

(from MN 95; Canki sutta, II 168-77)

One might infer that desire is a double-edged sword; maybe one edge is the desire that causes suffering and the other edge a desire that can be applied for good. Is this possible? You may have a desire to help others, be of service, learn the dhamma, or a desire to end suffering for sentient beings. I actually prefer the word craving, as to extinguish all desires especially those that are focused on positive outcomes would seem nearly impossible. Craving while a synonym for desire seems to have a more sinister connotation at least in my mind. Think about it in these terms:

  • A heroin addict craves a fix
  • An alcoholic craves a drink
  • I am craving ice cream

Craving seems a bit stronger when associated with some form of addiction. Maybe we can just accept that all desires will not result in suffering, but there is always the danger that what we thought of as a healthy desire may someday result in suffering. I just wanted to clarify that the Buddha did have different interpretations of the word desire. Sometimes it is just better to consider that the suffering we experience has its roots in desire and craving, but is often caused or manifested in attachment.

As we know from the Buddha’s teaching the cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path. In this series of blog posts, I would like to explore each of the factors of the Eightfold Path as they apply to ending suffering and how they address attachment. In this blog post, we will start with Right Understanding sometimes referred to as Right View.

I’m going to use a definition from the Tricyle.org website (reference at the end of this post), which I feel is a good description of what Right Understanding (Samma ditthi) is:

“Right understanding is the understanding of things as they are, and it is the four noble truths that explain things as they really are. Right understanding therefore is ultimately reduced to the understanding of the four noble truths. This understanding is the highest wisdom which sees the Ultimate Reality. According to Buddhism there are two sorts of understanding. What we generally call “understanding” is knowledge, an accumulated memory, an intellectual grasping of a subject according to certain given data. This is called “knowing accordingly” (anubodha). It is not very deep. Real deep understanding or “penetration” (pativedha) is seeing a thing in its true nature, without name and label. This penetration is possible only when the mind is free from all impurities and is fully developed through meditation.”

Right understanding helps us see the cause of suffering allowing us to understand how our craving and clinging are actually harming us. Without “right understanding” we would be just tossed about in life, blindly reacting to everything, and being completely oblivious to what is causing our suffering. If you are doing this yourself then “right understanding” is the prescription, but I suspect you are not or you probably would not be reading this blog post.

Once you start to really understand what is causing your suffering you can begin to either avoid the attachment or at least lessen the impact of it. As sad as the loss of a loved one that might include a child, spouse, or parent can be “right understanding” will at least arm you with an understanding of impermanence, which might lessen the attachment you feel. This is always difficult to comprehend as you might think the dhamma is turning you into some cold nonfeeling person who is completely free of attachment. This will not happen to you and when you are faced with the mortality of your loved ones, you will be compassionate and loving to those that are suffering from the loss.

True “right understanding” helps you to see things as they really are, which will take some of the tragedy out of life. I will give you a brief example of where a lack of right understanding led to a lifelong scaring of a person. My father in law worked for a well-known drug company starting with them very early in life. He was very loyal to the company, but when he was about 50 years old the company terminated him and a number of other employees. Fortunately for him, he received a generous pension something that is almost unheard of today. Instead of seeing this as just another bump in the road or something that happens when you work for a corporation he took it as a personal attack. He is in this ’80s now, and he has never forgiven the company, and in fact, he never went back to work. Those of us that do not possess “right understanding” will encounter one round of suffering after another, blaming themselves, or someone else for the pain they feel during their lives.

Cultivate some measure of “right understanding” and your sense of attachment will diminish over time and then you will suffer less. In my next blog post, I will delve into how “right thought” can be an asset in your quest to end suffering for yourself and others.

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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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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It’s the truth I’m after

This is one of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius who was the Roman Emperor 161 to 180 CE and a pretty awesome Stoic Philosopher. Let’s take a look at what this quote really means:

“It’s the truth I am after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”

Sometimes I like to draw a parallel between Stoicism and Buddhism, but in Buddhism, the truth is known and it is referred to as the Four Noble Truths. That doesn’t mean Buddhists don’t seek the truth, they certainly do, my reference is to what the Buddha taught as the ultimate truth in the Four Noble Truths. Here Marcus Aurelius is seeking the truth and reminding us that the truth cannot harm us. We can seek the truth or as he says we can live in self-deceit and ignorance. I think this quote by Marcus Aurelius is inspirational and prescriptive, seek the truth, and avoid fooling yourself and being ignorant.

What other way should you live your life, but seeking the truth? Seeking the truth means being inquisitive, learning, and not being satisfied with bullshit explanations. Don’t believe the stories people tell you, when they want you to do things, question them. Your favorite word as a truth seeker is “why”. As a truth seeker, your life will have more meaning and you will enrich your understanding of the world.

Go ahead my friend the world needs more Truth Seekers! 

Namaste

 

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About Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius (/ɔːˈrliəs/ or /ɔːˈrljəs/;[1] LatinMarcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors (a term coined some 13 centuries later by Niccolò Machiavelli), and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He served as Roman consul in 140, 145, and 161.

Marcus was born during the reign of Emperor Hadrian to the emperor’s nephew, the praetor Marcus Annius Verus (III), and his wife the heiress Domitia Lucilla. Following the death of his father, Marcus was raised by his mother and grandfather Marcus Annius Verus (II). After Hadrian’s adoptive sonAelius Caesar, died in 138, the emperor adopted Marcus’ uncle Antoninus Pius as his new heir. In turn, Antoninus adopted Marcus and the son of Aelius, Lucius (later to rule as Emperor Lucius Verus alongside Marcus). Hadrian died that year and Antoninus became emperor. Now heir to the throne, Marcus studied Greek and Latin under tutors such as Herodes Atticus and Marcus Cornelius Fronto. He kept in close correspondence with Fronto for many years afterwards. Marcus married Antoninus’ daughter Faustina in 145. Antoninus died following an illness in 161.

The reign of Marcus Aurelius was marked by military conflict. In the East, the Roman Empire fought successfully with a revitalized Parthian Empire and the rebel Kingdom of Armenia. Marcus defeated the MarcomanniQuadi, and Sarmatian Iazyges in the Marcomannic Wars; however, these and other Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. He modified the silver purity of the Roman currency, the denarius. The persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire is believed to have increased during his reign. The Antonine Plague broke out in 165 or 166 and devastated the population of the Roman Empire, causing the deaths of five million people. Lucius Verus may have died from the plague in 169.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Marcus chose not to adopt an heir. His children included Lucilla, who married Lucius, and Commodus, whose succession after Marcus has become a subject of debate among both contemporary and modern historians. The Column and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius still stand in Rome, where they were erected in celebration of his military victories. Meditations, the writings of “the philosopher” – as contemporary biographers called Marcus, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. They have been praised by fellow writers, philosophers, monarchs, and politicians centuries after his death.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius

Do you have Buddha nature?

The title of this blog post asks do you have Buddha nature? Well according to Buddhist philosophy we all have a Buddha nature somewhere inside us, but as you can see it took the Buddha Shakyamuni six years for it to be revealed to him. It was his revelation after six years upon becoming enlightened that all living beings are Buddha, meaning they are inherently enlightened. The Buddhist believe that through meditation or for Zen practitioners Zazen, one can strip away the layers of unconscious thinking and brainwashing that has covered up our true nature.

However my statement applied to human beings, homo sapiens if you will. The Buddha Shakyamuni stated “all living beings are Buddha”, not all human beings are Buddha. Often when one refers to the word Buddha they are referring to Siddhārtha Gautama who becomes the Buddha, but in this quote the term Buddha refers to meaning the enlightened one or a person who has attained Buddhahood. In my mind none of these definitions really fully explain what the Buddha Shakyamuni proclaimed upon enlightenment because they again bestow the term only to a human beings.

Maybe it is more precise to say that all living things are inherently enlightened or are Buddha. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines enlightened as:

“freed from ignorance and misinformation”

I like to think we all start out in life with a Buddha nature free from ignorance and misinformation, and then the brainwashing begins. As we are taught fictitious stories by our parents, society, and our formal education systems we begin to bury the Buddha nature beneath layers of thoughts about the world and most of them untrue. We are told stories that impart values such as:

  • Money is good, more money is better
  • Power is good and we should seek power over others
  • Sex is good and we should always want more
  • Success is the result of hard work and we need to work harder
  • Life is competitive and we need to grab all we can get before someone else does
  • Acquiring things is good and we should seek more
  • God is all powerful and we should worship him
  • Nationalism is important, we are better than they are
  • Praise is good, seek more, stoke the ego

Of course this goes on and on, and these stories only serve the purpose to make us subservient to a materialistic me oriented society, where the more you have the more successful your are as a person. We are always seeking more, craving for new experiences, and never knowing ourselves. It is not in our nature to live based on these stories we are told, but it becomes a matter of conditioning over time. The Buddha was not satisfied with these stories, and left the Royal Palace to seek the answers to life, ultimately finding enlightenment, then going on to teach the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to thousands of disciples.

Can we follow his example and gain enlightenment? I think the answer is a resounding YES! If in fact you believe that we all have Buddha nature buried deep inside us, then the possibility of gaining enlightenment truly exists. There is a catch here, and it is not a trivial thing. The Buddha himself spent six years meditating to gain enlightenment, which clearly points out his dedication and patience. Here is a quote I find applicable to helping you as you follow the path:

 

In a world of instant gratification, rampant materialism, and greed we are probably challenged like never before, but I take heart in seeing that many are disillusioned with the stories that have dominated society since the beginning of the Industrial Age. There seems to be a keen interest in Eastern philosophy and the practice of meditation. People are looking for meaning in their life that goes beyond the acquisition of material things. They are beginning to understand that craving begets more craving, and the cycle only leaves us more dissatisfied and disillusioned. Buddhism can show us the way out of this self imposed existence, ultimately ending the causes of suffering such as craving and ego. My advice would be start with understanding the Four Noble Truths, studying the Eightfold Path, and start meditating.

Let the process begin.

Namaste

 

If you would like to support this blog, check out the awesome selection of eBooks at:

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Sources:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enlightened

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