Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Noble 8-fold Path

6Again from:

1. Right Understanding

This precept can be thought of as the thorough knowledge and understanding of the Four Noble Truths as a whole. It's the kind of understanding that comes through personal experience. That means that it doesn't matter if you read ten books on Buddhism and can recite things from memory. You need to feel it and know it in your bones. This usually takes repeated exposure to the knowledge, contemplation of the knowledge, and regular practice of the "spiritual exercises". Don't be hard on yourself if it takes you a long time to come to understand Right Understanding from the inside out. At the same time, that's not an excuse to slack off. Right understanding is a facet of wisdom.

2. Right Thought

Right Thought is a facet of wisdom (Right Understanding is another). Selfless renunciation, detachment, love and nonviolence, these thoughts are extended to all beings. When this is lacking, however, as in such as thoughts based on selfish desire, hatred and violence, it is a sign that one is lacking in wisdom.

3. Right Speech

Don't tell lies. Don't be catty, malicious, vicious, slanderous or libelous in your conversation. Don't delight in salacious rumor-mongering. Why? Because these things bring about disharmony in your relationships with people. When you speak in these ways with others rather than truthfully and down-to-earth, it sets up a relationship between you and other people that's based on untruths. You may be in control of these untruths at first, but eventually, they take on a life of their own, and you'll start to get caught in your own web of deception and mean-spiritedness. Stay away from harsh and malicious language. Foaming at the mouth is to be avoided. Speak carefully and appropriately. Ethical conduct is based on Right Speech.

4. Right Action

This precept is similar to Christianity's Ten Commandments. Right Action tells people not to kill, not to steal, to be honest, and to have "appropriate" sexual intercourse.  Ethical conduct is rooted in Right Action. And as with true ethical conduct, it takes the development of a kind of "moral compass" to know what constitutes Right Action. But basically, it means not to do things that you know cause suffering for yourself or others.

5. Right Livelihood

This precept basically directs people not to make money through harming others. For example, typical Buddhist careers would probably not include arms dealers, crystal meth dealers, butchers, or chemical company executives.  Right Livelihood is a facet of ethical conduct.

6. Right Effort

It takes a lot of persistence to prevent unharmonious states of mind from coming to be. Right Effort is a Mental Discipline and it involves persisting in your efforts to live your life in keeping with the ideals of the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way).  Don't be too rough on yourself when you catch yourself having messed up somehow. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and then gently but firmly set yourself back in the right direction. Practice makes perfect!

7. Right Mindfulness (or Attentiveness)

You should be ever aware of what your body is doing, what you sense and feel, and what your mind is thinking about. You should attempt to be detached from these things, however. Merely notice them as they happen, and don't get all caught up in, say, that fantasy you love to replay in your head whenever you smell watermelon-scented body lotion. Right Mindfulness is a mental discipline.

8. Right Concentration

This precept points to the various modes of meditation and also other practices used to strengthen mental discipline. A very common practice is "Noticing One's Breath", in which, sitting comfortably with your back upright, you notice your breath as it goes in and out, in and out. You also come to notice that your mind is a nonstop whirlwind of disjoint thought, and with continued meditation the mind tends to calm down and clear up.  It's been said that the main thing that the Buddha introduced to the spiritual practices of his day was the practice of Vipassana meditation (or noticing-the-breath-meditation) in order to bring about enlightenment.

No comments:

Post a Comment