Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Noble Eightfold Path to Happiness

Marissa Skudlarek (Crazy Eights)

Dhammakaya Buddhist meditation center, Thailand (dhammakaya.net/events)

The Noble Eightfold Path
Another religion that incorporates the number eight is Buddhism. I have always thought that Buddhists had some good things to say about the causes of suffering and the ways of alleviating it, such as the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. It consists of:
  • 1. right perspective, 2. right intention, 3. right speech, 4. right action, 5. right livelihood, 6. right effort, 7. right mindfulness, 8. right concentration
That is, first one gets in the right frame of mind then strives to live ethically. Only then can one gain insight into existence by [mindfully] meditating on it.

Note that the Eightfold Path is different than the Eight Precepts in Buddhism, which I do not like so much because they suggest that to become more [insightful in meditation], one should refrain from singing, dancing, and going to the theater! Source


The Path
Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
Skudlarek is onto something. The optimal view, thinking, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration is considered the path to enlightenment. But none of this is "common sense." All of these are very specific terms with exact definitions.

Unfortunately, the word "right" (as in right view) raises in the Western mind a moral judgment. There is a path that works, that has been preserved, that has been verified and shown to work. That is the Noble Eightfold Path. It is not up for discussion. What we might discuss is whether or not we want to follow it. But what it is, what these terms mean, that is set.

When it is changed or "improved" or disregarded, the Dharma is lost to the world. But there is much more to the path-of-practice than merely observing eight steps or components.

Buddhism has preserved sutras that address each of these factors, not single discourses but numerous references and explanations. See particularly the Middle Length Discourses, Long Discourses, and the Numerical Discourses. Moreover, all of the factors are taken up, maintained, and brought to fruition simultaneously.

Doing so boils down to doing three things -- labelled virtue (observing precepts), concentration (gaining access or full absorption), and wisdom (liberating insight through through the four foundations of mindfulness). This description is general. The details are held by accomplished meditation instructors, many of them monastics and a growing number of them Western students of monastics.

The goes against the grain of America's "rugged individualism." The path is something one must do for oneself -- but there is no need to do it by oneself. We need one another, to hear the Dharma, to take it up correctly, to avoid common pitfalls and misinterpretations, to provide a conducive environment to its implementation. Individuals who take responsibility for themselves and their practice within community (a sangha) succeed where individuals reap frustration.

The purpose of Wisdom Quarterly is to provide in many and varied way a guidepost to understanding the Buddha's Dharma in a uniquely American (irreverent) and non faith-based way. Verifiable-faith is great! The path proves effective immediately -- in the sense that as soon as one practices, for example, generosity, craving is diminished. As soon as loving-kindness meditation is done correctly, hatred is displaced. As soon as mindfulness is set up in the moment, confusion and delusion and ignorance are dispelled. At the point of stream-entry, the path to full enlightenment becomes clear and irrefutable and one treasures the Buddha (who rediscovered the path), the Dharma (that explains the path), and the Sangha (who preserve, practice, and make known the path) become the most treasured guiding jewels.

Making it "simpler"?

Internal tranquility creates external peace. It leads to social peace through moral cultivation of individual minds. This is because the mind is the source of peace. If one has a skillful mind, then both speech and action are also skillful. A teaching of the Buddha called the "Knowledge Discourse" (Vijjā Sutta, SN 56.22) is a method of development for an individual's mind that can lead to internal tranquility.

Knowledge: Vijja Sutra (excerpt)

Maurice O'Connell Walshe (translator)

Those who know not suffering,
Nor how suffering comes to be,
Nor yet how all such suffering
To a final end is brought,

They do not know the Path
Leading to its calming down,
Cannot find the heart's release
Cannot be by wisdom freed,
With no chance to make an end,
To birth and aging they're condemned.

Those who do know suffering,
And how suffering comes to be,
Know too how all such suffering
To a final end is brought,

They who know the Path indeed
Leading to its calming down,
They can find the heart's release,
They can be by wisdom freed.
They know how to make an end,
To birth and aging no more bound.