October 10, 2021
The Noble Eightfold Path
The 'Middle Way', avoiding the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, is the path which the Buddha taught in the Fourth Noble Truths that leads to the complete cessation of suffering (dukkha) and release from the cycle of existence (samsara). This is the realisation of Nibbana, the ultimate goal of a Buddhist.
The path comprises eight categories or factors which aim at developing and perfecting the three essentials of Buddhist training and discipline: Virtue (Sila), Concentration (samadhi) and Wisdom (panna).
Virtue or Ethical conduct comprises Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Effort.
Concentration is the development of Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration through meditation.
Wisdom comprises Right Understanding and Right Thought.
What the Buddha meant by 'Right' is that which produces a beneficial result.
Right Understanding (Samma ditthi) or Vision is essentially the true understanding of the Four Noble Truths, which can be regarded as the forerunner of the entire path.
When we understand that life is subject to dukkha and accept that there is a way out, we can set about treading the path that the Buddha prescribed. Right understanding is not a mere intellectual or theoretical understanding of Buddha's teachings. It is an intuitive realisation of the true nature of things. That is, with the development of insight, he or she realises the Three Characteristics of Existence, that:
a) All existence is subject to dukkha
b) All things are impermanent (not permanent, being in a state perpetual change) - anicca
c) There is no permanent soul of self in a being - anatta.
Right Thought (Samma sankappa) or Intention, means clear vision leading to clear thinking. Right thought leads to the elimination of harmful thoughts and developing such positive states of mind such as metta (loving-kindness), which is opposed to hatred, ill-will or aversion and developing thoughts of harmlessness or compassion which are opposed to cruelty and callousness.
Right Speech (Samma vaca) is refraining from false speech or lying, slandering and harsh speech such as hurling abuse, insulting and being sarcastic. Such a person will see the good in others instead of deceiving or denouncing them. Along with Right Action and Right Livelihood, Right Speech promotes ethical conduct, which is the foundation for the purification of the mind. A clear mind, without defilements such as anger, lust, etc. is an absolute necessity for the development of insight wisdom which enables one to realise the true nature of things.
Right Action (Samma kammanta) is to abstain from harming others, taking what is not given (which includes stealing, fraud, deception) and sexual misconduct. Craving (desire) and anger are the primary cause of these deeds.
Being satisfied with what we have and not craving for new things is the right approach.
Right Livelihood (Samma ajiva) aims at earning a living in an ethical manner without harming others. One should avoid certain trades such as:
•Trading in armaments
•Flesh (such as breeding of animals for slaughter)
•Intoxicating drinks and harmful drugs
As a practising Buddhist, making a large amount of money should not be the most important thing in life. Aquiring wealth in a skillful and ethical manner is not considered harmful provided greed is not the motivating factor. The Buddha advised that a person should spend reasonably in propotion to his earnings. Wealth should be used to provide the needs such as food, clothing, shelter of a person and his family and for charitable purposes, saving a quarter of the earnings for illness and other emergencies.
Right Effort (Samma vayama) is the effort to prevent evil and unwholesome states of mind such as anger, jealousy, craving from arising, and to get rid of such unwholesome states of mind that have already arisen. The development of mindfulness is a step in the right direction. Buddha stressed the importance of diligence and perseverance in right effort. In keeping with the Buddhist middle way, the effort should not be too hard or too little.
Right Mindfulness (Samma sati) is to be aware or attentive to all our activities, feelings, thoughts and emotions. A little reflection will make us realise that in most things we do, they are done without being fully aware of the actions being carried out. For example, we may be drinking a cup or tea, while in our mind we may be trying to solve an office problem. The practice of concentrating the mind on breathing (anapanasati) is a highly recommended meditation exercise for developing awareness. Being mindful should be practised in everyday tasks, and not limited to the period of meditation. The Buddha laid down four foundations of mindfulness: mindfulness of body, of feelings, of mental objects and of the mind.
Right Concentration (Samma samadhi) develops 'one-pointedness' of the mind. This is achieved by keeping the mind focused on a single object during meditation. Along with Right effort and Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration completes the mental discipline required to progress along the path. This with the development of mindfulness, will enable one the true understanding of one or more of the three characteristics of existence and thereby attain Enlightenment.
Source: London Buddhist Vihara
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January 17, 2023
Cultivating mindfulness is the key to overcoming suffering and recognizing natural wisdom: both our own and others'. How do we go about it?
In the Buddhist tradition and in Contemplative Psychotherapy training, we nurture mindfulness through the practice of sitting meditation. There are many different kinds of meditation. For example, some are designed to help us relax; others are meant to produce altered states of consciousness.
Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.
Mindfulness, paying precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides, doesn't reject anything. Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, we practice being able to be with them. Equally, we bring mindfulness to pleasant experiences as well. Perhaps surprisingly, many times we have a hard time staying simply present with happiness. We turn it into something more familiar, like worrying that it won't last or trying to keep it from fading away.
When we are mindful, we show up for our lives; we don't miss them in being distracted or in wishing for things to be different. Instead, if something needs to be changed we are present enough to understand what needs to be done. Being mindful is not a substitute for actually participating in our lives and taking care of our own and others' needs. In fact, the more mindful we are, the more skillful we can be in compassionate action.
December 19, 2022
It's easy to lose sight of the beauty of the world in the midst of tragedy, political upheaval, injustice and suffering. While we continue with our practice, working to ease the suffering of others and living a life of compassion and Love, we also need to be mindful and grateful for the beauty of the world that still surrounds us when we choose Love. Like Pops says, "Love baby. Love. That's the secret."
"What a Wonderful World" [1970 Spoken Introduction Version] along with Oliver Nelson's Orchestra is a song written by Bob Thiele (as George Douglas) and George David Weiss. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released as a single in 1968. Thiele and Weiss were both prominent in the music world (Thiele as a producer and Weiss as a composer/performer). Armstrong's recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Intended as an antidote for the increasingly racially and politically charged climate of everyday life in the United States, the song also has a hopeful, optimistic tone with regard to the future, with reference to babies being born into the world and having much to look forward to.
November 04, 2022