Monday, September 17, 2012

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble 8-Fold Path.

1. Right UnderstandingRight Understanding is clear knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, encompassing Anicca (Impermanence), Anatta (Insubstantiality) and Dukkha (Insatisfactoriness).

2. Right ThoughtsWith clear knowledge, clear thinking follows suit. This is known as initial application (of knowledge).

Thoughts mould a person’s nature and direct their course and direction of action. Unwholesome thoughts will debase and erode a person’s character over time, while wholesome thoughts will lift him/her higher and higher up.

In particular, Right Thoughts are:

1. Renunciation (Nekkhamma) of worldly pleasures, and selflessness (altruism). This is opposed to insatiable desires and selfishness.2. Loving-kindness (Metta) or good will towards people, including yourself; which is opposed to hatred, ill-will, aversion, dislike, detest and spite.3. Harmlessness (Avihimsa) or compassion, as opposed to cruelty and callousness.

3. Right SpeechVerbal expression and communication need to match Right Thoughts. For instance, you are cursing and swearing, or being harsh and abusive, your thoughts will certainly match your speech, and vice versa.

The specifics are:

Firstly, avoid speaking lies, slander, harsh words, and indulging in frivolous chatter (gossips, idle talk etc.)

Secondly, as mentioned earlier, a harmless mind that generates loving-kindness cannot be giving vent to harsh speech, which first debases the speaker, then hurts the listener(s).Last but not least, what is spoken should not only be true, but also sweet and gentle. If your comment is true, but hurtful and unnecessary / unconstructive; then just keep your noble silence.

4. Right ActionWith good thoughts and wholesome speech, naturally, your actions have to be compatible. In particular, abstinence from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct (rape / molestation / deception / abuse). These three unwholesome (aka evil) deeds are caused by craving and anger, coupled to ignorance.

With the gradual elimination of these kammic causes (evil mental / verbal / physical actions) from your mind and body, blameworthy / bad tendencies will find no outlet nor route to express themselves.

5. Right LivelihoodAny attempt at purifying thoughts, words and actions would be severely hindered by five kinds of trade / business / job, detailed as follows:

1. Weapons (Arms)2. Human slavery3. Breeding of animals for slaughter / slaughtering animals per se4. Illegal drugs (narcotics), alcohol, cigarettes and the like5. Poisons

Hypocritical conduct is cited as wrong livelihood for monks.

6. Right EffortTo do anything in life requires determination, persistence and energy. The sustained, lifelong practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, to lead a pure and spiritual life, basically requires Right Effort.

7. Right MindfulnessThe practice of Right Mindfulness, in particular, requires Right Effort. It is the constant watching / observation of your own body and actions, feelings, thoughts and mental objects (your imagination / images in your mind).

This self-observation is useful in two major ways:

• It complements Vipassana (Insight) Meditation. As a subset to insight, it helps you gain better understanding of yourself, the ever-changing (impermanent) nature of your own mind and body.• It enables you to check any subconscious or careless mental / verbal / physical actions that are negative or bad.

8. Right MeditationSimply put, Right Meditation is deep concentration or total focus. The purpose is to train your mind to obey you and not the other way round.

When you start practising meditation, you will be shocked that your mind controls you, and how unruly it is, like a three-year child. All sorts of thoughts will go and on in your mind…

Initially, it will be like wrestling with a bull, or trying to ride a wild horse without getting thrown off. But, with persistence, strength and determination, you will gradually find it easier and easier to focus your mind.

Once you have succeeded in focusing your mind on a point, you can direct it / wield it, like a laser pointer. So, where do you point your laser-sharp and mirror-clear mind at? The answer is – the Five Aggregates that make up ‘you’.

When your body and mind are pure in conduct (Morality), and your mind is 100% concentrated (Samatha), the wisdom (Panna) you have about the emptiness of the Five Aggregates will enable a sudden flash of insight (Vipassana), and Enlightenment (Bodhi) occurs.………..Nibbana!

Of course, the actual ‘doing’ is a lot harder than described......^^

To conclude, here’s a convenient way to memorise all eight points of the Noble Eightfold Path: UT SAL EMM

Figure Legend: The Noble Eightfold Path. The practices can be broadly grouped under morality, concentration and wisdom.

Initial knowledge (Wisdom) guide moral conduct (Morality). Purified mind and body through morality assist concentration (Samatha). Using concentration, the Five Aggregates can be analysed thoroughly (Wisdom again). Finally, with the realisation - that the ‘self’ is actually a composition of factors streaming along and intrinsically ‘empty’ – the actual breakthrough to Enlightenment (Bodhi) is achieved.

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