2020-02-10: Introduction to Buddhism Part 4: The Noble Eightfold Path
10:48PM Jun 21, 2020
So Good evening, everyone and probably should be a little bit louder. Let's see, is that loud enough? No, not still not loud enough. I think that let's see. That's probably that's good. Okay. So so since beginning of the year, I've been giving an introduction to Buddhism series of Dharma talks. And this is the fourth one in this series. And today I want to talk about the eight pole path, the Noble Eightfold Path. This is the set of practices that are probably most associated with Buddhism, Tera vaada, Buddhism, early Buddhism and their eight sets of practices. And so they're called together they comprise something called the path the maga. And sometimes they're called the Noble Eightfold Path. And this word noble is a very powerful word in Buddhism. And it refers to, not the nobility of the Eightfold Path. But the Association of the Eightfold Path with noble people. It's the Eightfold Path of the noble ones or the noble one. And, and when a person becomes awakened, when they've somehow been liberated from greed, hate and delusion liberated from their attachments, then they have become a noble person and it's understood to be a transformation that bestows in a person a certain kind of nobility. a certain kind of kind of dignity or value, that that is held up in great esteem and Buddhism, not to just esteemed people, but to really recognize the tremendous benefit and value of being someone who's uprooted. Some of the negative forces that can affect the mind and the heart because we live here. And it's all too easy to go around the world, around our life, with all kinds of negative influences, getting the upper hand of us you know, it's mean not I want to be petty exactly, but it's certainly easy to end up in rush hour traffic, and start getting irritated and being annoyed and impatient. And that would be considered kind of a negative kind of unwholesome kind of qualities to be living in. It's that they Patience and irritation would be considered a form of suffering oneself, you know, you're hurt you hurt yourself if you do that. And greed is considered to be a kind of negative thing because it hurts the person who's greedy. And, and so it goes on and on hate hurts the person who's hateful. And so the idea to really, it's possible to change instantly in a sense to make kind of dramatic language, change the personality, change our character, or change the underlying operating system of what motivates us and moves us to the world. So we don't have to be stuck with the usual ways of being irritated or angry or resentful or annoyed or just kind of, you know, critical, of judgmental of things in a kind of harsh way or to be annoyed or angry or Hate for, to be filled with greed, desire and craving and wanting and addiction. And those can be all small things. And they can be huge monumental things. Some of them are deadly for oneself and for other people have tremendous forces have in our lives in our society. Most of what we do, probably the newspapers would go out of business, if
people stopped acting in negative ways, that's kind of what the part and parcel of most no news in the front page just because someone was operating under greed, hate and delusion. And, and so to uproot, that really is a radical transformation and change. And so it's called noble, noble person who's to attain that. And it points to the idea that what what Buddhism is looking for, is in fact a personal change. It's not A message of just simply accept your life as it is relax, chill, be zen, you know, just kind of like you know, just kind of live in a kind of steady, you know, intentional way and just be cool with everything that would be I think a character would be a kind of diminishment of the full potential of what this religion is about, which is kind of involves a transformation a change, to really become a different person in the process of doing it. And, and so this eightfold path is a path to that change. And it's also the path to being that change. And what I mean by that is can be explained by how there are three different levels of the Eightfold Path are three different phases of The first one would be that someone who's not a noble person, someone who's not been transformed, hears about the possibility of somehow suffering less, maybe even coming to the end of their suffering. They have some idea that Buddhism offers a set of practices and teachings that really will help their life and, and, and so for whatever reason, they kind of gave the tradition a little bit of benefit of the doubt. And they try out the practices. Many people here in the West will start off with a Buddhist practice by doing meditation. In other cultures, other other factors of the Eightfold Path are emphasized. And oftentimes, it's the ethical pieces of a full path that people start doing that first, and then later they get around to do meditation. There was a inspiring story that during the event that I had, where you Many years ago, almost 2530 years ago, I was teaching a class on Buddhism to one I think everyone there was a Buddhist. And, and there was one woman who, you know, was relatively new to the group. And I asked her one day if she meditated and she said something that really struck me. I was kind of surprised. She said, I'm not yet ready and worthy to meditate. I'm preparing myself so that worthy of meditation itself. And I like what you have to prepare yourself, you know, make yourself worthy. And I sound like, don't you start you know, it's such a great thing just begin. And so she was kind of cleaning up her ethical life, making sure she lived in a wise kind, ethical way. And be stabilized and that be steady and that, so that then she was kind of ready to do this meditation path. And whether that's needed to do it that sequence, I don't know, maybe for her it was. But that's one traditional way to do it. And I was really inspired by the faith, dedication, and the seriousness she gave to the path of practice, that she would actually kind of clean up her ethics before she would take it into their meditation class. And many people in the West, they do the other way around. They do meditation, and through meditation, they discover in themselves a different way of wanting to live. And then in that different way of living, then they're become interested in the ethical teachings of the Buddha, not because ethics are obligatory, but because the ethical path has now is represents the inner integrity, the inner goodness that we're discovering, and it's the way we want to live. Because it seems like the safest way to live. So, so someone comes to whatever reason they come to Buddhism, and they were interested in trying it out. And some people will hear well devotees try out the Eightfold Path, these eight sets of practices.
If so, there, then they're in students a path to liberation. A person practices them to some point, and they recognize in themselves, the Eightfold Path. They recognize in themselves, something about what these eight practices are about, so that they don't no longer something you're importing from the outside, something you have to do and learn and everything, but rather, you recognize Oh, that's really at the core of who I am. That's really inside is that living that way by a footpath that really, you know, is Have I recognized myself in them, or they recognize something deep inside of me corresponds to these eight sets of practices, not perfectly. But there's something that corresponds so it's so they no longer are something outside but they become inside of ourselves. Then as a person then starts fleshing this out, filling it out for themselves, taking what they found inside and expanding it, becoming more whole and it integrating into their whole being their whole life. Then at some point, they come to the third stage, or phase of the Eightfold Path, and they become the Eightfold Path. So first we import it, then we recognize it in ourselves, and then we become it, the Eightfold Path and, and it's become the Eightfold Path that they The more technical named Noble Eightfold Path has been realized you become a noble person. And these Second, the second phase, there's a, there's any of that there's, there's ordinary people. And then there's two stages of maturation in the Eightfold Path is, is recognize from the ancient time. And it's the most common way the Buddha talked about spiritual maturation was through these two stages. The first is the ordinary person. And then second stage the person is called a trainee, someone who's training a seka. And, and then, and then it's the third stage is called a seka. A non trainee. Usually they say something who's someone who's beyond training Someone who no longer needs to train because they become the Eightfold Path. And so in this idea that when we recognize the Eightfold Path and ourselves, then we become a trainee. That's in a kind of very technical language. So say it that way, so you don't get discouraged. In a technical sense, a person begins their Buddhist practice, when they recognize the truths of Buddhism, or in themselves. Oh, I didn't, you know, it's there. It's always been there, but didn't know it. And now I know what it is for myself. And when you note for yourself, rather than from a book or from a Dharma talk, then you know what you're working with, you know what it's about. And then you can begin actually doing because you really know now you can do the training, start doing the training in some more embodied or integral way. And so, so three phases and, and you see a little bit of this in the word that the word it's used as a, as a kind of a prefix. Before each of the Noble Eightfold Path factors. Each of them is called the Pali word is some, and usually it's translated as right. And so, the first of the Eightfold Path is called a right view, some IDT. And, and then using the English word right, is rather unsatisfactory for a good number of people in the West who don't want to be right and wrong. They want to be and so, some people, some some Buddhist teachers now, rather than sitting right will say wise arrays view, wise action, all these things. But the word sum can mean right in the sense of proper or what's good, what's proper, what's works.
It also it's a little bit of powerful word. And it could also mean complete. So it's having a complete view. Having the complete ethics having the complete meditation having it's complete. So, so, so complete has a very different feeling than right. It could also mean something like coming together, to unify especially in the Sanskrit version of the word. And so to come together to unify, it's the unified practices. It's the practices that work together to create a whole of of being in touch with something that has great value inside of ourselves. So, so we're, we're looking to take these eight practices and make ourselves whole, make ourselves complete, make ourselves proper in a certain way. And so then we either engage into practices or we recognize them themselves and we develop them within us. So these eight sets of practices, the first one is called right view. Kind of kind of, maybe you could say the right perspective. The second one is right attitude. The third is right speech. The fourth is right action, then right. Usually said in English, right livelihood, but it's a little confusing. I'll say more about that. Right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. And, and right view, when you're importing it in the beginning is just what you learn. perspective you learn to bring to your practice. When you've come to the next level, when you recognize it in yourself, then it becomes not imported, but something you really see in yourself. really understand for yourself, personally direct experience and what we can enter the number of things we can know deeply. One of them is that we can know that if you cling to something, if you really hold on tight and are attached, that you will suffer. There's no way around it. Partly because clinging itself is a kind of suffering. And you know, you can, you can kind of feel that when the intensive and when the clinging is really intense, really holding on to something really having wanting it. Or you can see it in someone else, they hold on to something. And it's just, you know, challenge for everyone else. This is suffering. There you can see it in them. And so the but this idea of really knowing for yourself, seeing for yourself that if you hold on tight to something, you're craving something, or you're resisting it really hard. How that hurts is, you know, certainly certainly valuable to see, more valuable is to experience for yourself what it's like to release the clinging, to really let go of it. And to experience the peace that comes when we're not no longer holding on tight. And I think that's one of the reasons some people like meditation in it. ordinary life we go around and we're kind of working ourselves up, we're busy doing all kinds of things. And there can be a lot of preoccupation and a lot of contraction, a lot of worry a lot of things xiety a lot of exhaustion and and a constant activity of desiring or wanting or protecting or hiding or angry or something. And in meditation to have these stressful states, relax and quiet down for some people is a revelation. There is another way to have the this this relaxation is letting go happen in a very dramatic way. So you really recognize this is really at the heart of who I want to be or who I am to be free in this way and have this deep inner kind of peace. And to know that for yourself and know that this is possible is to have right view.
Oh I can I know this Now and I want to this is this this way in which I'm no longer so contracted, so afraid, so angry, so greedy. so consumed with my thoughts and ideas and past and future. But you said it's all all this has been cleared away. The hearts been kind of emptied of all this extra negativity. And lo and behold, I have a good heart in there. Lo and behold, there's some goodness or peace or there's something that feels like it's, it's healthy, something deep inside that feels that it has integrity or authenticity, or it has goodness or it has at home pneus that we've kind of come home to ourselves in some deep way. And to have experienced something like this, maybe initially it's you know, just a hints of it. Wow, this is good. This feels right. This is where I want to live. This is how I want to have my luck. What I want be the center of my life. I don't want to have greed, desire, fear, preoccupation, distracted mind, be, be my, you know where I take up residence and where I live my life. I want to take residents in this settled heart where I can feel at home in something like that. And, and so to to be changed enough by the practice to taste this possibility inside of oneself. Then we have then the trainee has a right view because they know something for themselves. And probably most of you, if you've meditated for any length of time, have touched something. Otherwise you wouldn't keep meditating something that is a value, something about Something shifted for you or settled for your open for you that you said, Oh, this is good, this is great. So now you know something, you know, there's something you want something inside of you you recognize something. And so then you're interested in how do you fill this out? How do you continue how do you develop this further? Well, it happens it helps if it helps if you have the right attitude. And so the recognize that some attitudes are not helpful, and some attitudes are helpful to have. And we train ourselves to kind of cultivated attitudes which are useful attitudes of ill will have a version of us being kind of mean and annoyed with everyone else or oneself is not a very, it's not an attitude that is conducive towards this right view towards this freedom or this peace. We can experience the, the idea the attitude of wanting sensual pleasures just always want to be comfortable and pleasures and have just pleasant experiences and lots of sex and whatever it might be. None of those things are wrong, but be consumed by those things. Actually, you can. If you have in touch with some sense of deep inner well being, you can actually feel that the pursuit of sensual pleasure actually clouds it over, you kind of lose touch with something that's better than sensual pleasures. The pursuit of them at least the craving for them. And and meanness, attitude of meanness also doesn't work as a way of kind of giving voice or giving space for this new way of living. So what attitudes are useful, and when one of them is attitudes of kindness Other is attitudes of compassion and non harming. Another one which is not so popular automatically is an attitude of letting go of renunciation. But once you kind of know for yourself, what it's like to let go of stressful states of mind, then you understand how good it is to let go. Not as a way of diminishing ourselves and ending up with less. There's a way of when you know the Eightfold Path in yourself, then letting go is actually a an enhancing of oneself. Sounds like we get bigger by by letting go in the right way. If the goodness inside of you is known, and what you're doing is letting go into that goodness, it just grows.
So understanding how certain attitudes that we carry with us we walk around we have certain attitudes And that whatever we're doing are sometimes influenced by the attitude or the lens of attitude that we have. Part of the Eightfold Path is to begin seeing if we can shift our attitudes about things shift towards kindness towards non harming, shift towards letting go, rather than wanting more. Then we also begin understanding that how we speak is actually quite important. Most people speak more than they steal or kill. We do a lot of is talking and talking turns out to be very influential. It has a big impact on ourselves and a big impact on the world around us. And how we speak affects whether we're in touch with this beautiful place inside and come from it, or whether we obscure it and hide it. So if we talk in mean ways, we obscure the goodness inside we lose touch with it. If we talk the truth, we reveal it, we talk lies, we obscure it and lose the connection to it. If we talk in supportive kind ways to other people, it tends to in comfort and really come from that place inside, that goodness inside kind of can grow. If we talk in mean ways to people, then that closes down. And so this idea of being careful with our speech, not necessarily because we're it's more realistic to do so. But for a trainee, who knows something has recognized something in themselves. Right Speech has a lot to do with living in integrity or living in harmony with this, what we know that we want to support inside of ourselves. We want to enhance it and grow it and develop it. And then there's our right to action which is exciting. As not killing, not stealing, and not engaging in sexual misconduct. And again, it's possible to look at those as being ethical in nature. But if you say it's ethical to do those things, many people see them as something almost external rules that now you have to follow. And, and for your trainee, it's not a rule, but rather, it's a recognition that if you do those things, kill, steal, or engage in intentional, causing harm through your sexuality. That that's one of these things. These are things which obscure and close down that connection we have to this inner peace well being what we've recognized, and so then it becomes kind of natural to not do those things. If what we want to do is come from this place of goodness inside If we want to grow it, then the Eightfold Path and right action is the way to do it. Right Livelihood. The fifth factor, the Eightfold Path is more like the right way of life. Because anything in English many people think of livelihood as their Curt as their work, their career, how they make money. And then when we retire, someone doesn't have a livelihood anymore. Or if you're a student, so you don't have to worry about life livelihood, because, you know, you haven't gotten around to it yet. And, but rather, it's the right way of living in the world kind of general way in which we live our life. And so someone who's retired has a way of living and how they participate in the world and consume and produce and, you know, we do what they do. And a student also has lived here, their livelihood, their way of life of a student. And so for people that's kind of like a big part of our life as well. We live. And so we want to live in a way that's in harmony with this possibility of freedom, inner freedom that we can have.
Again, for someone who's not a trainee, it might sound like just up learn these teachings or learn these ideas of what is the right way of living. And then we kind of take it on because we've been told it's a good idea. But what's really exciting is when we become a trainee, when we've recognized something inside of ourselves, we know something for ourselves. And we can feel and recognize that behaving in certain way. living living our life in a certain way that's oblivious, oblivious that the harm our way of life has, on the benefit, oblivious of the harm it causes to others or living in a way that how we live is benefiting the world and leaving the word world a better place. That that really kind of nerd one way diminishes. Our inner freedom and goodness, the other way enhances it. And then the sixth step is called the right effort. And that's where this idea of having some inner reference point is really important. Because when you really are in touch with yourself, you can feel how some mental, some actions, some things we do by body speech in mind, darken that inner light, and other things we do brighten the inner light. Some things we do harm us, some things we do, free us and bring us benefit. So, to start being really sensitive, more and more sensitive to how we act in the world and what we do when we're trying to accomplish in what we're trying to, you know, it's something simple like how you drive your car. You drive your car in a way, that by the time you get your destination, you're kind of jagged jangle, because if you've been, you know, zipping around all the other cars honking your horn, rushing through yellow lights, whatever you can to, you know, try to get out of this, you know, from stop sign from stop signs screeching your tires and writing the bumper the person in front of you and, you know, just you know, those kinds of ways of driving does not support the growth of this deep inner place of peace and well being. There's probably no other way of drawing but with with driving, which does. And so to be sensitive, you really feel the difference between that and to avoid those activities that diminish the inner well being and to develop those and do those which enhance it. And this is a fascinating part of the Eightfold Path. To actually become a very careful, sensitive and careful and more and more and more of the things you do how you do it how what I'm doing right now? Is it enhancing me in a good way and bringing more freedom bring more good qualities to me? Or is it diminishing my good qualities my good character. And that can be as simple as how you choose to sit in a chair, to point my fingers anyone here at all? It just it just would came to my mind. And it was one of the consequences of spending three years in a Zen monastery was when I came after the three years in Zen monastery. where much of the daily life is choreographed, how you stand, how you sit, how you eat, how you bathe. And all this stuff is like this, you know, describe what you do. And it's like a dance. And I left and suddenly I didn't have to do the cord graft behavior. And what it did for me was said, Wow, I have a lot of choice. I didn't know I have so much choice that I and literally, I have a choice. I was kind of surprised I have a choice about how I sit in the chair. It never occurred to me. When I was younger, I just sat in a chair and think about it. And I could see that how I sat in the chair, affected my presence, how attentive I was or not attentive, how much I felt more confident and how much I sunk in and lost my confidence. And so this right efforts, you can pay attention you can be sensitive to the impact your behavior has. And the more settled and grounded you are, the more that reference point for that, feeling that and being guided by that can occur. Right mindfulness is the core practice. We do
harmonious mindfulness, unified mindfulness, complete mindfulness, that the ability to really be present for life in some ways, mindfulness can be understood as presence, to really be present for experience to recognize it, to know it, to bring our awareness into our life. And awareness has a lot of really good qualities, a lot of benefits. One of them is when you're really settled in awareness, awareness functions a little bit like a creating space, breathing room for what is good inside of us to flourish. When we are distracted and not mindful, caught up and lost. It's kind of like a recipe for what is unhealthy or negative or not useful inside of us to flourish. It's kind of liken it to you If you have a curtain or covers over a greenhouse, and it's hot and humid in the greenhouse, and but no light comes in, it's a recipe for mildew and mold and all kinds of strange things to grow, not the plants you want to have grow. But if you move the curtains away and have the sunlight come in, then that kind of makes it too hot and dry or something for the mold and mildew. And so then the plants you want to have light than they can grow. Somehow that's what mindfulness does is that powerful for us. That kind of like the light of awareness develops and enhances the best qualities inside of us. The lack of attention tends to foster the growth of what is kind of negative and not healthiness. We don't see what's unhealthy and we don't see it, then it's there. It tends to have a heyday, it's even more easier for it to kind of continue unabated. with mindfulness it's seen. And then we have more choice or I don't want to do that. And then we have room for other things to happen. And then finally, there's a right concentration. And right price concentration is a practice of becoming really unified, of not being fragmented from ourselves, but kind of gathering together all the disparate parts of who we are, and making them whole. So that this inner well being goodness, freedom, and we discovered that's maybe just a kernel at first, can fill itself out into all parts of who we are. Concentration has many benefits in practice, but this one of being the unifying the gathering together, so that there's a chance for all these different parts of ourselves to work together in harmony. With this level is this inner peace well being freedom that we've discovered. And then as that becomes fuller and fuller, then at some point it becomes stable inside of ourselves. And that person has to become a no longer a trainee beyond training, when they have become the Eightfold Path. And what that means is that it isn't that you have imported something on the outside and become, you know, someone you're not, but rather, all that kind of attachments we have that are the opposite obstacles to the, the free expression of the Eightfold Path that lives in us have been removed, that no longer need to be trained, meaning that enter goodness has flowered so fully that of course, you're not going to harm, of course, you're not going to do the things which harm yourself the wrong effort. Of course, you're going to kind of naturally want to be present because being present and mindful is kind of like, you know, at some point becomes the most natural and satisfying thing to do. It's who you are, rather than something you have to practice. Of course, you'll be concentrated if the conditions are there, because that's a way of coming home to oneself. Of course, you have right speech, because anything else just doesn't occur to you, you know, just it's not. It's not who you are anymore, to have it. And so there's a metaphor or analogy kind of simile that the Buddha uses. That's the kind of represents the power maybe, of doing this eightfold path. He said that in the high Himalayan Himalayan Mountains There's a
species of Nagas and Naga is kind of like a serpent and, and up there in the high Himalayas, they acquire lots of strength, they become strong. And then when they're strong enough, they begin flowing down. The creeks, streams, their rivers, through the lakes out into the vast ocean, where they become expansive, are great and abundant in their body, to become physically great and abundant. So that's that's that's the analogy. Then the Buddha said in the same way, a person who's established In virtue, by practicing the Eightfold Path will similarly flow into and become great and abundant in their, in their mental qualities in their inner qualities of being. And this idea that this path is one that makes us abundant in good inner states of being in our inner qualities, the state makes us in certain way kind of great qualities. It's not it's not a path to becoming, Mr. Nobody. Sometimes, in Buddhism, there's a lot of emphasis on letting go and not self and letting go have self and all that. And it's a little bit of a mess. It can be heard as a message of that you don't come Kind of count. You're not supposed to be have any impact on anyone, you're kind of supposed to be almost invisible. The opposite is the case that people who become noble, have no conceit. So they don't certainly and they have no attachment to self. They don't use the language or the ideas of self to organize themselves and how they go around the world. So that's what the not self was. But they had become abundant. There's a greatness or expansiveness, in people who become free. And the expansiveness that greatness has to do with that little kernel that was recognized in themselves that were that made them a trainee has now grown and grown and grown in them, and it becomes who they are. And so there's a feeling of abundance. Not a feeling of you know, lack. And so the Eightfold Path is the way to become a great serpent if you like that. And so the Eightfold Path through their beautiful qualities, beautiful practices, that if you can first just practice them, practice them long enough that it sincerely enough that you begin recognizing something that's always been there and you just waiting. Something that you recognize when you find the beacon to relax, open up, settle down, somehow start kind of finding yourself living in the world differently than how you were before. And then you become a trainee. Then you know, then then no one can take it away from you. Then the Buddha can come back. And he could walk into IMC and say, Hey, you guys. I was wrong. This is, you know, it's all wrong. Just forget everything I thought. And you would just look at him and says, Well, okay, it might be okay for you. But I know something for myself. I have this little seed inside of something really special some. And it's many ways it could be called, you know, freedom, peace, well being a place of home, Integrity, Authenticity, in many ways, different people call it something else. But it's still something we recognize inside of ourselves. And so Mr. Buddha, well,
it's okay that I know something. And I'm going to take that what I know. And that's going to be the perspective I use for how I live my life, my view, my right view, and I'm going to grow it and develop it because That seems like one of the most wonderful things to do in life. And it'll make me hopefully, a person that will leave the world a better place. So, the Noble Eightfold Path. So I hope that this practice that we do here will help you not so much be a different person, but for you discover who you really are. And then let that flower in a beautiful way made the Eightfold Path become you may Thank you