Looking for guiding principles on how to live your life? As is often the way, many people are not exposed to ideas their own family is unaware of. There has been so much knowledge handed down throughout the ages, from different cultures, religions and spiritual traditions. Today we will delve into one such path.
During his life, the Buddha taught a great many things, but his very first teaching was on The Four Noble Truths, which are all about why we experience suffering in our lives. The last of the Four Noble Truths explains that although we will certainly have unpleasant times during our lives, we can overcome these ills, and live a life free of suffering.
So, what exactly did the Buddha say? How can we overcome our suffering? Well, he outlined a path to follow. A path that results in a new and more enjoyable way of living and being. Not one where we become numb and do not feel, but one where we do not cling to our suffering, for this robs of us of the present moment and all its potential. This path is known as The Noble Eightfold Path and it is what we are discussing in this installment of our blogs.
What Is The Noble Eightfold Path?
The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism and The Eight Limbs of Yoga are not identical, but they do have many similarities in both content and structure; they are both Dharmic life paths that include eight parts that can be further divided into three groups. The Noble Eightfold path is split into Wisdom (#1-2 Right View and Right Resolve), Lifestyle/Ethics (#3-5 Right Speech, Right Conduct and Right Livelihood) and Meditation (#6-8 Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Samadhi).
- Right View (Sammādiṭṭhi): Right View is all about our understanding, understanding of the nature of things and seeing reality as it is. This is understanding of The Four Noble Truths (realizing we suffer because of our unnecessary attachments and expectations of people, places and things).
- Right Resolve (Sammāsaṅkappa): Right Resolve is about our thoughts and aspirations/intent. Try to avoid thoughts of harmful intent or attachments.
- Right Speech (Sammāvācā): Right Speech is about refraining from verbal harm such as gossip, slander and senseless chatting.
- Right Conduct (Sammākammanta): Right Conduct is about our actions, mainly not stealing, not killing and not engaging in sexual misconduct.
- Right Livelihood (Sammā-ājīva): Right Livelihood is about how we support ourselves. We should not profit from suffering, therefore, we should not make money, directly or indirectly, from things that cause harm- Things like weapons, poison, slavery, the slaughter of animals, etc.
- Right Effort (Sammāvāyāma): Right Effort is about our state of being. This includes the abandonment of any current negative states of being and preventing future negative states from arising, as well as maintaining current positive states and fostering the development of positive states of being.
- Right Mindfulness (Sammāsati): Right Mindfulness is all about awareness, awareness of our bodies, thoughts, emotions and the world.
- Right Samadhi (Sammāsamādhi): Right Samadhi is about meditation, union and single-pointedness. This part of the path is said to have four levels and gets semi-esoteric, but it is supposed to lead to awakening, liberation and the transformation of the self. It is the culmination of the path.
Putting It Into Practice
Ok, so you know what The Noble Eightfold path is, now what? Although all aspects of the path are to be practiced together, it is thought that first we need wisdom and understanding of the path before we can walk it. Once we have this understanding, we can put the principles into practice. Living this way, leads to a good and harmonious life, both within ourselves and with the outside world. Living in such a way promotes a state where we can more effectively meditate and reach Samadhi, which is said to result in a new way of being, understanding and living.
The starting point is accepting the Buddha's principle that we suffer because of our attachments and expectations of people places and things. This is an over simplification, but if you can get on board with that, you have the right view part down.
Next, you need to actually want to change your way of being and want to follow the path. This is right resolve and like many things, it starts in our heads. First we try to clean our minds of harmful thoughts and intentions. It is like the saying, "Thoughts become things." Our thoughts trickle into the real world when they become actions, this leads us to the lifestyle part of the path, where wisdom becomes compassion.
Once our minds have been cleaned, we can set to cleaning up our lives and freeing ourselves of harmful speech and actions. This allows us to become more mindful of both our internal sensations and the events of the outside world.
From here, we can go inward, slow down and make the switch from living a reactionary life; acting based on conditioning, past experiences and triggers; to one where we can choose how we want to respond, who we want to be and what we put into the world.
In short, let go of expectations and attachments, do no harm (no harmful intent, thoughts or actions), be compassionate, be mindful and try your best, so that you can free yourself from the Duhkha in your life. By letting go of preconceived ideas and living in the present moment, you too can have a richer, more rewarding life.
Although the information is available and the ideas are not new, many people have not discovered the knowledge, ideas or practices of other cultures. We here at Lotus Tribe wish to share these ideas and shed some light on them, so that more people may come across these valuable tools for living and being.
Whether you are a Yogi, a student of life, or just someone having the human experience; you would probably appreciate more calmness and joy in your life and less stress and anxiety.
By implementing the practices we shared, you too may find a new way of being, living, and experiencing. We don't assume to know what is right for you, only to offer you an introduction to the things we have found helpful in our own daily lives. Don't take our word for it, give these practices a try and see for yourself.