B1 Intermediate US 324 Folder Collection
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Hi everyone. Welcome to The Enthusiastic Buddhist. In this episode I want to talk about the Noble
Eightfold Path, which is part of the Four Noble Truths. In my last episode I covered
the Four Noble Truths so I'll put a link to that episode up here in case you missed it and you'd like to watch it now.
So I ended the previous episode talking about the Fourth
Noble Truth, which explains that if we want to reach enlightenment and be free of all
suffering we have to follow and practice the path called the Noble Eightfold Path, so in
effect there are eight things that we need to train in. The Noble Eightfold Path comprises of
eight different aspects about ourselves that we need to monitor, practice and perhaps change
to ensure that they're in line with our spiritual aspirations, which are presumably to lead
a moral life based on compassion and wisdom.
So the Buddha summarized the eight trainings in the Noble Eightfold Path. There are two
trainings in wisdom, three trainings in morality and three trainings in meditation. In the
Pali language these are known as panna, sila and samadhi.
The first of the eight is Right View. Right View, is also known as Right Understanding
and it comes first in the sequence of eight, because it acts like a core principle that
guides the seven other trainings. In the beginning Right View helps us to steer our behavior
towards cultivating wholesome actions which helps direct us towards peace and liberation,
rather than further from it. Then in the end Right View is representative of the wisdom that
we gain from our meditative realizations and this only comes as a result of having practiced
the seven other trainings. So Right View is important in the beginning, middle and end
of the path, all the way up to Enlightenment. Right View is perhaps the hardest for beginners
to understand and practice, so I will come back to it at the end of this video and go
over the seven other trainings first.
The second training of wisdom is the practice of Right Intention.
The Buddha explained Right Intention as having the intention of renunciation, the intention
of goodwill and the intention of harmlessness. Having an intention of renunciation...
one way we can look at this is that it means our intentions should be more selfless rather
than selfish, and so we're not motivated by personal greed so much, in fact, we're renouncing selfishness!
Practicing more selfless behavior helps us to move away from fortifying our
own egos and always coming from a place of self-centeredness. Instead we need to recognize
that everyone is the same boat as us, in wanting happiness and avoiding pain, so we should
try to live in a way that helps the majority instead of trying to secure the happiness
of just one being, you know, this separate self, this individual 'I'. The Buddha taught that we're all interconnected,
so renouncing selfishness and selfish pursuits and working towards the greater good is considered
more in line with true reality than what we might first realize or appreciate.
Intention of renunciation also means living a life more inclined towards peace and letting go.
Renunciation doesn't necessarily mean becoming monks and nun, and renouncing our
families and living in a cave to meditate. It could mean that but mostly it means renouncing
our greed, our anger, our jealousy and other harmful emotions.
The Buddha said that he who has renounced his impurities is called a renunciate. So
the impurities we are seeking to renounce are our mental impurities or defilements of
greed, aversion, pride and jealousy which all arise from ignorance and selfishness.
And why do we try to remove these? Why do we try to renounce these? Because they cause us so much pain for ourselves,
as well as others.
Intention of renunciation also means letting go of the belief that happiness is to be found
in things that are external to us. I mean, society tells us that happiness is to be found
in acquiring more and more things, yet the Buddha taught that happiness isn't found in
external objects and their acquisition, or through increasing our craving and desires,
but through finding the inner happiness that is within us instead. So having an intention
of renunciation means we slowly loosen the grasp of our craving and attachment to external
things so we can start to find the peace and happiness that lies within our minds,
which we can find through the practice of meditation and mindfulness.
Now the next one is Intention of Goodwill.
Having an intention of goodwill means we should act with the attitude of good-will and love
as opposed to ill-will and anger. Our actions of body, speech and mind should resonate with
the wish to help others and make them happy. Anger is something that affects us all, in
various degrees. If we do have anger or ill-will towards anyone then the Buddha prescribes
the meditation of loving-kindness to help us eradicate these tendencies of ill-will or anger.
It's said that our mind's true nature is one of love, peace and wishing
other's happiness, so it is this state that the Buddha wants us to tap back into.
The last part of Right Intention is the Intention of Harmlessness.
Having an intention of harmlessness means we should be motivated by compassion and not
wanting to cause or increase the suffering of others. This means we refrain from harming
others in any way, such as through physical violence, verbal abuse, mental manipulation
or power games. Actually this intention of harmless should be employed in anything
and everything that we set out to achieve. We should always carefully consider the ramification
of all our actions to ensure that it doesn't cause harm or suffering in any way to any living creature.
The next three trainings in the Noble Eightfold Path are the three trainings of
morality. These include the practice of Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood.
In essence, we try to practice these because it helps us to have a mind
that is kind, open and free of discursive thought, and this allows us to achieve deeper
levels of concentration when we meditate. We cannot become enlightened unless we meditate,
but we cannot meditate if we're constantly creating unease in our minds. So the three
trainings in morality help create a building block or stable foundation for our meditation
to be supported on and this in turn allows for realizations and greater wisdom to occur.
And remember these practices of morality are also motivated by Right Intention, the training
which came before these. So you will notice that these trainings of Right Speech, Right
Action and Right Livelihood are geared towards acting out of compassion and refraining from
causing harm towards others.
So the first is the practice of Right Speech. The Buddha advised us that Right Speech means
not lying, not engaging in slanderous or divisive speech, refraining from abusive or harsh speech
and refraining from idle gossip or chatter.
Instead our speech should be truthful, kind, beneficial and full of love. I actually want
to devote an entire video to Right Speech because it is such an important topic. I mean,
how often do we say things that we later regret, or wish we had some guidelines as to what
we should say and when? So I'll cover this topic in another video in the near future!
The next training in morality is the practice of Right Action.
Right Action means to avoid killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct basically
refers to being unfaithful to our partner or sleeping with someone else's partner. Although
these three trainings of killing, stealing and sexual misconduct are singled out in
this training, Right Action really means that we should avoid any behavior that harms others,
and instead we should perform virtuous deeds motivated by compassion, kindness and generosity, for instance.
Now the reason the Buddha brought our actions into the spotlight is because the Buddhist
path is a path of training our minds towards wholesome and virtuous habits. If we repeatedly
engage in killing and violence, stealing or being unfaithful in relationships, it's going to strengthen
these unwholesome mental factors or defilements in our mind until they become dominant and
natural patterns of our thought and behavior. Then in the future we will more easily do
non-virtuous things without giving it a second thought.
Now at the moment, we might not kill other sentient beings out of violence or wishing them harm,
but we do strengthen our disregard for the suffering of others every time we take the
life of another. And if we want to cultivate a mind of compassion and love, we have to
refrain from behavior that is antithetical to this. Taking another being's life is not
compassionate as it takes away the very thing all beings value most - which is their right
to live and breathe. The Buddha said:
In this matter the noble disciple reflects: 'Here am I, fond of my life, not wanting to die,
fond of pleasure and averse from pain. Suppose someone should deprive me of my life,
it would not be a thing pleasing or delightful to me. If I, in my turn, were to deprive of
his life one fond of life, not wanting to die, one fond of pleasure and averse from
pain, it would not be a thing pleasing or delightful to him. For that state which is
not pleasant or delightful to me must be not pleasant or delightful to another: and a state
undear and unpleasing to me, how could I inflict that upon another?' As a result of such reflection
he himself abstains from taking the life of creatures and he encourages others so to abstain,
and speaks in praise of so abstaining.
And in another sutra the Buddha said:
"The disciple, abstaining from the taking of life, dwells without stick or sword, conscientious,
full of sympathy, desirous of the welfare of all living beings."
In Buddhism we use the term 'sentient beings' quite a bit. Sentient beings are said to be
any living creature that has a consciousness and can feel and perceive. So in this we include
animals and even insects. For those of us who love animals, we can see that animals
have emotions, and they are worthy of our love and respect. But for some of us it might
be a bit harder to appreciate that insects have their own consciousness too. But why not?
If mean if we try to kill an insect they will try to run or fly away. So surely they
perceive danger, feel threatened and they react to this.
I remember when I was doing one of my retreats, and one day I walking up the hill, I saw this caterpillar that was rolling down the hill
and it was covered in bull ants which were biting it. And it looked to me like this caterpillar was writhing in
pain and really fighting for its life. I mean if it wasn't sentient, wouldn't it just lie
there and let the ants kill it and devour it? But even if we don't believe that insects
are sentient, can we really feel proud of our actions if we consciously take the lives
of those that are so much smaller and weaker and more vulnerable than ourselves?
The Buddha highly praised anyone who abstained from killing. He said:
"He who has renounced violence towards all living beings, weak or strong, who neither
kills nor causes others to kill - him do I call a holy man.
The Buddha really stressed the importance of living a life of non-violence and compassion.
Not only did he include not killing as part of the Noble Eightfold Path, but he also made
it the first Buddhist precept or vow taken by a lay person, or an ordained monk or nun.
Of course we cannot eliminate all killing, like the accidental killing of ants when we
walk. One of my teachers pointed out that we would need to be suspended in space if
we wanted to prevent all killing. But the most important thing is our attention and intention.
We need to examine how aware we are whenever we do things; like checking to see whether our
actions are possibly causing the death of another. And we should check to see what our intention was
if we did cause the death of another. Did they die as a result of our malice or because
of our desire for entertainment? What is important is that we consciously choose to refrain from
actions that cause suffering to others. If we want peace in the world, it has to start with
ourselves and our actions in the world.
The Buddha said that all beings have been our mother or our father in our past lives.
Now I can't verify that for myself, but I took this teaching and decided that every time
I came across an animal or insect, or even other humans beings, I would mentally name them, 'Mum'.
So I saw a spider, I'd mentally greet them, 'Hi, Mum!' If I saw a dog, I'd think
'Hi, Mum!' If I was served by someone at the local shops, I'd think, 'Thanks Mum'.
Now, the teachings don't just point out what we shouldn't do, but they also encourage us
to do the opposite. So in the case of taking life, we should practice the opposite and
save lives. So whenever I could I would save the lives of insects drowning in the toilet,
or caught in the spider's web. Or move them off a bike path before they got run over or
stepped on. And over the years, these two things, mentally
calling other beings Mum in my mind, and saving lives, has made it impossible for me to knowingly
take the life of another creature now.
No matter how much I might disdain ants when they invade our kitchen, or hate cockroaches
in the house, I won't kill them. I'll find an alternative to removing them. I literally
can't kill creatures with my own hands. And this didn't always used to be the case!
I used to kill insects, especially mosquitoes and spiders and I also used to go fishing. But
through mindfulness of my intentions, which came through meditating, I realized that I killed
insects out of fear and aversion, which I don't think is a just reason for killing something,
and I used to fish because I was drawn to the peace and serenity of being by the lake
and it was nice to share that space of peace and silence with the friends that I fished with.
But now I can get that same payoff when I meditate with others and no one has to come to any harm.
If we really want to walk the path of peace, we need to examine our relationship with
this idea of non-killing and compassion. But ultimately, whatever we do, the thing that
matters most in every situation is our intention. And this is just as important when it comes
to the next training, the training of Right Livelihood.
Right Livelihood makes up the last of the three trainings in morality. Because we spend
so much of waking hours at work, the Buddha wanted to ensure that our activities there
were also in line with living a kind and compassionate life.
The Buddha explicitly said there are five occupations that we should avoid. He said:
"Monks, a lay follower should not engage in
five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business
in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.
"These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in."
So business in weapons refers to selling guns or weapons that can cause the death of others.
Business in human beings refers to slavery or prostitution. Business in meat refers to
working as a butcher or in a slaughterhouse. Business in intoxicants means selling alcohol
or illicit drugs. And business in poison could mean manufacturing or selling poison to kill
insects or animals.
So you can see these livelihoods directly or indirectly cause
suffering in some way to other beings so they're ones that we should try to avoid.
And also when it comes to practicing Right Livelihood, it's not just about the actual occupation
that's important, but how we conduct ourselves in our business. For instance, it's important
to avoid scheming, deceit or trickery in any of our business dealings.
So these three trainings of morality: Right Speech, Right Actions, and Right Livelihood
encourage us to act in virtuous, honorable and peaceful ways in the world.
Morality is the foundation or basis of all spiritual development
if we live a virtuous life we won't have any regrets or guilt or worry and our minds
will be less scattered or full of discursive, unwholesome or unhelpful thoughts. Then when
we come to the cushion to meditate we will be able to meditate much better because our
minds will be open and carefree. And then it's just a matter of disciplining ourselves to
meditate on a regular basis so we can move through the stages of meditation to reach
special insight, which is realizing the true nature of our own mind.
Which brings us to the next three trainings - the three trainings of meditation which include
the practice of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
The practice of Right Effort has four parts. These are:
The effort to prevent negative mental states from arising in our mind. For example, preventing
anger or jealousy from arising. The effort to abandon any negative states
of mind that have arisen. The effort to cultivate positive mental states
not yet arisen, such as cultivating compassion in our mind.
And the effort to maintain these wholesome states of mind that have arisen.
These trainings are what really make Buddhism shine, in my opinion. None of us want to experience
negative states of mind such as anger or ill-will towards another and Buddhism has many different
techniques for helping us eliminate these states of mind and preventing them from arising
in the future. And the meditations on loving-kindness and compassion are all
about cultivating positive mental states and maintaining them. I'm going to be doing some
videos on these meditations in the near future, and actually I want to devote another future video
just to the practice of Right Effort so I can go into more detail about these four.
So the next training is the practice of Right Mindfulness.
If you've been following my website you would have seen that I've been writing a fair bit
about mindfulness lately. Anyone would have thought that I had covered this topic thoroughly enough
by now! But actually I've been saving the best bit for last and that is how mindfulness
is such an important tool for cultivating an awareness of our thoughts and how this
assists us in and out of meditation. There's also the importance mindfulness plays
in strengthening the quality of our concentration which ultimately improves our meditation. So because
this is quite a big and important topic, I'm going to again dedicate this to another future video.
The last of the trainings in the training of Meditation is Right Concentration.
Right Concentration means we train our minds to be one-pointed and focused when we meditate
in order to achieve a concentrated mind known as Samadhi. Samadhi is a very pure state of
consciousness and awareness. In this state, our mind can stay fixated on a meditation object
without wavering and it experiences a calmness and stability that we would find hard to comprehend at the moment.
If we continue to meditate in this intensified state of concentration
it will lead us into the jhanas which are necessary stages of meditative absorption
that we must pass through in order to gain special insight and become awakened.
Now getting back to the training of Right View.
Right View ensures that our behaviour, speech and thoughts are being born from a mind that
is infused with wisdom and compassion and that our behaviour is in line with these principles.
So what does wisdom mean here? It means having an understanding of the true nature of reality
and seeing things as they really are. It means we have penetrated the Four Noble Truths and
seen the truth of them for ourselves. Since the Four Noble Truths are directly tied into Right View,
I'll quickly recap on its importance and how it relates to our right understanding of the world.
As I explained in my previous video, understanding
the First Noble Truth means that we recognize that all phenomena are impermanent and unsatisfactory.
We can see that no matter what happiness we find in our daily lives, it isn't everlasting
and it cannot provide constant satisfaction. Instead, we're always left with this feeling
of wanting more, wanting more happiness and pleasure while we do everything we can to avoid pain.
And it's this craving for happiness, as outlined in the Second Noble Truth, that drives our
behavior and ultimately our dissatisfaction because we aren't able to feel absolute contentment in
what we have at the present moment. But if we examine carefully we will notice that
there are moments when we do experience great peace and satisfaction. These are times when
we're completely content in the moment and we're desiring absolutely nothing more or different.
Like when you're sitting by the lake on a nice spring day and you feel so content as if you
could just sit there forever. There isn't a trace of craving in your mind. Or when you've
been desiring after something or someone for so long, that it's literally consumed your
waking life and just one day you decide to drop it and let it all go and you suddenly feel this immense
peace, spaciousness and satisfaction. That is the Third Noble Truth being brought into action.
And the Fourth Noble Truth is the practice
of this Noble Eightfold Path. So by practicing the path of morality and meditation, we will
start to see how this really is a path to peace and happiness and then our faith in
the Fourth Noble Truth will be ignited.
It can take time to really appreciate the Four Noble Truths at a heart level. But if you
want to try and internalize this teaching a little bit more, you might want to try this exercise.
Next time you find yourself experiencing some suffering, look deeply at what the underlying
craving might be. What is the craving that's not being fulfilled here? Is it our craving
for love, attention, praise, validation? Whatever it is, once you've recognized it, we can then employ
wisdom and compassion to let it go and through this we'll begin to experience true peace.
But meanwhile if we're still struggling with the Four Noble Truths, we can still practice
the seven other trainings in the Noble Eightfold Path.
And I should also mention that Right View isn't restricted to simply understanding the
Four Noble Truths. It also incorporates an understanding that not only is all compounded phenomena
impermanent and unsatisfactory, but that it's also empty of inherent existence.
Again, this emptiness of inherent existence is something I will go into more detail in
another future video. And lastly Right View means having a correct
understanding of karma and appreciating that all actions have karmic consequences.
Meaning that wholesome actions lead to favorable results and unwholesome actions lead to negative results.
So in brief, Right View consists of understanding
the relevance of the Four Noble Truths, the role of karma and realizing the nature of
phenomena as being impermanent, unsatisfactory and without a permanent or inherent existence.
As I mentioned before, Right View is perhaps the hardest of the eight of the Noble Eightfold Path
to understand and practice. Whereas the other trainings, such as Right Speech and Right
Mindfulness, may seem much more straightforward and practical. Again, don't worry if it doesn't
all make sense to you at the moment. I'll put links below to some e-books that you can read more
about the Noble Eightfold Path. My explanation of it is only one way of presenting these
teachings, so before you either agree with them or dismiss them, I highly recommend that
you do a bit more reading about this subject.
So in summary, these trainings are really inviting us to embark on a big adventure - to
know and understand the workings of our own mind, to become aware of our intentions and
how to live peacefully and compassionately in the world.
These trainings are the first steps towards uprooting unwholesome and harmful states of
mind and instead cultivating qualities in ourselves that we probably admire in others.
By coming to know the psychology of our own mind, we will slowly start to see that we
are the creators of our own happiness. And by practicing the Noble Eightfold
Path, we'll find that it's a path of self-purification of our minds and a path
that will lead to realization, awakening, freedom and happiness.
So that's all from me. I hope this video wasn't too long. As I said, I'll be covering some
of these topics in greater detail in future videos. So please subscribe to my channel, please
like and share this video if you found it helpful, leave me a comment below and check out
my website enthusiasticbuddhist.com for more information on Buddhism and meditation. So
have a great week everyone and I hope to see you in the next video.
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Buddhist Teachings: The Noble Eightfold Path

324 Folder Collection
Tony Yu published on December 18, 2018
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