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Living Buddhist Life - 8fold Path - part 1

posted Jul 25, 2015, 3:24 PM by Reno Budd

- 12jul15  - Rev. Matthew Fisher  -

Welcome everyone.  So good to be back.  Our visit from Otani Sensei was quite wonderful. Everyone had a chance to glimpse the lineage of our 750 year tradition. Weh held the Buddhist Name ceremony, I am always pleased by the individual care His Eminence gives each person.  And in turn each person gives each other.  Peaceful and kind - most wonderful.   We will be receiving other visits from HHT priests from time to time as we nurture that relationship.  In September Isago Sensei will be visiting.

We are here today to talk about a Buddhist life. This is not to be confused with a guilt trip on what you should be.  A Buddhist life has a questing quality.  Trying to become and realizing that we can’t make it on our own is what its all about.   2600 yrs ago the Buddha identified four important truths. He didn't discover these but we know from him that they have been operative in our Universe from many kalpas.  The wall scrolls show the Buddha Lokkasvararaja teaching these same Four Truths almost 15 kalpas ago.  [Kalpa is a very long time]. They show his student the king becoming a monk, the monk becoming the bodhisatta Dharmakara | there making his 48 vows.  For all sentient beings in the universe. Ultimately becoming Amida Buddha.  The triptych is the Pure Land he manifested - Amida Buddha, Seishi and Kannon Bodhisattvas in the Sukkhavatti.   
These truths have been around a long time.

The Eightfold path is the Fourth of the Four Noble Truths.   When Sakyamuni Buddha reached  enlightenment under that bodhi tree he saw clearly these Four Noble Truths…

  1. Life can be lived in abiding joy.

  2. Joy comes when we see the world as it truly is.

  3. We can change our minds and see the world as it truly is.

  4. The path to living a Joyful Life has Eight aspects.

The Fourth Noble Truth is the way to live a joyful life. The Eight habits of the BUDDIST LIFE are…

Wisdom GROUP                                                          
Right Understanding
Right Thought

Conduct GROUP
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood

Concentration GROUP                                                          
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Meditation

This is always a challenging talk because there are eight folds in the path.  People just don't learn 8 things in a sitting.   So we divide the Eightfold Path into three groups   Wisdom,  Conduct, and Concentration.  

In effect there are eight things that we need to make habit.   These are eight different aspects about ourselves that we need to monitor, practice, and maybe change to help us rise to who we want to be spiritually.   The simple goal is to lead a moral life, based in compassion and wisdom.  Buddha summarized the path:  there are two trainings in wisdom, three trainings in conduct and three trainings in concentration.

This is a mnemonic device to help you remember the noble 8 fold path.









Each of the eight aspects begins with RIGHT. People often get stuck on the English word RIGHT.   It is unfortunate that the Pali word SAMMA  was originally translated as "RIGHT".  It does not really mean that - RIGHT suggests WRONG.  A very dualistic view and not a Buddhist view. The word samma, is like "best" or "appropriate" or "well-directed". It suggests “completeness”,  and even “perfection" as in the "perfect summer evening."

It is much more subtle meaning.  Maybe closer to... juuust right.  The Buddha often use the analogy of a harp..... What is just right when it comes to the string of a this harp?

Too loose - Hey dude anything you do is ok. no worries.  Where does this go?  Is this a spiritual life?

Too Tight - You shouldn't do this. You can't do that.  Don't be this. Rules and regulations pile up and compound and eventually we are wrapped so tight - that we break!  

Just Right  - For today let's say the word RIGHT  means a Harmonic  Energetic  Amplifier of our Thoughts and Actions.  Juuuust Right!

Back to our Eight habits - The first of the eight is ‘right understanding’.   This is the basis of the Path. We recognizing the four marks of existence -     
1) Life is a Bumpy road,         2) Life is Impermanent,    
                3) Life is Interdependent,         4) Life is Fundamentally Good

The way to overcome Ignorance is living a just Right life.  In this way of seeing the world, we profoundly trust in the Great Compassion of the universe.  We can feel the inconceivable life force of all that was, is and will be. This Great Compassion we see as Amida Buddha.  We take refuge in something infinitely larger than ourselves.   In that refuge you are accepted just as you are.  This is the habit of Right Understanding.

Remember our Mnemonic for the eightfold path…
Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!

The second habit we cultivate in the wisdom group right thought -- just  right thought.  Sometimes we translate it as intention. The Buddha explained right thought as having the intention of letting go - renunciation- the thought of good will and the thought of harm-less-ness - Ahimsa. Without harming. This means our intentions should be more self-less rather than self-ish.   When we are not motivated by personal greed so much - in fact we are letting go of selfishness -  practicing more self-less behavior helps us to move away from our deluding ego. We are making a habit of self-less-ness instead. We come to recognize that everyone is in the same boat as us, they want happiness and to avoid pain - we should live in a way that helps us all get there.  Instead of trying to secure happiness of just one being, this separate self, we experience as  “I-Me-Me-My”.  It is actually ignorance manifest.

The just right thought is compassion - Compassion is Truth manifested.

The Buddha recognized that we are all interconnected, so renouncing our selfish pursuits and working towards the greater good is in line with reality.   At first we don’t realize or appreciate what letting go means -  living a life more inclined towards peace and letting go doesn’t necessarily mean becoming monks and nuns - it could mean that - mostly it means renouncing our greed, our anger, our jealousy and other harmful emotions.  These prized possessions we cherish - our wounds and indignities done to us - that we carry inside us as caustic treasures  - what Gollum called our “precious-es”.  Right Thought is to leave these things behind.  Cast them off and care deeply for others.

In the Dhammapada - Buddha said, “he who has renounced his impurities is called an Bhikku”.  The impurities we need to let go are our mental impurities or defilements of greed, aversion, pride and jealousy which all arise from ignorance and selfishness.  
Why do we try to remove these thoughts? - Because they cause so much pain for ourselves and others.  The thought of renunciation also means letting go of the belief that happiness is found in things that are external to us.  The Media and 24hour fabric of Advertising tells us that happiness is found in acquiring more and more things.  Buddha taught that happiness isn’t found in external objects and “Getting stuff” - that just increases our craving and desire.  Happiness comes through finding that true light within you. Our true nature is Eternal, Joyous, Selfless, and Pure.  

Having this Right Thought of renunciation means we slowly loosen the grasp of our craving and attachment to external things. We can start to find the peace and happiness that lies within -- the great expanse of mind -- we can find the light that is all around us.

Another aspect of Just Right Thought is goodwill/ Non-harm.  Having an thought of goodwill means we act with an attitude of goodwill and love as opposed to ill will and anger.  Our actions of body, speech and mind resonate with the wish to help others and make them happy.  Anger is something that affects us all in some degree, if we do have anger or ill will towards anyone, the Buddha prescribes the meditation of loving kindness….

May you be happy;

May you be free from harm:

May you receive compassion;

And may peace fill your heart

This helps us eradicate the habit of ill will or anger.  Our true nature, is “Eternal, Joyous, Selfless and Pure” - one of love, peace and wishing others happiness, so it is this state that the Buddha wants us to tap back into, the last part of right thought is this intention.  The thought of harmlessness - having an intention of harmlessness means we should be motivated by compassion and not wanting to cause or increase the sufferings of others, this means we refrain from harming others in any way such as through physical violence, verbal abuse, or mental manipulation.  Actually this thought of harmlessness can be employed in anything and everything that we set out to achieve, with right thought we carefully consider the consequences of all our actions to ensure that they don’t cause harm or suffering in any way.

Those are the Wisdom group - Right Understanding and Right Thought.      

Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!

The third habit that leads to the other shore is Right Speech
Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh recommended this about just right speech...

“Be aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others. Please cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering.
Know that words can create happiness or suffering, learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope...We must always refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord. Our words can reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small -  It doesn't cost anything to speak in a loving way.''

We only need to choose our words carefully, and we can make other people happy. To use words mindfully, with loving kindness, is a practice of generosity. We can make many people happy simply by practicing just right speech.  This does require some Just Right Thought. All theses habits are interrelated.

Kannon Bodhisattva [over here] is a person who has learned the art of listening and speaking deeply in order to help people let go of their fear, misery, and despair. He is the model of the practice of Just Right Speech, and the door she opens is called the “universal door'' - universal door of communication. If we practice listening and speaking just like Kannon, we too will be able to open the universal door and bring joy, peace, and happiness to many people and alleviate their suffering.

In the sutras Kannon's voice is described in three important ways: the voice of the world regarder, the voice of the rising tide, and the voice of world surpassing.

First, is the voice of the world regarder

The meaning of the word Kannon is “the one who looks deeply into the world and hears the cries of the world.'' This voice relieves suffering and suppressed feelings, because it is the voice of someone who understands us deeply -- our anguish, despair, and fear. When we feel understood, we suffer much less.

Second, the voice of the rising tide  

This is the voice of the teaching of the Buddha. It is a powerful voice, the kind of voice that quiets all wrong views and speculations. It is the lion's roar that Dharmakara Bodhisattva speaks of in the Sanseige - A voice that brings silence to the mountain and brings healing and transformation.

Third, the voice of the world surpassing

This is a voice that is uncomparable - just nothing like it. This voice does not aim at fame, profit, or a competitive edge. It is a thundering silence that shatters all notions and concepts.

The voice of the world regarder, the voice of the rising tide, and the voice of the world surpassing are the voices we can be mindful of when we speak. If we contemplate these three voices, we assist Kannon in opening the universal door, the door of real listening and real speaking. The Universal Door of Communication.

Just Right Speech is when we communicate words of kindness and simple truth and avoid speaking about others when they are not present.   We also listen deeply to what others say in order to transform conflict into harmony. Sometimes we hear the phrase “that is not really Buddhist” spoken in the temple. -- This is awkward --  Because right speech does not include judgements of others’ faith.   It consists in telling our truth with care and awareness. Words spoken in judgement of others do not follow this guidance.  As Buddhists we have faith in the wisdom of the Buddhas, so their words and guidance are important to us.  We take these words to heart...

“If it is not truthful and not helpful, don't say it.

If it is truthful and not helpful, don't say it.

If it is not truthful yet helpful, don't say it.

If it is truthful and helpful, wait for the right time to say it.”

                            ― Gautama Buddha

Remember our mnemonic…

Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!

The fourth habit we cultivate is Right Action

We habituate ourselves toward wholesome physical acts.   We practice giving (dana), for the good of ourselves and the community.   RBC is supported by your generosity and you give to make the Dharma available to all people in our area. Everyone who gives to RBC has contributed to sustaining the Dharma for many years in Reno.

Dana is one of the most important practices for Buddhists.  
You might ask  - What is Dana?

The Pali word Dana means to share and give whatever we think we possess without any sense of reward or benefit.  Dana can be given from our money, time, space, knowledge, energy, information, fearlessness, Dharma, skill, a smile, kind words, and much more. Anything that we “possess” can be the object of Dana.  

Dana has two aspects: (1) Release of positive energy and (2 ) Reduction of attachment, a cause of Dukkha (stress, fear, and suffering in our lives), by learning to let go.

The Right Action of Dana gives us positive energy. Whatever we give, the action of “giving” always releases positive energy. For example, if a sangha member spends extra time to find a book in the RBC library for a visitor.  At the moment the visitor takes the book, the member feels positive energy because of her giving of her “extra time.” Even if we do Dana to show-off, “to be a good person”, it liberates a certain amount of positive energy.

Where does the pleasure and positive energy of giving Dana come from?

Dana is “giving up” the possession of the mind, not really the object. When you “let go” (give) something with genuine mind [right thought], it necessarily gives you positive energy. This is the effect of genuine giving. That is how genuine Dana works.
Like when you have a backpack on your shoulders, and when you put it down, you feel relieved. This is the natural effect of letting it go of something. It is not “I” who produces positive energy -- or reduces greed and attachment -- but the power of Dana itself. It is because Dana is a tool that is designed by the Buddha himself to release positive energy and reduce self-centeredness. It is the nature of Dana that produces positive energy -- “Dana gives happiness” and “That Is The Way It Is.   We make dana a habit.   We give a little every time we visit the temple and receive the Dharma.

I should mention that Just Right Action of the eightfold path also includes the guidance that we refrain from unwholesome actions of the body.  From taking life, to mindless consumption, to stealing and other harmful acts.  

As Gotama Buddha said...

"And what, friends, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, friends, is called right action.

Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!

 5.  The fifth habit is Right Livelihood

We avoid professions and jobs that defile or harm. This is for ourselves and others. Our work is not separate from spiritual practice. We practice the Buddha’s Noble Path at work or school too.   We dedicate our labor for the health and vitality of our workplace and the world.  During the course of our day, we consider if our words and actions uplift or harm others.

 At work, in order to avoid conflict; try not to “carry the dharma on your sleeve.”  Instead, we practice this Noble Path in humbleness and thanksgiving without others even knowing about it. This is known as practicing the dharma without form.

Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!
Understanding  Thought  Speech  Action  Livelihood  Effort  Mindfulness  Concentration
of a Buddhist Life.

On the other habits we cultivate on the Path I’ll be brief today….

  6.  The sixth habit is Right Effort - Following this Path takes effort.  It is against our Bonbu nature to do these things and think these ways. We have to focus and apply ourselves.  But also we must be careful to apply the harp string rule here. It is easy to over do it.   just Right is joyful harmonic and energetic effort.            

7.  The Seventh habit is Right Mindfulness

This is really being aware of the boundless force of life, love, compassion, and wisdom that pervades the ten quarters of the universe.  This practice will naturally transform our forgetfulness and negative habit energies into awakening and gratitude, so we may experience the Ultimate Dimension as the Nembutsu - Namu Amida Butsu.  It is active all the time.


   8.  and the eighth habit is Right Concentration
This means we will practice deep hearing of the light - Naturally.  We get a habit when it is regular.  Meditate on a regular basis in order to cultivate mindfulness and insight. Through sitting or chanting or walking in mindfulness.   These all help us to clearly see things as-they-are.

There is a Beginner Meditation class on service-Sunday mornings at 9:00am. If you want to start this is a good way.
We have Golden Light Meditation on alternate Wednesday nights at 6:30pm.
We also have a Joyful Chanting Hour every Tuesday night at 6:00pm  - please come and try that as well.

Wow!  we’ve made it through half of the Eightfold Path!

Living the Eightfold Path is rewarding and wonderful and we do it in dedication to all sentie nt beings.  Just Right Wisdom, Just Right Action, And Just Rights and Just Right action are interconnected with the other habits of the path. The idea of the path is to create a wholesome habit of living.  And that leads us to harmony with the Four Noble Truths...

  1. Life can be lived in abiding joy.

  2. Joy comes when we see the world as it truly is.

  3. We can change our minds and see the world as it truly is.

  4. The path to living a Joyful Life has Eight Habits.

Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!

These Right Habits are a way of changing our minds to see clearly. This is living the nembutsu.    We can’t do this on our own efforts alone. And so we take refuge in Amida Buddha.  Through Amida we experience our true nature which is - Eternal, Joyous, Selfless and Pure.

Please repeat after me the Metta practice...

May you be happy;

 May you be free from harm:

          May you receive boundless compassion;

And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -