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Living Buddhist Life - 8fold Path Part 2

posted Aug 7, 2015, 10:22 AM by Reno Budd

- 26jul15  - Rev. Matthew Fisher  -

Welcome - Welcome - everyone.  Happy to see you all this morning.  I saw many of you at Our Artown performance or the Relics over at Dharmakaya, or at Moon Rabbit Cafe.  It is good to be in community.  

We are here today to continue our talk about a Buddhist life - what we call the eightfold path.    How many of you were here of the first part?

Some of my introduction will go over what we talked about last time, but I think that’s good.  In preparing part two, I noticed insights when I went over things the second time.   
    A Buddhist Life in contrast to other lives is characterized by the quest for the end of suffering and ultimately deep and profound acceptance of our limitations, acceptance of the wisdom and compassion of the universe that is Amida Buddha.  

We can jump right in to part two by going over what The Eightfold path is. It is the Fourth of the Four Noble Truths.   When Sakyamuni Buddha reached  enlightenment under the 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. Eight habits.

The Eight habits of the BUDDIST LIFE are…

Right Understanding  Right Thought   Right Speech   Right Action   Right Livelihood   Right Effort  Right Mindfulness Right 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 probably change to help us rise to who we want to be spiritually.   The simple goal is to lead a moral life, in compassion and wisdom.  Such a  life is supremely joyful.     Last time - we worked with the memory device last time to be able to recall the 8 fold path.









Today we will talk about …

Right Livelihood,  Right Effort,   Right Mindfulness,   Right Concentration

Each of the eight habits begins with “RIGHT”.  For some new folks the English word RIGHT is a sticking point.   Pali word SAMMA  was originally translated as "RIGHT" and that is unfortunate.  It does not really mean to suggest the dualistic - RIGHT vs. WRONG.  
The word samma, can mean "best" or "appropriate" or "well-directed".     It is much more subtle meaning... juuust right.  The Buddha often used the analogy of a harp string..... What is just right when it comes to the string of a this harp?

Lets do a live Demo.  I’ll ask Matt Goddard to come up with his guitar.

Too loose - Here is the sound of a string too loose.
Where does this go?  Is this a spiritual life? [Matt]

Too Tight - Here is the sound of a string too tight --- very 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!  [Matt]
Just Right  - Sounds like this…[Matt]

For today let's say the word RIGHT means Juuuust Right!

Back to our Eight habits -

Last time we talked about .
Right Understanding  -  Right Thought  -  Right Speech  -  Right Action -

I think we ran out of gas somewhere in Right Livelihood

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

Tso we start with the 5th habit - Right Livelihood

We avoid professions and jobs that defile or harm. This is for ourselves and others.     Just right livelihood is important because we spend so much of our waking hours at work.  The Buddha wanted to ensure that our activities there were also building a kind and compassionate life.   The Buddha explicitly said there are five occupations that we should avoid…

“monks, a lay follower should not engage in five types of business which five? -  trade in weapons,  trade in human beings,  trade in meat,  trade in intoxicants, and  trade in poison. These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in”
                                                                              - Vanijja Sutta

It seems obvious that 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 or worse.

But there is ambiguity in some of these. Slavery and prostitution seem clear, but context is very important.  A sexual surrogate who heals a broken person would not be in this list.   Medicines are acceptable, but not those intended to kill.   An obvious omission are soldiers.  The Buddha’s family were mostly soldiers of one type or another, he himself was well versed and trained in martial arts.   A profession that occasionally uses force to defend the weak is a right livelihood.
If a job intends to directly or indirectly cause suffering to other beings we should try to avoid it.  When it comes to practicing right livelihood it is not just our actual occupation that is important, but how we conduct ourselves and our business - if our job requires we scam, deceive, or trick the it is not wholesome.

You can see that livelihoods that intentionally inflict harm and suffering are proscribed.   Shinran Shonin opened Buddhism to Farmers and ranchers and fisherfolk recognizing that their intentions were wholesome and essential to our society.  Most of all.  If your job ethically eats you up, it can't be a right livelihood.

Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!
Understanding  Thought  Speech  Action  Livelihood  Effort  Mindfulness  Concentration

The sixth habit is E for Effort - 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.

The habit of right effort has four parts -

the effort to prevent negative mental states from arising in our mind
     like preventing anger or jealousy from arising.
the effort to abandon any negative state of mind that has arisen
   If we notice it we let it go right away.
the effort to cultivate positive mental states
   such as cultivating compassion in our mind.
the effort to maintain and sustain wholesome states of mind that have arisen

These habits are really a shining part of  Buddhism.  None of us want to experience negative states of mind like as anger or ill will towards others.  Buddhism has many different techniques for helping us eliminate these states of mind and preventing them from arising in the future.  

The meditations on loving kindness and compassion are all about cultivating positive mental states and maintain them. When we  focus these thoughts on  anyone  - more so someone we are not getting along with we are soaking in compassion.

May you be happy and well;

May no harm or difficulties continue for you;

May you receive boundless compassion and care;

And may peace and harmony be restored to your heart

Doing this takes effort.  We have to notice that we are at odds with another and apply the antidote as prescribed by the Buddha. It is just right effort towards letting go of the unfortunate thoughts and habits and effort towards building new wholesome habits.

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

Monkeys - M - Mindfulness

The next habit is right mindfulness. The seventh fold in the Eightfold path.

The Buddha taught that mindfulness is an important tool for cultivating an awareness of our thoughts. All the other habits in the path require mindfulness to work.. We can’t act with Just-right intention if we don't even notice what we are doing.  If we are asleep at the switch none of this will work very well. Mindfulness strengthens the quality of our concentration which ultimately improves all aspects of our Buddhist life.  This is not supposed to be pre-occupation or obsession. Just Right Mindfulness lives in being aware of what's going on outside, and what's happening inside you.

Mindfulness requires reflection. Reflection requires honesty. We have  monthly meetings of Men's and Women's groups at RBC.   I am usually not one for pitting genders against each other, but we have not seen as much  participation in the Men’s group as we  had hoped.  These groups are intended to be safe supportive places for self reflection.  They require a measure of courage to openly express  our experience of life - joyful or otherwise. Mindfulness is a habit that comes when we are willing to  bring to awareness all aspects of our lives and experience. We can be quiet at first and are not required to share, but after a few meetings we feel secure enough to express our insights into our own lives. It is very good to do. So if there are any men in the sangha here today.  “Dude - mark your calendar and come to the group”.  Next meeting is Aug 29th.

Mindfulness is not really about ourselves - ultimately it is really being aware of the boundless force of life, love, compassion, and wisdom that pervades the ten quarters of the universe.  This practice naturally transforms our forgetfulness and negative habit energies into awakening and gratitude, so we may experience the Ultimate Dimension as the Nembutsu - Namu Amida Butsu.

OK...Until   Thoughts   |  Stop  Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys   Confusion

Concentration - the eighth habit is Right Concentration
The last one. Right Concentration is the practice deep hearing of the light - Naturally.  We get a habit when it is regular.  We Chant or Meditate on a regular basis in order to cultivate our power of concentration. Through sitting or chanting or walking in mindfulness we become more able to concentrate.   These all help us to clearly see things as-they-are.
Chanting is the most popular Buddhist practice by far.  Most Buddhist chant - fewer Buddhists meditate.  Simply because most people live lives that are incompatible with deeply quiet contemplation. If you are new to chanting, the best advice is to listen carefully to what everyone around you is doing, and just do that. If you do you are apply the habit of Right Mindfulness to cultivate your powers of concentration.

While we are on Chanting…
You can pitch your voice to be in unison with most of the other chanters (we’re never completely in unison and don’t worry about it), start lower in volume until you are relaxed, then copy the volume of the people around you, and start chanting.  Always make sure you can hear the leader. If you can’t - you have taken over. Many people say that they don't try chanting because they are not good singers.  This is not required, and shows a little more Right Effort is needed to get yourself down to the temple on Tuesday at 6:00pm and try it.  [If you are legitimately tone-deaf you are totally welcome - please chant quietly :) ]

Chanting as part of a group service really is something we are all doing together, at first ok - but don't just listen to yourself chant. Hear everyone at once. Be part of one big voice - one big ocean of vibration.  We get to a stage where “the chant chants you”.  

The Buddha gave us five important lessons to  experience as we chant…

  1. One is pleased with oneself regarding that sound, (= pride  I can work on that)

  2. others are pleased regarding that sound (= don’t forget the meaning in the chant Mindfulness)

  3. householders look down upon them (= judging others is not useful)

  4. while trying for accuracy of sound one’s concentration is broken, (= chanting naturally is important )

  5. people coming after fall into rigid views “This is the way we do it” (= a source of both pride and quarrelling among later generations of Buddhists)

— Vinaya Pitaka, ii. 108

We take these to heart.  But often the opposite is true.  We say we don't chant because we are not good enough, but from Amida Buddha’s view - “you are OK just as you are”.   From what authority does your worry come - from Mara The Undoer?  Many times I've heard senior students and teachers say that the thing they found most tedious and foolish when they first began to practice was the very thing that triggered their first awakening experience. Cultivate the habit, have the courage to be a little foolish. It has worked for me.

Chanting is basically another form of meditation. Conscious awareness of the meaning of the words is not so important; this meaning is absorbed on a subconscious level through repetition and habituation. Most important is the mind-state created by the chanting, ultimately oneness to the point of self-forgetfulness.

Right Concentration does include meditation. We have regular meditation session here at RBC.   Meditation is easy to try and beneficial for everyone, as long as they sit within their abilities.  The health benefits are well documented.  We don’t think that sitting and meditating is going to make us enlightened tomorrow.  But we do recognize the it gives us  benefits and aids in our  ability to hear the Dharma.  That is why Dr. Matsunaga  included our 4 minute meditation in our Sunday service pattern. It settles the mind to receive the Dharma.
Please remember - There is a Beginner Meditation 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.  And we have our Santosha Yoga every Saturday morning.  

Right concentration means we train our minds to be one pointed and focused.  We experience a concentrative mind known as Samadhi, Samadhi is a very pure state of consciousness and awareness in this state our mind can stay fixed on its object without wavering. The Chanting - or our breath - our a yoga posture - are the one thing in mind. We experience calmness and stability that we probably don't comprehend at the moment.

These habits really invite 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 habits are the first steps towards uprooting unwholesome and harmful states of mind and instead cultivating qualities in ourselves that we probably admire in others.  If we  come 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 will find that it is a path of purification of our minds and a path that will lead to realization, awakening freedom and happiness.

Wow!  we’ve made it through the whole Eightfold Path!

Living the Eightfold Path is rewarding and wonderful and we do it in dedication to all sentient beings.  Just Right Livelihood , Just Right Effort, Just Right MIndfulness and Just Right Concentration 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 -

*Thanks to many Dharma teachers for the content of this article. No part of this is my original thought.