Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path


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Noble Eightfold Path

Learn more Got it! He thus made it possible for the half-converted and rude tribes to remain Buddhists while they brought offerings, and even bloody offerings, to these more congenial shrines, and while their practical belief had no relation at all to the Truths or the Noble Eightfold Path, but busied itself almost wholly with obtaining magic powers Siddhi , by means of magic phrases Dhdrani , and magic circles Mandala.

He further tells us that in the ninth year of his reign he formally joined the Buddhist community as a layman, in the eleventh year he became a member of the order, and in the thirteenth he "set out for the Great Wisdom" the Sambodhi , which is the Buddhist technical term for entering upon the well-known, eightfold path to Nirvana.

At first the means has to be employed with some deliberation, but through practice the feeling of love becomes ingrained, grafted onto the mind as a natural and spontaneous tendency.

Buddhist Teachings: The Noble Eightfold Path

The method of development is metta-bhavana, the meditation on loving-kindness, one of the most important kinds of Buddhist meditation. The meditation begins with the development of loving-kindness towards oneself. Probably most of the anger and hostility we direct to others springs from negative attitudes we hold towards ourselves. When metta is directed inwards towards oneself, it helps to melt down the hardened crust created by these negative attitudes, permitting a fluid diffusion of kindness and sympathy outwards.

Once one has learned to kindle the feeling of metta towards oneself, the next step is to extend it to others.

The extension of metta hinges on a shift in the sense of identity, on expanding the sense of identity beyond its ordinary confines and learning to identify with others. The shift is purely psychological in method, entirely free from theological and metaphysical postulates, such as that of a universal self immanent in all beings.

Instead, it proceeds from a simple, straightforward course of reflection which enables us to share the subjectivity of others and experience the world at least imaginatively from the standpoint of their own inwardness. The procedure starts with oneself. If we look into our own mind, we find that the basic urge of our being is the wish to be happy and free from suffering.

Now, as soon as we see this in ourselves, we can immediately understand that all living beings share the same basic wish. All want to be well, happy, and secure. To develop metta towards others, what is to be done is to imaginatively share their own innate wish for happiness. We use our own desire for happiness as the key, experience this desire as the basic urge of others, then come back to our own position and extend to them the wish that they may achieve their ultimate objective, that they may be well and happy. The methodical radiation of metta is practiced first by directing metta to individuals representing certain groups.

These groups are set in an order of progressive remoteness from oneself. The radiation begins with a dear person, such as a parent or teacher, then moves on to a friend, then to a neutral person, then finally to a hostile person. Though the types are defined by their relation to oneself, the love to be developed is not based on that relation but on each person's common aspiration for happiness.

With each individual one has to bring his or her image into focus and radiate the thought: "May he she be well!

The Range of Suffering

May he she be happy! May he she be peaceful! Once one gains some success with individuals, one can then work with larger units. One can try developing metta towards all friends, all neutral persons, all hostile persons. Then metta can be widened by directional suffusion, proceeding in the various directions — east, south, west, north, above, below — then it can be extended to all beings without distinction.

The Eightfold Path Of Buddhism

In the end one suffuses the entire world with a mind of loving-kindness "vast, sublime, and immeasurable, without enmity, without aversion. The intention of harmlessness is thought guided by compassion karuna , aroused in opposition to cruel, aggressive, and violent thoughts. Compassion supplies the complement to loving-kindness. Whereas loving-kindness has the characteristic of wishing for the happiness and welfare of others, compassion has the characteristic of wishing that others be free from suffering, a wish to be extended without limits to all living beings.

Buddha, The Word (the Eightfold Path)

Like metta, compassion arises by entering into the subjectivity of others, by sharing their interiority in a deep and total way. It springs up by considering that all beings, like ourselves, wish to be free from suffering, yet despite their wishes continue to be harassed by pain, fear, sorrow, and other forms of dukkha. To develop compassion as a meditative exercise, it is most effective to start with somebody who is actually undergoing suffering, since this provides the natural object for compassion. One contemplates this person's suffering, either directly or imaginatively, then reflects that like oneself, he she also wants to be free from suffering.

The thought should be repeated, and contemplation continually exercised, until a strong feeling of compassion swells up in the heart. Then, using that feeling as a standard, one turns to different individuals, considers how they are each exposed to suffering, and radiates the gentle feeling of compassion out to them. To increase the breadth and intensity of compassion it is helpful to contemplate the various sufferings to which living beings are susceptible.

A useful guideline to this extension is provided by the first noble truth, with its enumeration of the different aspects of dukkha. One contemplates beings as subject to old age, then as subject to sickness, then to death, then to sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, and so forth. When a high level of success has been achieved in generating compassion by the contemplation of beings who are directly afflicted by suffering, one can then move on to consider people who are presently enjoying happiness which they have acquired by immoral means.

One might reflect that such people, despite their superficial fortune, are doubtlessly troubled deep within by the pangs of conscience. Even if they display no outward signs of inner distress, one knows that they will eventually reap the bitter fruits of their evil deeds, which will bring them intense suffering. Finally, one can widen the scope of one's contemplation to include all living beings. One should contemplate all beings as subject to the universal suffering of samsara, driven by their greed, aversion, and delusion through the round of repeated birth and death.

If compassion is initially difficult to arouse towards beings who are total strangers, one can strengthen it by reflecting on the Buddha's dictum that in this beginningless cycle of rebirths, it is hard to find even a single being who has not at some time been one's own mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter.

To sum up, we see that the three kinds of right intention — of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness — counteract the three wrong intentions of desire, ill will, and harmfulness.


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The importance of putting into practice the contemplations leading to the arising of these thoughts cannot be overemphasized. The contemplations have been taught as methods for cultivation, not mere theoretical excursions.

Threefold Division of Noble Eightfold Path

To develop the intention of renunciation we have to contemplate the suffering tied up with the quest for worldly enjoyment; to develop the intention of good will we have to consider how all beings desire happiness; to develop the intention of harmlessness we have to consider how all beings wish to be free from suffering. The unwholesome thought is like a rotten peg lodged in the mind; the wholesome thought is like a new peg suitable to replace it. The actual contemplation functions as the hammer used to drive out the old peg with the new one. The work of driving in the new peg is practice — practicing again and again, as often as is necessary to reach success.

The Buddha gives us his assurance that the victory can be achieved. He says that whatever one reflects upon frequently becomes the inclination of the mind. If one frequently thinks sensual, hostile, or harmful thoughts, desire, ill will, and harmfulness become the inclination of the mind. If one frequently thinks in the opposite way, renunciation, good will, and harmlessness become the inclination of the mind MN The direction we take always comes back to ourselves, to the intentions we generate moment by moment in the course of our lives.

The next three path factors — right speech, right action, and right livelihood — may be treated together, as collectively they make up the first of the three divisions of the path, the division of moral discipline silakkhandha. Though the principles laid down in this section restrain immoral actions and promote good conduct, their ultimate purpose is not so much ethical as spiritual. They are not prescribed merely as guides to action, but primarily as aids to mental purification.

As a necessary measure for human well-being, ethics has its own justification in the Buddha's teaching and its importance cannot be underrated. But in the special context of the Noble Eightfold Path ethical principles are subordinate to the path's governing goal, final deliverance from suffering. Thus for the moral training to become a proper part of the path, it has to be taken up under the tutelage of the first two factors, right view and right intention, and to lead beyond to the trainings in concentration and wisdom.

Though the training in moral discipline is listed first among the three groups of practices, it should not be regarded lightly.

tolesjupyred.gq It is the foundation for the entire path, essential for the success of the other trainings. The Buddha himself frequently urged his disciples to adhere to the rules of discipline, "seeing danger in the slightest fault. Then, when your moral discipline is purified and your view straight, you should practice the four foundations of mindfulness" SN The Pali word we have been translating as "moral discipline," sila, appears in the texts with several overlapping meanings all connected with right conduct.

In some contexts it means action conforming to moral principles, in others the principles themselves, in still others the virtuous qualities of character that result from the observance of moral principles. Sila in the sense of precepts or principles represents the formalistic side of the ethical training, sila as virtue the animating spirit, and sila as right conduct the expression of virtue in real-life situations.

Often sila is formally defined as abstinence from unwholesome bodily and verbal action. This definition, with its stress on outer action, appears superficial. Other explanations, however, make up for the deficiency and reveal that there is more to sila than is evident at first glance. The Abhidhamma, for example, equates sila with the mental factors of abstinence viratiyo — right speech, right action, and right livelihood — an equation which makes it clear that what is really being cultivated through the observance of moral precepts is the mind.

Thus while the training in sila brings the "public" benefit of inhibiting socially detrimental actions, it entails the personal benefit of mental purification, preventing the defilements from dictating to us what lines of conduct we should follow. The English word "morality" and its derivatives suggest a sense of obligation and constraint quite foreign to the Buddhist conception of sila; this connotation probably enters from the theistic background to Western ethics.

Buddhism, with its non-theistic framework, grounds its ethics, not on the notion of obedience, but on that of harmony. In fact, the commentaries explain the word sila by another word, samadhana, meaning "harmony" or "coordination. The observance of sila leads to harmony at several levels — social, psychological, kammic, and contemplative. At the social level the principles of sila help to establish harmonious interpersonal relations, welding the mass of differently constituted members of society with their own private interests and goals into a cohesive social order in which conflict, if not utterly eliminated, is at least reduced.

Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path
Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path
Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path
Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path
Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path Buddha, The Word: The Eightfold Path

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