The practice of meditation increases our awareness and equanimity. Awareness of what, exactly? CLINGING!
The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths can be understood in simple terms:
1) life present us with a problem called dukkha (a.k.a. suffering),
2) the cause of suffering is craving and clinging,
3) there is a way out, and
4) that way is the noble eightfold path.
With sustained practice, meditation calms and quiets the mind, so that we are better able to see our own patterns of craving and aversion, clinging and pushing away. This can be disturbing, especially at first. Ultimately, meditation enables us to answer the questions: “Where is the clinging?” and “How can I let go of it?”
As you go deeper and become aware of more subtleties, you start to see the depth of your own clinging. It can seem endless, but trust that with devotion and discipline, you can gradually unclench and release. As we progress along the spiritual path, it is not uncommon to cling to the practice itself. To grasp on, white-knuckled, to the dharma teachings, for dear life. Instead, try using this mantra:
“With destruction, fading away, cessation, giving up, and relinquishment of attraction and clinging, I recognize that my mind is free.”
Step by step, millimeter by millimeter, we relinquish the thoughts, opinions, beliefs and ideas we hold so dear regarding the five ways we experience this life, through our body, our feelings, our perceptions, our inner mental landscape and our consciousness itself.
Here are the eight, not-necessarily neat, easy, or consecutive steps in of the eightfold path. They all overlap and intertwine. We are all works in progress on this journey.
Right View. Seeing reality as it is.
Right Intention. The purest intention is BODHICHITTA, the wish to realize enlightenment for the sake of others. Here are some Bodhisattva Vows.
- For the ultimate benefit of all beings without exception, throughout this and all my lifetimes, I dedicate myself to the practice and realization of enlightenment.
- Sentient beings are numberless: I vow to liberate them.
- Delusions are inexhaustible: I vow to transcend them.
- Dharma teachings are boundless: I vow to master them.
- The Buddha’s enlightened way is unsurpassable: I vow to embody it.
Right Speech. “Deep listening is the foundation of right speech.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
- Abstain from false speech
- Do not slander others
- Abstain from rude, impolite or abusive language
- Do not indulge in idle talk or gossip
“According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).” ~His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Essence of the Heart Sutra
“To practice Right Livelihood, you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. ” … Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living.” -Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
“If the intention is to play a useful role in society in order to support oneself and to help others, then the work one does is right livelihood.” – Vipassana teacher S.N. Goenka, The Buddha and His Teachings
Right Effort. Prevent the arising of unwholesome states (ex: Craving, Aversion, Worry, Doubt). Abandon any unwholesome states that have already arisen. Cultivate wholesome states that have not yet arisen (Compassion, Love, Wisdom). Keep wholesome states already arisen. * The Buddha taught that practice should be like a well-tuned string instrument. If the strings are too loose, they won’t play a sound. If they are too tight, they will break. Practice should be nourishing, not draining.
Right Mindfulness. “Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” ~Rumi
Right Concentration. Focus on wholesome thoughts and actions.
To learn more about practicing with the Four Noble Truths, listen to this dharma talk by Gil Fronsdal.