29 Mar 2007 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 2 Comments.
The whole Buddhist Dharma teaching is explained through the eight principles of enlightened living originally taught by Lord Buddha in his renowned Noble Eight-fold Path. That’s why it’s so very interesting. These eight are wise view, wise intentions, wise speech, wise actions, wise livelihood, wise effort, wise concentration, and wise mindfulness.
These are not simply divine injunctions or Eight Commandments, as in: you should do this, then you’ll get to heaven later. Rather, it is simply basic sanity, intelligent living. Isn’t it sane to be helpful rather than harmful, and unselfish rather than selfish? Healthy rather than bent out of shape? We don’t really need other, more complicated ulterior motives. Thus we have the ancient adage, “Virtue is its own reward.” Integrity and character development are good both now and later.
It is simply sane to be present and accounted for, attentive, rather than to be distracted and absent-minded, which just leads to all kinds of misunderstandings and so-called accidents. It is sane to be pursuing one’s true vocation, rather than compromising and selling short oneвs precious, evanescent life, isn’t it? It is sane to be energetic and buoyant and doing one’s best to keep on in a consciously chosen direction, to have courage, to keep going and make efforts towards that which is meaningful. These are simply principles of sanity and enlightened living.
Rather than calling it the Eight-fold Path, I like to call it the Eight Principles of Enlightened Living or the eight steps to awakening– as in my book “Awakening the Buddha Within”, where this liberating eight-fold path provides the chapter outline for the entire path of Buddhist wisdom. These eight virtues and practices are really eight facets of a single jewel: the jewel of spiritual life. If you look at that jewel, of course it can have infinite facets; but these eight original practices and principles taught by Buddha long ago form the basis and backbone of Buddhism, regardless of school or country, and pretty much sum up everything he himself taught.
However, I will go further and say there is a very important one that’s not here. As the ninth fold, the ninth inning, I say we should include exercise. If the Buddha had taught today, I’m sure he would have included exercise! Not just physical exercise, perhaps, but maybe also mental and emotional exercise. Exercising and developing our faculties for health and relaxation; jogging, biking, swimming, yoga, martial arts, at whatever level you want to tap into. Exercise is extraordinarily useful and healthy. The ninth Inning on the path is wise exercise and healthy living. Why not? Don’t we as Bodhisattvas and spirirual warriors (not worriers!) need and want to maintain our physical vehicle and keep it on the road as a useful and safe conveyance for as long as necessary?
Come to think of it, there should be another extra principle of enlightened living, humor, a tenth and extra inning. If we take ourselves too seriously, and make religion into a grim and terrible chore while missing the cosmic absurdity of things and failing to appreciate the lighter side of things– it just ain’t very funny! So Good Humor is our sweet and delicious tenth fold on the path.
When I told this to one of my close friends, psychologist and parent Janet Surrey, she insouciently said that for her Right Relationships is an important and necessary step on the eight-fold path, especially today for us lay folk. If we don’t end here, we’re going to end up with our precious Eight-fold Path becoming a twelve step program for recovering from Samsara!
I find it’s quite healthy to exercise our freedom to inquire or debate and think creatively about things; questioning and inquiry might make a good additional step on the path as well. We should exercise our speech as well as our intelligence, and not just swallow ideas whole and undigested. You know the old Zen koan: Does dogma have Buddha-nature? We must take the opportunity to think about these things and try to actually apply them in life, where the rubber meets the road on the spiritual path, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Then we will lead an enlightened, sane, beautiful and righteous life. And we wonвt have to wait until we die or the Messiah comes to take us up to heaven; weвll help usher that process along, right here and now. We wonвt have to wait for anything. Instead, totally present at the moment of creation, right now, at every moment: there is nothing missing and nothing extra to get rid of. That’s the joy of this jewel of the Dharma, the truth of things as they are.
2 Comments for Extra Innings on the Eight-fold Path of Enlightenment