We’ve now completed a tour of the Buddha’s 8-fold path.
From Peace is a Simple Step (p50) by Ajahn Sumedho: These Eight Precepts are guidelines; they are not burdensome rules that make you feel guilt-ridden if you don’t live up to their highest standard. You’re not expected to be perfect all at once. This is a way of training, a way of guiding yourself towards recognizing the conditions of your mind, towards recognizing resistance, laziness, indulgence and the resentment of being restricted. You should want to see these things, so that you can release yourself from the burdens of repression and indulgence and find the Middle Way.
Ajahn Sumedho’s wisdom in the paragraph above is two-fold. For one thing it recognizes that most of us tend to judge ourselves as good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, lucky or unlucky, wonderful or horrible, ad infinitum. But this is antithetical to the use of the 8-fold path that the Buddha taught!
The second important point is that we are reluctant to admit (to ourselves and others) that we have thoughts and moods and feelings that we don’t like, that are unwholesome or even harmful — but we do have those thoughts and feelings, and facing them squarely gives us a chance to see that they are ephemeral, that they arise and pass away all by themselves unless we grab onto them and call them ours. This non-identification is a magic ingredient. Is it possible to feel frustration, impatience, confusion, anxiety, exhilaration, etc., and NOT take it personally? It’s a grand experiment.
Most people find it useful to work with one or a pair of elements of the path at any particular time because trying to keep the whole thing in mind may lead to confusion and frustration.
For example, for a day or a week or a month, we could put right speech at the forefront, guarding ourselves against hasty and careless speech, regardless of the provocation. Or we could make an effort to understand our intentions – are they in the direction of greed or renunciation? Are our actions motivated by good will? Just starting to know the the truth of how our life is will give us the opportunity to re-tune our attitudes. When we undertake these reflections, it’s important to recognize both the difficult and the pleasant. It’s easy to miss the peace and joy that come from our good actions and intentions.
The 8-fold path is a set of instructions that is worth returning to again and again. Forget, remember, forget, remember, forget, remember – this is how our minds work. The more we make use of the eight steps, the more confidence we’ll have in the path, and the more an irreversible wisdom will grow in us.
The Buddha’s 8-fold Path
1. Pañña (Right View and Right Intention)
2. Sīla (Right Speech, Action, and Livelihood)
3. Samādhi (Right Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration)