Author Topic: The Value of the Eight Fold Path  (Read 3187 times)

rideforever

The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« on: December 18, 2010, 10:02:01 PM »
Personally I see awareness as path and goal and cannot understand the value of the eight fold path.  Here are some thoughts :


When discussing path I think it is important to always emphasise that the tao that can be said is not the true tao, and to always point inside.  This is simple and direct; as such it is harder for the mind to use it than something complicated like the 8 fold path.

I am interested to hear why following the 8 fold path is not creating attachments, thinking about the future, and reinforcing the mind by making mind objects (the 8 elements of the path) important, which is how it seems to me ? 

The path of awareness always points inside you and does not require anyone else, however the 8 fold path creates a relationship between you and the person who laid down the rules - a power structure.

What does "right intention", "right speech" etc... mean ?  I assume it is not the relative "right intention", but the absolute right intention or absolute truth.  If that is the case I cannot see how it is useful to make so much of it as the truth is not in the hands of the non-enlightened being and will likely be used as a spiritual materialism.  It would be better just to say "the truth" because it has less handholds for the mind.

Creating attachments in this way is the thing to be emphasised and re-emphasised to the student at every turn; hence my view that stressing awareness at every turn being the only path.  It is indeed difficult to convey because the mind makes concepts of these things quickly; hence a master will continually change the method of pointing inside. 

Chogyam Trungpa emphasised that making attachments of spiritual things is extremely dangerous and seductive; best to pick a path with few opportunities for it.

In this description of the 8 fold path (http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/eightfoldpath.html) under Right View it says that "It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering".    My question would be 'why are you telling the student what he will see ?'.  Surely this is a terrible mistake. 

The only teaching is look inside - even that is too much, but what to do.


dobe

Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2010, 10:51:38 PM »
you are over complicating things in my opinion.  I feel blind faith in any religion can become insanity, so its important to lay down a logical pathway using language and reason.  This way you hold all supposed Truths as tentative, and it makes your intellect happy while you walk the path. But what is there really to say, using the mind/language, about that which is formless, nonlinear.  Language only points to that which is radically subjective. 

So here I see you taking the many pointers and analyzing the pointers, not realizing that they are just pointers pointing you in a direction.  There are many pointers in many languages, stemming from enlightened beings from different time periods in different contexts.

There are many traditions with all sorts of different techniques, pointing to the same ultimate goal.  Find the essence of them all, and once you have, disregard all the books and pointers and walk the path.  There comes a point when reading more and more books will only be a deterrent.

You're right though: once you have an understanding of the path and what you are trying to realize, looking inward is all that is left.  Realize though many people get discouraged, lose faith, disregard the practice, get confused and also drift off in new-age la-la land and get no where spiritually.

soma

Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2010, 11:11:58 PM »
I would have to agree with you here,rideforever, but I do so because it has been my experience that awareness leads to right speech and compassion and all the other 'right' things and not the other way around, but it may well be different for other people - developing other things first and then that will lead to more general awareness.

When I started to practice meditation I was not doing so in a buddhist context and I did not try to become a good little buddhist or even a good human being.
Things like 'compassion' was not coming very naturally for me and I did in no way try to develop it or any other 'good' qualities.

But pretty soon after starting to practice meditation and awareness in daily life some things became more and more clear to me and I started to slowly change in ways that surprised me.
I started to get some mundane insights about my behaviour towards myself and others and where that behaviour came from and what it did to myself and others.
It became very clear that I was the one who caused all the pain that I was experiencing and that no one else was to blame. I also saw that as long as I behaved like this more pain would come to me and the victim role would be further strengtened.
So by practicing awareness the 'truth' became quite obvious and I did not need to change my behaviour - it changed by itself and I started to see that everybody else was creating the same mess for themselves that I had done and now could see that they were feeding their own pain and I actually felt some compassion for them doing so - it seemed so terrible and unnecessery
that it should have to be that way, that we all create suffering for ourselves and then push it onto each other and make this world into a real shitty place to be.
I also noticed that when I changed my behaviour to others they were affected by it and responded
in ways I had not seen before from them and I noticed that if I would for example talk bad about a person it would create more bad talk about this person and soon the atmosphere in the room was very much different and it made me feel bad and the space in wich I was practicing awareness would narrow down.
So to make a long rant short I believe that you can end up on the eightfold path by just practicing awareness or you can end up being much more aware from being kind to others and all that. It takes awareness to remember to to do 'right' things.
Now it is obvious that there are people who practice awareness and yet they do not seem to gain any insight from that and then I think it is a must to sort of 'help' by pointing out certain things or to give suggestions to do other practices.
It is very much like the debate whether you need shamatha first before you can do insight/vipasasana. As anyone can testify, 'you cannot pick up one end of the stick without lifting up the other end'.
Why it is that some people do not develop insight from practicing awareness I think is something really worth discussing and whether Hitler was aware or not, as Matthew said in another post, I guess it depends on what you put in the word awareness. If there is no insight - are you really aware ?
So in my opinion, the eightfold path is the natural and logical outcome of awareness, and to practice it the other way around probably leads to more 'spiritually correct' good little buddhists and semi religious people but that is just my little observation.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2010, 11:19:38 PM by soma »

kidnovice

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    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2010, 06:54:29 AM »
Well said, Soma. My own experience has been quite similar. Over the years, I have found myself naturally aligning with some aspects of the eightfold path. Other areas, not so much.  But in the areas where I have been aligned, I've noticed benefits in my life. So, now I've begun to more  purposefully align myself with other folds of the path.

However, this process is most skillful when it is done without attachment. But it does require effort. Much effort. But effort without attachment.   ;) Some people think it can't be done. I think it can. Sometimes we overdo the effort, sometimes we underdo it. Eventually, we learn how to get it just right!

May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

kidnovice

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    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2010, 07:04:46 AM »
RF, Here is I how I understand your perspective (correct me if I'm wrong). You seem to view awareness as an end in itself. Awareness is the goal, or rather, the path is essentially goalless. There is no goal. Awareness simply is.

Did I put that right? This is precisely where you disagree with the Buddha of the Pali cannon. He was very clear about his view. He liked to say that he taught one thing, and one thing only: suffering, and the end of suffering. (yes, that is sort of two things, but whatever). In other words, his goal was to help people achieve freedom: freedom from suffering, discomfort, stress, and strain.

That is all he cared about. Each aspect of his teaching served only that purpose. Thus, "Right intention" is simply that kind of intention that leads to total freedom from suffering. Not all intentions do that. But some intentions do.

The same goes for awareness (and all the other folds of the path). It is "right" when it eventually leads you to liberation. If you cultivate the type of awareness that doesn't lead to liberation, its "wrong."  For the Buddha, EVERYTHING (including awareness) was just a means to an end, and there was only one end: freedom.

But maybe awareness is enough? Do you need anything else? The Buddha certainly praises the value of bare-awareness, and there are sutta's that say bare-awareness is the means of reaching liberation.  But ultimately, the Buddha obviously believed that awareness alone, unsupported by other qualities of mind (the ones cultivated by the eight-fold path) would not lead you all the way.

You might also think of it like this: Awareness isn't truly "right awareness" until it is supported by other wholesome mental qualities like equanimity, patience, kindness, compassion, etc. And that's what the the eightfold path is for.  

You can reject his view, if you wish. Perhaps liberation from suffering is not really your intention? Or perhaps you believe awareness alone will get you there? Keep practicing, and see for yourself what works. That's all that matters.

Either way, I thought I'd share my own interpretation of the "Buddha's" view.

With much metta,
KN
« Last Edit: December 19, 2010, 07:16:45 AM by kidnovice »
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

rideforever

Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2010, 07:42:21 AM »
I have read that the eight fold path was taught initially to 5 ascetics - a particular audience.

I also read this teaching (which appeals to me) :
“Bahiya, you should train yourself in this way:  With the seen, there will be just the seen; with the heard, there will be just the heard; with the sensed there will be just the sensed; with the cognised, there will be just the cognised. When for you, Bahiya, there is merely the seen, heard, sensed, and cognised, then you will not be therein. Then you, Bahiya, will be neither here nor there nor within both - this is itself the end of suffering”.


kidnovice

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    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2010, 07:53:33 AM »
I also read this teaching (which appeals to me) :
“Bahiya, you should train yourself in this way:  With the seen, there will be just the seen; with the heard, there will be just the heard; with the sensed there will be just the sensed; with the cognised, there will be just the cognised. When for you, Bahiya, there is merely the seen, heard, sensed, and cognised, then you will not be therein. Then you, Bahiya, will be neither here nor there nor within both - this is itself the end of suffering”.

That's one of the suttas I had in mind when I mentioned, "The Buddha certainly praises the value of bare-awareness, and there are sutta's that say bare-awareness is the means of reaching liberation."   :)

Also, the Buddha's teachings were never an all-or-nothing affair. He never said, "accept everything I say, or you'll be excommunicated!" Thus, its traditional for Buddhist teachers to suggest that if something doesn't work for you, then just drop it. Take what works for you, and practice that. What matters is the practice. You can always reassess as you go. When you reach a block in your development (i.e., your suffering stops getting diminished), then you can see what needs to be tweaked. That was the approach the Buddha took, and its what I'm trying for myself.
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2010, 11:55:31 AM »
I have read that the eight fold path was taught initially to 5 ascetics - a particular audience.

The first teaching of the Buddha was to his five friends who had travelled and practiced asceticism with the Buddha for years. The first part of the teaching was to avoid extremes: The middle way. In this instance he was talking of the extremes of ascetic practice and indulgence, neither of which is useful to the spiritual life. He probably taught the four noble truths and perhaps the eightfold path, however, some of this would have been irrelevant to these persons: "right livelihood" for example, as they were all wandering monks in any case. It is safe to assume that we will never know exactly what he taught those five but they kept him up all night asking questions and by the end of the night had all attained arahantship according to scripture.

I also read this teaching (which appeals to me) :
“Bahiya, you should train yourself in this way:  With the seen, there will be just the seen; with the heard, there will be just the heard; with the sensed there will be just the sensed; with the cognised, there will be just the cognised. When for you, Bahiya, there is merely the seen, heard, sensed, and cognised, then you will not be therein. Then you, Bahiya, will be neither here nor there nor within both - this is itself the end of suffering”.

You made the point about teaching to specific audiences. The teaching you quote was to a very specific audience. Bahiya was a famous and respected teacher/mendicant. From the second line of the Sutta you are quoting: "He was worshipped, revered, honored, venerated, given homage — a recipient of robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medical requisites for the sick." So Bahiya was no ordinary person. He was already well practiced in meditation for sure and had achieved a level of realisation that he stood out from the crowd.

For the original five and for Bahiya it is true that certain of the prerequisites of the eightfold path can be taken as already incorporated into their lives.

As a lay practitioner one cannot make this assumption. However, bare awareness can be an effective practice. If you embody the qualities of self discipline, (total) self-honesty, compassion and moral ethics that these monks the Buddha was teaching would have embodied ...... then it may well be all you need. If you don't then following it with enough honesty and discipline will show you the qualities that lack.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

dobe

Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2010, 04:22:55 PM »
If you embody the qualities of self discipline, (total) self-honesty, compassion and moral ethics that these monks the Buddha was teaching would have embodied ...... then it may well be all you need. If you don't then following it with enough honesty and discipline will show you the qualities that lack.

I agree.  But self discipline I think should be replaced by devotion to something greater than your ego self.  Devotion to Truth for Truth's sake is sufficient.  Or if you're a Christian kinda guy, maybe Devotion to the Love of God.  These are much stronger fields that will keep you going and sitting.  Self discipline, if you are disciplining yourself for ego gains, will not take you far.

kidnovice

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    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: The Value of the Eight Fold Path
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2010, 04:30:30 PM »

For the original five and for Bahiya it is true that certain of the prerequisites of the eightfold path can be taken as already incorporated into their lives.

As a lay practitioner one cannot make this assumption. However, bare awareness can be an effective practice. If you embody the qualities of self discipline, (total) self-honesty, compassion and moral ethics that these monks the Buddha was teaching would have embodied ...... then it may well be all you need. If you don't then following it with enough honesty and discipline will show you the qualities that lack.

Very well said!
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

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