Today we are
going to study the Four Noble Truths as the Buddha taught them.
I cannot hope, in one morning, to do more than give a sturdy beginning
to what these wise teachings can mean in our lives.
Buddhism is about rediscovery of
our "primordial nature" -- our Natural Perfection.
We know that our growth is in consciousness.
We are not "becoming." We are already there. So, let us, for
this hour, open ourselves to the awareness that we are also Buddhas, with the
same potential for enlightenment.
This is in harmony
with the Science of Mind, of course. All
the spiritual practices and teachings of Buddhism have as their end the
realization that we are integrally connected to all of life. Even when we
don't consciously have that awareness, it is true, nonetheless.
are these four amazing and simple realizations that Buddha taught and they are
known as the Four Noble Truths. Here
First: Life is difficult; it holds
for living beings imperfection, dissatisfaction, impermanence, suffering and
pain. The Buddhist term for this is dukkha.
That is, life includes pain, getting old disease and
ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness
frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment, and anger. This is an
irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than
pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. Instead, Buddhism
explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy. We
don’t need to be rocket scientists to recognize that life does involve some
suffering, that things change, folks struggle with this and sometimes
experience deep pain over the way life seems to be.
Second: Dukkha is caused by
desire for things to be other than they are.
The second truth is that
suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other
people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do
not get something we want, etc. In other words, getting what you want does not
guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want,
the effort is best to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of
contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially
the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy that causes the
individual to be born. So, Buddhism teaches us that craving leads to physical
suffering because it causes us to be reborn.
is the reason the Buddhists say we are always changing things.
Now we each know that desire comes in a wide variety of guises.
Our egos work with these desires to motivate us to act in certain ways.
In fact, if we stop and think about the nature of our thoughts for a
moment, our minds mechanically cannot tell the difference between an
appearance, a thought, and something that actually occurred.
How many times have you thought you had done something, only to
discover that it was all thought and no action ever occurred?
When we are dealing with desires we really need to develop some
discernment between skillful fulfillment of desire and having the desires in
charge or our lives via the management provided by the ego.
There is a way to eliminate this dukkha;
that is to uproot its cause: desire.
The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be
attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible, if we give up
useless craving and learn to live each day at a time.
This is accomplished in not dwelling in the past or the imagined
future, then we can become happy and free. A great by product of this change
in our selves is that we then have more time and energy to help others.
This is Nirvana or
I am not going to say that you should not want anything.
But each of us knows what it is like to get what we want.
The thrill doesn’t last very long. Not long after you get what your
want, you no longer want it as much as you once did, or you want it to be
different. This is a vicious
cycle that can run your whole life, digging
you into a deep well of debt and longing for things that you can only hope to
have. Simply stated, the addiction or attachment to fulfilling ones temporary
desires can foreclose possibilities that would bring peace and contentment
within the lives we are given.
cycle is much like bailing a boat out with one hand and drilling a hole in the
hull with the other! In the Dhammapada, Buddha says:
“Those ... who find delight in freedom from attachment in the
renunciation of clinging, free from the inflow of thoughts, they are like
shining lights, having reached final liberation in the world.”
way to do this is by following the Eightfold Path which leads to desire and
extinguishes suffering. It is said that by
following this path that it is possible to attain enlightenment, and that life
becomes a more joyful and fulfilling experience. The Buddha, as well as Jesus, warned us that there will be
suffering. This fact does not
preclude joy! Nor does it say
that we shall be devoid of desire. Consider
this, what if we were to develop some discernment about the appropriate use of
desire? What if it is a tool that
we have been using for a purpose other than what it is appropriate to do?
It is the attachment to our own idea of how our desires can be met that
is the source of much suffering. Lets
be honest, there will always be something we would prefer be different.
Nevertheless, we can still find joy within by letting go of our attachment to
the outcome. In treatment the release step is essential to the effectiveness
of the prayer. The same is true here.
Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and author, said it most powerfully,
"everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the
human freedoms-to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to
choose one's own way." [i]
Frankl wrote that one can discover the meaning in life in three ways: "by
creating a work or doing a deed; by experiencing something or encountering
someone; and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering." [ii]
The Eightfold Path is a tremendous model of how we can, through
changing our thinking, change the way we experience our own lives.
Let’s take a quick tour through the eight points on the Eightfold
first point on the Eightfold Path is also called Right Understanding—the
right way to view and understand the world. Misunderstanding occurs when one
imposes one's expectations onto things; expectations about how one hopes
things will be, or about how one is afraid things might be. Right
Understanding occurs when one sees things simply, as they are. It is an open
and accommodating attitude. One abandons hope and fear and takes joy in a
simple straightforward approach to life.
is a miracle in beginning to embody that there is more than one possible point
of view. When we learn to
actually stand in another’s shoes and try out their perspective, to actually
allow the idea within our consciousness that others come up with good ideas,
reasonable and valuable ways of approaching life, we can loosen our own grip
and thus become more fluid in our approach to discovery of any idea.
second point of the path is also called Right Intention. It proceeds from
right view. If one is able to abandon one's expectations, hopes and fears, one
no longer needs to be manipulative. One doesn't need to try to force
situations into preconceived notions of how they should be. One works with
what is. Our thoughts are pure. The
ego's greatest triumph is to trick us into believing its best interests are
our best interests, and even into identifying our very survival with its own.
This is a savage irony, considering that ego and its grasping are at the root
of all our suffering. Yet, ego is
so convincing, and we have been its dupe for so long, that the thought that we
might ever become egoless terrifies us. It
isn’t that that is necessarily possible, but the threat of it is frightening
when the ego is busy being the President of “You Incorporated!”
best, and simplest rule I have for knowing whether an idea is ego-based or
divinely inspired is to look for what would happen if I were to follow the
idea to its ultimate conclusion. Divine
ideas never do any permanent damage, to be sure, there may be some feathers
ruffled, but not one loss occurs out of a divine idea.
Ego driven ideas generally glorify someone at an others expense.
It may be our selves, it may be someone whom we want something from,
but the boost comes at a cost to someone.
Right thinking has no such cost.
is speech that causes no harm. Once
one's intentions are pure, one no longer needs to be embarrassed about one's
speech. Since one isn't trying to manipulate people, one don't have to
hesitate about what one says, nor does one need to bluff one's way through a
conversation with phony confidence. One says what needs to be said, very
simply in a genuine way
fourth point on the path, Right Action or Discipline, involves a kind of
renunciation. One needs to give up the tendency to complicate issues. One
practices simplicity. One has a simple straight-forward relationship with
one's dinner, job, house, and family. One gives up all the unnecessary and
frivolous complications that usually clouds our relationships.
did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life
expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and
instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life -
daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in
right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the
responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the
tasks which it constantly sets for each individual." p.122 [iii]
Livelihood is the fifth step on the path. It is only natural that we should
earn our living. There are, however, jobs that exploit or damage others, and
ourselves, work which may not be on the path of Right Livelihood. Often, many
of us don't particularly enjoy our jobs. We should form a simple relationship
with it, and one needs to perform it properly, with attention to detail.
sixth aspect of the path is Right Effort. Struggling is not Right Effort. One
often approaches a spiritual discipline as though one needs to conquer one's
"evil side" and promote our "good side." When we are
locked in combat with our selves and try to obliterate the tiniest negative
tendency, we are missing the point! Right
Effort doesn't involve struggle or resistance at all. When one sees things as
they are, one can work with them, gently, and without any aggression.
Mindfulness, the seventh step, involves precision and clarity. We become
mindful of the tiniest details of our experience, and in so doing, we become
more conscious of the unity of all of life. One is mindful of the way one
speaks, performs one's job, one's posture, and attitudes toward our friends
and family, in every detail. This may sound as if it is over the top, but
imagine what a difference it would make in our lives if we were mindful in our
relationships with our families?
final point on the Eightfold Path is
sometimes called Right Concentration, or Absorption. Usually folks are
absorbed in absentmindedness. With our minds completely captivated by all
sorts of entertainment and thoughts run amok, it is more like we are a sea
sponge soaking in a sea of race mind. Right Concentration means that one is
completely absorbed in Now-ness, in things as they are. This can only
happen if one has some sort of discipline, such as meditation. We might
even say that without the discipline of meditation, we can't walk the
Eightfold Path at all. Sitting meditation cuts through our
absentmindedness. It provides a space or gap in our preoccupation with our
selves. It is as if we regularly practice what my teacher, Dr. Bill,
would call “dying to the world.” Meditation is a committed and divinely
focused break from the status quo and it provides us with a readily available
method of knowing that we can discipline our minds, that there is more to us
than the sea of unconscious thoughts, that consciousness can be directed
knows that if we are instructed to stop thinking about something that we
cannot stop, that the command to stop doing something works upon us in a
perverse way. But we know that we
can gently and lovingly substitute a particular focus for the thoughts when
they arise, say returning ones focus to the flame of a candle, to ones breath,
or to the contemplation of a brief bit of inspiring text.
Most people have heard
of nirvana. It has become equated with a sort of eastern version of
heaven. Actually, nirvana simply means cessation. It is the cessation
of obsession, hostility and ignorance; the cessation of the struggle to
prove our existence to the world, to survive. One does not have to
struggle to survive after all. We have already survived. We are surviving now,
and the struggle was just an extra complication that was added to life because
we lost confidence in the way things are. With the Eightfold Path as a
conscious practice, we no longer need to manipulate things as they are into
things as one would like them to be.
do we reconcile the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path with the Science
of Mind? Was there some illegal
move on the field of consciousness in our considering these ideas or in
practicing them? Do they violate
our beliefs about prosperity or metaphysics?
I don’t think so. I
think that these points on the path have us develop our clarity about what it
is that we truly want in our lives. We
are all subject to desire, but desire unmet with consciousness is race
consciousness left in charge of a large part of our being.
Unmet desires are the source of great suffering just as the Buddha and
Jesus have said. Being mindful of
what one truly desires opens one to the Divine flow of abundance and gets the
“bloated nothingness” of ego off the divine circuits.
Dr. Bill called this retiring the ego for lack of work.
It reinstalls the rightful leadership in ones life.
The principles and practices arising from the eightfold path lead us in
the same way that the realizations represented by the spiritual hero of the
Old Testament, Job, leads us, to the realization that we have been the
obstacles to our own good and that in getting our bloated nothingness off of
the divine circuits, we place ourselves in the direct flow of divine happiness
and true wisdom. Job said:
am the man who obscured your designs with my empty-headed words. I have been
holding forth on matters I cannot understand, on marvels beyond me and my
knowledge . . . . I knew you before only by hearsay; but now, having seen you
with my own eyes, I retract all I have said, and in dust and ashes I
idea is to get whatever ideas, behaviors, habits, emotions, random thoughts,
whatever might be there—to get these things out of the way of our direct
relationship with God. Now it is true that Buddhism doesn’t view ultimate
reality in the same way that we do. There
is no anthropomorphic God in Buddhism. In fact, Buddha was a man, a man like
Christ who said that you could do these things and be enlightened.
"In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I
have overcome the world." John 16:33
you for being here today.
Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, Simon
and Schuster, New York, 1963