Friday, February 13, 2015

The Buddhist Path explained

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Crystal Quintero, Seth Auberon, Wisdom Quarterly
The truest and funniest thing the Buddha did not say (Bodhipaksa/
Fake Buddha quotes often have a lovely ring and the "stink of Zen" (H-K-D/
Buddha comments on Israel (SC)
Fake Buddha quotes continue to flood the Web such as, "You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself." What's true, what's the "path"?
Well meaning photographer H. Kopp Delaney found a treasure store of 108 quotes and assigned them stunning photographs.
Unfortunately, some of them are of dubious origin, while others are misleadingly translated.

A very good one but fake (
They are more something Stephen Seagal would say rather than Shakyamuni, the Awakened One -- well intended but sometimes missing the mark.

Sometimes they sound better than the real thing because rather than presenting timeless Buddhist ideas, they present New Age, Taoist, or holdover Hindu (Vedic) concepts in the guise of enlightened wisdom.

"Enlightenment" is not what most people think.

What can be done? Always be suspect of any quote not accompanied by a citation. Then before quoting, check the citation. Most quotable quotes come from The Dhammapada, a collection of Buddhist aphorisms and their origin stories providing context and meaning.
"Now are ye undeceived!" wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in his American classic Young Goodman Brown on hypocrisy in Salem, Massachusetts during our infamous Puritan witch trials. Caveat emptor.
What is the Path?
Wisdom Quarterly (EXPLANATION)
Our goal is not to make fun of fake Buddha quotes but to distinguish path from non-path.
Golden Buddha imparts a message of virtue, calm, and wisdom to arhats (Thai-on/flickr).
Walk the path. (SadighGallery)
To correct this quote, here is Threefold Buddhist Path. It is the same just "unpacked" at three levels of resolution -- from very general to very specific:
  • Threefold: the Buddha defines the "path" (magga) as virtue, concentration, and wisdom.
  • Eightfold: he further outlines it as the Noble Eightfold Path.
  • Thirty-sevenfold: gathering together many ancient sutras one finds various lists of 37 Requisites of Enlightenment.
What is VIRTUE? It is at a minimum keeping the Five Precepts, at a maximum living by the monastic rules in the context of an intensive meditation practice (the shortest path to the goal of full enlightenment in this very life). As part of the Noble Eightfold Path, it is the factors "right speech," "right action," "right livelihood."

Concentration purifies (Pranav Bhasin/flickr)
What is CONCENTRATION? It is serene, tranquil, purified, collected, focuesed intensification of mind. "Right concentration" refers to the first four absorptions (jhanas). But many practitioners and insight-meditation (vipassana or systematic-mindfulness practice) teachers maintain that access or neighborhood concentration is sufficient (and there is doubtful talk of vipassana-jhanas to accompany this claim).

Karma comes round (Moonbird)
It is true that not all who reach the ultimate goal do so by way of full absorption, but this is the exception rather than the rule. What they use is something very close to it called momentary concentration (kanika, for its side-by-side running along with insight practice, not because it lasts only a moment).

Concentration refers to the three Noble Eightfold Path factors: right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. (Mindfulness is interesting because it, as "bare attention," is an ingredient of concentration and, as contemplation, a subsequent practice of a concentrated mind. It leads to samadhi and goes beyond it to enlightenment; we cannot skip the first part and expect success).

Start with right view, know-and-see
What is WISDOM? It is liberating-insight into the radical facts of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, egolessness.

Part of meditating is coming to a point of directly seeing-and-knowing "path" from "non-path," what leads to the goal and what does not, the essential from the inessential.

There are also various super-knowledges one may attain, such as recollection of past lives or psychic powers. In terms of the Noble Eightfold Path, it refers to right view and right intention

The first sermon to the Five Ascetics
The many lists in which the Buddha's message has been enumerated as categories (e.g., the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Five Faculties, or Seven Factors of Enlightenment) are gathered into seven sets with 37 total elements. (They are not really completely separate elements because, e.g., mindfulness, or in-the-moment-awareness, comes up 14 times).

The Buddha should have said this one (P24).
This set-of-sets is called the 37 Requisites of Enlightenment, everything one would ever need to know, practice, and master to make an end of all suffering once and for all.

Omniscience or "Oneness" (advaita, a Vedic/Hindu concept not talked about by the Buddha and certainly not the ultimate goal) is not what happens and is not the point. For all that MUST be penetrated fully is the truth (Fourfold Ennobling Truth) and the Three Marks of Existence mentioned above.

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