Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Way to the End of All Suffering

Bhikkhu Bodhi (, Buddhist Publication Society, Access to Insight); Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Crystal Quintero, Ashley Wells (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

I wear grey in my drab work life, but that's only for 50 weeks. I keep my eye on the prize, my colorful two-week vacation when I can bleach my hair and be cool (Wisdom Quarterly).
The Way to the End of all Suffering 
I really need to learn Buddhism, but how?
The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering (disappointment, dukkha). It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion.

However, suffering gives birth to a genuine search for spirituality when it is seen as coming from within rather than passively being received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception that pierces through the complacency of our usual encounters with the world. One glimpses our insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot.

When this insight dawns, even if only for a moment, it can lead to a profound personal crisis. It overturns our customary goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, reveals old enjoyments as stubbornly unsatisfying.
More cake and more parades, that's happiness!
At first such changes generally are unwelcome. We try to deny the vision and smother our doubts; we struggle to drive away the discontent with new pursuits. But the flame of inquiry, once lit, continues to burn. And if we do not let ourselves be swept away by the superficial slouching back into a patched up version of our natural optimism, the original glimmering of insight will again flare up.

We will again confront our essential plight. It is precisely at this point, with all escape routes blocked, that we are ready to seek a way to bring our suffering to an end. No longer can we continue to drift complacently through life. Why did we allow ourselves for so long to be driven blindly by our hunger for sense pleasures and by the pressure of prevailing social norms?
Will your spouse miss you? (Groening)
A deeper reality beckons us; we have heard the call of a stable, more authentic happiness, and until we arrive at our destination, we cannot rest content with superficial substitutes.
But it is just then that we find ourselves facing a new difficulty. Once we come to recognize the need for a spiritual path, we discover that spiritual teachings are by no means the same or mutually compatible. When we browse through the shelves of humanity's spiritual heritage, both ancient and contemporary, we do not find a single tidy volume.

What we find is a bazaar of spiritual systems and disciplines, each offering themselves as the highest, the fastest, the most powerful, or the most profound solution to our quest for ultimate truth. Confronted with this variety, we fall into confusion trying to size them up -- to decide which is truly liberating, a real solution to our needs, and which is a sidetrack beset with hidden flaws....

The Buddha's answer?
Paradise lost in the Bahamas due to NSA spying (
Better than sex? (Life in Hell)
The essence of the Buddha's teaching can be summed up in one principle, the Four Noble Truths containing the Noble Eightfold Path. The first covers the side of doctrine and the primary response it elicits is understanding.

The second covers the side of discipline, in the broadest sense of the word and the primary response it calls for is PRACTICE.

In the structure of the teaching this principle locks together into an indivisible unity called the Dharma-Vinaya, the Doctrine-and-Discipline or, in brief, the Dharma (Teaching). The internal unity of the Dharma is guaranteed by the fact that the last of the Four Noble Truths, the truth of the way to the end of suffering, is the Noble Eightfold Path.

The first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, "right view," is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. So the principle penetrates, and each includes the other: The formula of the Four Noble Truths contains the Noble Eightfold Path, and the Noble Eightfold Path contains the Four Noble Truths.
Given this integral unity, it is senseless to pose the question of which is more important or of greater value, the doctrine or the practice? The Dharma is one, a doctrine necessitating practice. But if we did risk being pointless by asking such a question, the answer would have to be the path. The path claims primacy because it is precisely this that brings the teaching to life. The path translates the Dharma from a collection of abstract formulas into a continually unfolding disclosure of truth.

"Love me" (Christie Brinkley/John Hughes)
One describes a treasure, the other the way to the treasure. It gives an outlet from the problem of suffering with which the Teaching starts. And it makes the Teaching's goal, complete liberation from all suffering, accessible to us all in our own experience, where alone it takes on authentic meaning.
To follow the Noble Eightfold Path is a matter of PRACTICE rather than intellectual knowledge, but to apply the path correctly and appropriately it has to be understood to at least some extent. In fact, right understanding of the path is itself a part of the practice, generally the first part.

The best "vacations" relax us all year long like tropical bliss (
It is a facet of "right view," the first path factor, the forerunner and guide for the rest of the path.

So although initial enthusiasm might suggest that the task of intellectual comprehension may be shelved as a bothersome distraction to practice, mature consideration reveals it to be essential to ultimate success in the practice.

The present work aims at contributing towards a proper understanding of the Noble Eightfold Path by investigating its eight factors and their components to determine what they involve. It attempts to be concise, using as the framework of the Buddha's own words in explaining the path factors from the Sutra Collection (sutta pitakka) preserved in the canon written in the exclusively Buddhist language of Pali. More

To assist the reader with limited access to primary sources, even in translation, the selection of quotations tries to stay within the confines of those found in Ven. Nyanatiloka's classic anthology The Word of the Buddha. In some cases passages have been slightly modified to better express the meaning in translation. For further amplification of meaning, the ancient commentaries are also drawn on. For example, in accounts of concentration and wisdom (Chapters VII and VIII), there is heavy reliance on (The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga), a vast encyclopedic work that systematizes the practice of the path in a detailed and comprehensive manner. Limitations of space prevent an exhaustive treatment of each factor. To compensate, a list of recommended readings is included at the end, which readers may consult for more detailed explanations of individual path factors. For real commitment to the practice of the path, however, especially in its advanced stages of concentration and insight, it will be extremely helpful to have contact with a well qualified meditation teacher.

Binky's Search for Enlightenment...the Hindu way (Matt Groening/Life in Hell)

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