Saturday, May 16, 2020

First factor of the Noble Eightfold Path

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Bodhi, Noble Eightfold Path

The Buddha awakened and taught awakening
According to the Commentaries, all of Buddhism may be summarized as the Four Noble Truth. It's Buddhism in a nutshell.

Unfortunately, most people misunderstand these four because they misunderstand the word dukkha.

It's commonly translated as "suffering," but it is much more. Dukkha is the entire range of unpleasant experience, from minor agitation to severe agony, and better translated as "disappointment" or "unsatisfactoriness."

1. The first of the ennobling (= enlightening) truths is, "All conditioned states are disappointing," incapable of satisfying or fulfilling us. ("All life is suffering" is a terrible and misleading translation).

Yet we pursue pleasures, real and imagined, due to desire/craving with the ignorant idea that they are capable of satisfying or fulfilling us. They would never be able to. But the root of all suffering is not "desire."

The real root is ignorance (delusion, wrong view, not knowing, not understanding, illusion), which conditions and is the basis of our craving.

These two condition aversion. The cause of all our problems is karma (action) motivated by these three root conditions: greed, hatred, and delusion (craving, aversion, and ignorance).
  • The Buddha points at desire (tanha, craving) because he understood when he became enlightened that we can directly do something about that here and now. We cannot directly undo ignorance, which is effortlessly dispelled like darkness in the presence of enlightenment.
This path of practice is for direct knowing
2. There is a cause of our suffering and disappointment, this very craving rooted in ignorance.

3. There is an end to all our suffering, every bit of it, and it is nirvana.

4. There is a path that leads to nirvana, and in general terms it is the Noble Eightfold Path. It sounds too simple, but this is a very general outline. Buddhism is all about "packed" terms that need to be unpacked in order to put them into practice.

Understanding alone is not enough. This is a path of practice. The first thing to grasp is mundane and supramundane "right view."

The first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path: Ordinary or mundane "right view" involves a correct grasp of the law of karma, the moral efficacy of intentional (directed, willful) actions. Its literal name is “right view of the ownership of action” (kammassakatā sammādiṭṭhi).

The standard formulation is: “Beings are the owners of their actions, the heirs of their actions. They spring from their actions, are bound to their actions, and are supported by their actions. Whatever deeds they do, skillful or unskillful, of those they shall be heirs” (AN 3:33; Word of the Buddha, p. 19).

More specific formulations have come down in the texts. For example, one stock passage affirms that:
  • virtuous actions -- such as letting go, giving, and offering alms -- have moral significance,
  • skillful and unskillful deeds produce corresponding fruits and mental resultants,
  • one has a duty to serve mother and father,
  • there is rebirth and worlds beyond this visible world, and
  • that spiritual teachers of high attainment can be found who expound the truth about the world on the basis of their own direct realization.
Superior Right View
When one knows and sees, one is free.
The right view of karma and its fruits (phala and vipaka) provides the rationale for wholesome deeds and attaining high status within the round of rebirths (samsara), but it in itself does not lead to liberation (nirvana).

Because there is disappointment and unsatisfactoriness, because we never find fulfillment, with wisdom we are impelled by the urge to transcend the endless cycle of karma and its many fruits.

The impulse to gain liberation from the entire round of becoming depends on the acquisition of a different perspective, a deeper wisdom that yields insight into the inherent defectiveness of all forms of wandering through saṃsāric existence, even the highest.

The superior right view leading to liberation from all suffering is the thorough understanding of the Four Noble Truths. It is this right view that is the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path in the proper sense: noble (enlightened) right view.

The Buddha defines the Noble Eightfold Path factor of "right view" expressly in terms of these four ennobling truths:

“What now is right view? It is understanding of suffering (dukkha), understanding of the origin of suffering, understanding of the cessation of suffering, understanding of the way leading to the cessation to suffering” (DN 22; Word of the Buddha, p. 29).

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