The Eightfold Path the Gateway to Enlightenment
The Eightfold Path suggests a universally helpful way of living one’s life for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. Consider how much good sense it makes. People who live with a sense of ethics help society as a whole. Why not be mindful of speech? Everybody prefers a person speaking thoughtfully. The same is valid for action. Following a simple code of conduct makes your own life more peaceful. Others pick up on your confidence and may be less inclined to be critical or hostile. As far as livelihood is concerned, why not give it some attention?
The Eightfold Path differs from the Abrahamic Commandments; there is no threat of divine retaliation. You are free to do whatever you prefer. Considering the Eightfold Path as a simple guide towards personal conduct cannot be harmful. It comes down to the question of which way leads towards inner peace, calm and grace.
Working something out by the intellect alone is not the same as fully understanding something. One can look at a work of art and understand all its material features, its provenance, the biography of the artist. But can one gain a deep understanding of the picture in this way? Similarly, explaining, describing the taste of sugar will never be as effective as tasting sugar. There is a limit to the intellect. The intellect can explain but not experience. So when we look at the Eightfold Path, understanding its logic and common sense is excellent. 1. The mind must be open to accepting the teaching. 2. The mind must be able to retain the teaching. 3. The mind must be clear for the teaching to have benefit.
Understanding is not the same as experiencing. Making a direct personal effort to follow the Path, living by it and integrating it into everyday life opens up a much deeper perception. We verify the organic, living truth of the Path by personal integration. Living truth means no more than the best possible way. The best possible way is without separation, without this and that, the all-inclusive view. The all-inclusive view is the wisdom view. In this way, we can say that wisdom is the personal experience of living truth.
The Buddha said: “My teaching is not a dogma or a doctrine, but no doubt some people will take it as such. I must state clearly that my teaching is a method to experience reality and not reality itself, just as a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. A thinking person makes use of the finger to see the moon. A person who only looks at the finger and mistakes it for the moon will never see the real moon.”
The foundation of Buddhism is Right View (Right Understanding). Buddhism is based on knowledge and not on irrational beliefs. The essence of Right View is comprehending things how they really are rather than what they appear to be. The First Noble Truth expresses the intuitive insight that all sentient beings are subject to suffering. From here, the logic unfolds to a complete acceptance of the true nature of all things. Our actions are influenced by how we think. Wrong thinking, the mistaken view, engenders wrong, unskilful actions. Therefore it is necessary to see the world correctly, unaffected by our own likes and dislikes. When seeing things how they indeed are, our thoughts and actions become considered and skilful. Seeing life, the world, the universe as it really is, rather than what we imagine it, is Buddhism’s unique task. This is not easy. It will take time and effort. The crucial first step is understanding the Four Noble Truths and relating them to one’s own life. The importance of renunciation will become apparent. Compassion towards others will arise. Right View offsets the three unwholesome roots of aversion, attachment and ignorance.
The Buddha said: “All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind. Speak or act with a corrupted mind, and suffering follows as the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox. Speak or act with a peaceful mind, and happiness follows like a never-departing shadow.” Aversion stands in the way of appreciating the essential qualities in nature and human beings. All living beings want to be free, happy and live without fear. Aversion quickly grows into anger and aggression. Nurturing thoughts of compassion counteract the tendency towards aversion and its consequences. Why not cultivate views towards eliminating
suffering for all living beings?
1. Intention of renunciation – Using the mind to resist the pull of desire.
2. Intention of compassion – Using the mind to resist anger and aversion.
3. Intention of harmlessness – Compassion to all living beings.