Please note- I am not a Buddhist Scholar, and the following essay is a journey through my experience. If you are looking for an in-depth treatise on Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path, please consult tricycle.org, lionsroar.com, or the like.
Buddhism is straightforward in explaining how to walk the middle path—eight beautifully concise guides for a well-lived life. The problem lies in practicing those noble lessons.
A high school history class was my first introduction to Buddhism and its unique views. I was intrigued by the concept that all suffering comes from craving, but the chapter was short, and we were on to other things, and I forgot about the four noble truths. That is until about four years later when I developed an interest in meditation.
Meditation led to yoga and a desire to learn more about the history of these practices, eventually leading me to Buddhism’s middle path. Already familiar with the four Noble truths, I delved into learning about the eightfold path. It reads like a code of conduct if taken superficially, but the subtleties of the interconnectedness of being are laid out before our eyes.
Four Noble Truths
The path implies the concept that nothing exists on its own. “Everything is “inter-is.” Everything is part of a dynamic cycle, and we are a part of that cycle. We suffer because we struggle against the natural process and flow of life, and we can avoid suffering by following the eightfold path.
So first, the four noble truths:
The noble truth of suffering
The noble truth of the beginning of suffering
suffering arises from craving
The noble truth of the ending of suffering
suffering can be ceased
The noble truth of the path to the end of suffering
end craving, end suffering
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path leads us toward the cessation of suffering, and I have meandered on and off the way for years. Following my trail, one would notice dead ends, the talus of anger, ancient glacial deposits deep within my heart, the pinnacle of compassion, and the valley of despair. There are two dominant patterns to the wanderings off the path- stress, and illness. I have not always coped with grace in the past. I can do better. I hold the guidebook, and the trail is marked.
Let us glance at our desired approach to the wilds of life; The Noble Eightfold Path.
Right Speech – if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing. Be mindful of the impact words, tone and inflection can have.
Right Effort – applied will to prevent insensitive or impure thoughts, deeds, and actions, and the will to create an environment where compassion and integrity naturally arise.
Right Mindfulness – be attentive to the body, mind, emotions, thoughts, and the world around you.
Right Action – be attentive to one’s behavior, actions, and treatment of others and all sentient beings. Be kind and helpful.
Right Thought – wisdom arises naturally when one’s thoughts are selfless and full of unconditional love.
Right Concentration – bliss may be attained and sustained when the mind is clear and one-pointed.
Right Livelihood – how one makes a living shall not harm others or our environment.
Right Understanding – everything thing is as it should be.
On the Path
So now prepared to move toward a new year with a compass to guide my way, will I meader and lose the trail? Absolutely! I have no doubt I will have moments of intense anger, panic, or worry, which mindlessly allows me to react from a place of fear instead of acting from a place of love. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. I am learning, day by day, moment by moment.
Through meditation, yoga, or reiki, I can slowly dissolve my attachment to outcomes and expectations, allowing for a more natural life, and exploring the wildness inherent within.
May your new year be filled with compassion and mindful intent, allowing joy and contentment to blossom with every step.