The Second Noble Truth: Core Values

Dancing with Life (DWL) (pp. 124-126)

If Life Isn’t About Meeting Your Desires, What Is It About?

Trying to meet your desires means that you are setting specific outcomes (attachments) for them which can definitely result in stress and suffering if these outcomes are not met.  Even if you do meet your desires, this does not result in lasting happiness and peace of mind.  “As long as people are primarily concerned with their place in the world, the rationale for their behavior will have to do with such things as maintaining their position in society, enhancing their status in the workplace, or improving their handicap at golf.  Whether acknowledged or not, these would be the grounds or reasons for why they act in the ways they do.”  (Batchelor, After Buddhism p. 59)

In abandoning the attachments, you are not giving up on life.  Desires still will arise.  It is simply that you are not attached to the outcomes and you are open to whatever flows from life.  “Practitioners of the dharma …..choose to do things for different reasons.  Keenly aware of the new possibilities that keep opening up in a world that is conditional and changing, they seek to realize them in a way that is not predicated on habitual reactivity.” (Batchelor, After Buddhism p. 59)

Developing and living from core values allow you to create a new relationship with your desires and goals.  You live from intention rather than from outcomes.  With intention you are not attached to a specific outcome but rather to a knowing that you are being as skillful as possible in dealing with your desires.

Core Values

In the Fourth Noble Truth, you will learn more about the path to end suffering.  To jump ahead a bit, the Buddha recommends that you live by eight skillful steps (The Eightfold Path) rather than just try to meet your desires.  These steps include core values which are the guiding principles that guide behavior and action. Core values can help you to know what is skillful and unskillful behavior.

The two overarching core values in the path are wisdom and compassion.

Wisdom is the disposition to find the what really is coupled with an optimum judgement as to what actions should be taken (adapted from Wikipedia).  Wisdom requires knowledge.  Knowledge is what you know from learning and/or experience.  Wisdom is how you apply it.  Wisdom implies action.  In the path, we learn Skillful Understanding, Skillful Thought, Skillful Speech, Skillful Livelihood, and Skillful Action.  Through our wisdom we can apply it to life situations with Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness and Skillful Concentration.

Compassion is the intention to relieve the suffering of others. It arises with the recognition of the universality of suffering and the realization that all living beings desire happiness. As with wisdom, we express compassion through our actions and not just hold it as a thought in our mind.  In the path, compassion is addressed in Skillful Thought (Intention).

Applying wisdom and compassion in a given situation is not a static or fixed process.  Ideally, one applies mindfulness to each situation.  This is freshly taking into account what might be different from past situations.  It is acting initially from a state of emptiness or not knowing.

Moffitt suggests some core values that are based on wisdom and compassion: knowing the truth; finding freedom; not causing harm to yourself or others; being of service to others; meeting the world with compassion and kindness; having the qualities of gratitude, patience, persistence, generosity, and humor; continuing to learn and grow psychologically and spiritually.

Developing Your Core Values

The intention is to live virtuous life from the core values of wisdom and compassion using skillful effort, mindfulness and concentration.  The relation to the Eightfold Path is shown below.

Wisdom                              Compassion

Skillful Understanding     Skillful Thought (Intention)

Virtue                                  Method

Skillful Speech                   Skillful Effort

Skillful Action                    Skillful Mindfulness

Skillful Livelihood             Skillful Concentration



  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.  Know your core values. Write them down and look for ways to keep them in your consciousness.


  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice being mindful of what arises and falls away.  Notice any

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