The Fourth Noble Truth: Insight 1 There is a practice leading to the cessation of suffering

Dancing with Life (DWL) Chapter 18&19

The First Insight:  There is a practice leading to the cessation of suffering

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress’…

Stephan Bachelor translates the tasks of the Four Noble Truths as follows: 1.  Embrace Life.  2.  Let go of what arises.  3.  See its ceasing.  4.  Act!

The Fourth Noble truth provides a systematic way to find peace of mind and meaning in your life through purifying the mind.  In the eight steps, it addresses understanding, behavior and practice.

Practicing the eightfold path has three requirements:  sustaining your effort over time, staying with your intention, and letting go of control in order to trust the process.  In other words, you are making your life your practice.

This practice is a constant effort of inquiry and reflection through mindfulness.  Making your life your practice means that apply the teachings to your whole being whether you are in the world or meditating.

An Overview of the Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path is divided into three stages:  wisdom (understanding), morality (behavior), and concentration (practice).

Wisdom consists of two steps:

  • Skillful Understanding: gaining an understanding of what life is really about.
  • Skillful Intention: Understanding the beneficial role generosity, loving-kindness and compassion.

Morality is adopting core values and living your life in accordance with them.  The three core values are contained in the steps:

  • Skillful Speech: being truthful, uplifting, gentle and moderate.
  • Skillful Action: doing no harm to ourselves and others.
  • Skillful Livelihood: having a means of sustenance that does not interfere with our spiritual development.

Concentration is the process for practice and contains three steps:

  • Skillful Effort; developing wholesome mental states.
  • Skillful Mindfulness:  seeing things as they really are.
  • Skillful Concentration:  having the ability to focus on what is.

Why Practice and Follow the Eightfold Path?

The Eightfold Path is the Buddha’s prescription to end suffering.  All of his teachings stem from this practice.

Many people have found following the Eightfold Path to be beneficial.

The Eightfold Path is the practice  of how to live life with freedom, happiness and peace.

The Eightfold Path is not just about you. It is about your relationships with others and life.

The Eightfold path is simple and straightforward.

From Preface of The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering by Bhikkhu Bodhi

“The essence of the Buddha’s teaching can be summed up in two principles: the Four Noble Truths and 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 that word, and the primary response it calls for is practice. In the structure of the teaching these two principles lock together into an indivisible unity called the dhamma-vinaya, the doctrine-and-discipline, or, in brief, the Dhamma. The internal unity of the Dhamma is guaranteed by the fact that the last of the Four Noble Truths, the truth of the way, is the Noble Eightfold Path, while the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, right view, is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Thus the two principles penetrate and include one another, the formula of the Four Noble Truths containing the Eightfold Path and the Noble Eightfold Path containing the Four Truths.

Given this integral unity, it would be pointless to pose the question which of the two aspects of the Dhamma has greater value, the doctrine or the path. But if we did risk the pointless by asking that 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 Dhamma from a collection of abstract formulas into a continually unfolding disclosure of truth. It gives an outlet from the problem of suffering with which the teaching starts. And it makes the teaching’s goal, liberation from suffering, accessible to us 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 it has to be properly understood. In fact, right understanding of the path is itself a part of the practice. It is a facet of right view, the first path factor, the forerunner and guide for the rest of the path. Thus, though initial enthusiasm might suggest that the task of intellectual comprehension may be shelved as a bothersome distraction, mature consideration reveals it to be quite essential to ultimate success in the practice.”

Reflection

  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.  Are you motivated to understand, experience and follow the steps of the Eightfold Path?

Meditation

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

Next: The Fourth Noble Truth: Insight 2 The Eightfold Path Step 1 Skillful Understanding Previous: The Third Noble Truth: Summary