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Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
- Udana-Varga 5,1



One of his students asked Buddha...

"Are you the messiah?"
"No", ...answered Buddha.
"Then are you a healer?"
"No", ...Buddha replied.
"Then are you a teacher?" ...the student persisted.
"No, I am not a teacher."
"Then what are you?" ...asked the student, exasperated.
"I am awake", ...Buddha replied.



Buddhism: The Noble Eight-Fold Path

By Dipankar Khanna


The astanga aryamarg or the Noble Eight-fold Path was propounded by the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama nearly 2500 years age, in 500 BC. It is still a beacon, shining brightly, to help and guide the suffering sentient beings. The eight-fold path is an antidote to the state of suffering existing in cyclic existence to explain which the Buddha also explained in the doctrine of the four noble truths. These four noble truths are:


  • Truth relating to existence of suffering in cyclic existence.

  • Truth relating to cause of this suffering.

  • Truth relating to the cessation of suffering.

  • Truth relating to the path resulting in the cessation of suffering.


Hotei points the way to the moon

So the eight-fold path acts directly in order to achieve liberation from the shortcomings and sufferings of samsara and also to aid fellow sentient beings to obtain release and attain to the state of the fully-illumined One. These components are metaphorically depicted in their representation of the dharmacakra or wheel of dharma with the eight spokes culminating in the centre, and providing noble support so that the wheel of dharma can turn round and round smoothly. The eight-fold path in Buddhism therefore suggested a certain mode attitude, thought and action. It comprised the following eight components.


    1. Right View: This also relates to the first link or ignorance ( avidya ) of the doctrine of Interdependent Origination or Pratityasamutpada, also known as Conditioned Co-production by some scholars of Buddhism. What it suggests is that on an ongoing day-to-day basis our wrong understanding of our self and other related phenomenon, and how we interact with them, constitutes the wrong view. One of the greatest myths that we hold according to the Buddha is that we directly exist from our own side and so does phenomenon; that is we possess inherent existence. This constitutes our fundamental mithyadristi or wrong view. This therefore gives rise improper relationship between us and other and between us and phenomenon. So the right view impels us to reject the wrong view and constitutes seeing things in the prescribed way.

    1. Right Resolve: This suggests that only possessing knowledge is not enough. It is similar to a donkey carrying a load of scriptures on its back. Knowledge has to be supplemented with action and what translates knowledge to action is continuous awareness of our resolve to 'stop not till the goal is reached'. This step also implies tapa or fortitude and vairagya or renunciation from gross attachments.

    1. Right Speech: Speech constitutes a profound mode of communication for people and proclaims our intents and actions. Hence we free ourselves from negative attachment of speech like lies, gossip mongering, harsh words and flattery.

    1. Right Conduct: Just as our speech should be noble our actions should also match our words. We refrain from negativities of conduct like stealing, hitting, killing, sexual misconduct and intoxicants when we follow the principle of noble conduct.

    1. Right Livelihood: Wrong livelihood will often have us commit transgressions of body, speech and mind. It is most likely we may end up telling lies and falsehoods or hurting others to make quite profits selfishly. So Buddha rightly advises our livelihood should also stem from a noble source.

    1. Right Effort: Just as right view should be accompanied by right resolve, similarly right resolve should also be translated into action, which is right effort. This also implies that the negative habits of old are being given and positive new habits are being acquired through continuous practice.

    1. Right Mindfulness: Constant update of actions and review of all the previous six steps is implied here. This is essential to avoid the pitfalls of sliding backwards in ones efforts. So one is mindful of all that one thinks, speaks and does. This step also seems to suggest that being forewarned is being forearmed.

    1. Right Meditation: According to teachers and guides right Meditation constitutes making the journey inwards and exploring the depths of our inner consciousness. The Buddha earmarked few indicators for positive meditative states like joy, peace, tranquility and special insights.



The Flower Sermon

The origins of Zen Buddhism are ascribed to the Flower Sermon, the earliest source for which comes from the 14th century. It is said that Gautama Buddha gathered his disciples one day for a dharma talk. When they gathered together, the Buddha was completely silent and some speculated that perhaps the Buddha was tired or ill. The Buddha silently held up a flower and several of his disciples tried to interpret what this meant, though none of them were correct. One of the Buddha's disciples, Mahākāśyapa, silently gazed at the flower and is said to have gained a special insight directly from the Buddha's mind, beyond words. Mahākāśyapa somehow understood the true inexpressible meaning of the flower, smiled and the Buddha then acknowledged Mahākāśyapa's insight by saying the following:

 I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle dharma gate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa.

 Thus, through Zen there developed a way which concentrated on direct experience rather than on rational creeds or revealed scriptures. Wisdom was passed, not through words, but through a lineage of one-to-one direct transmission of thought from teacher to student. It is commonly taught that such lineage continued all the way from the Buddha's time to the present.

Zen teachings and practices

Zen asserts, as do other schools in Mahayana Buddhism, that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature, the universal nature of inherent wisdom (Sanskrit prajna) and virtue, and emphasizes that Buddha-nature is nothing other than the nature of the mind itself. The aim of Zen practice is to discover this Buddha-nature within each person, through meditation and mindfulness of daily experiences. Zen practitioners believe that this provides new perspectives and insights on existence, which ultimately lead to enlightenment.

In distinction to many other Buddhist sects, Zen de-emphasizes reliance on religious texts and verbal discourse on metaphysical questions. Zen holds that these things lead the practitioner to seek external answers, rather than searching within themselves for the direct intuitive apperception of Buddha-nature. This search within goes under various terms such as “introspection,” “a backward step,” “turning-about,” or “turning the eye inward.”

In this sense, Zen, as a means to deepen the practice and in contrast to many other religions, could be seen as fiercely anti-philosophical, iconoclastic, anti-prescriptive and anti-theoretical. The importance of Zen's non-reliance on written words is often misunderstood as being against the use of words. However, Zen is deeply rooted in both the scriptural teachings of the Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama and in Mahāyāna Buddhist thought and philosophy. What Zen emphasizes is that the awakening taught by the Buddha came through his meditation practice, not from any words that he read or discovered, and so it is primarily through meditation that others too may awaken to the same insights as the Buddha.



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