Tag Archives: Eightfold Path

Buddhist Home Shrine

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One day I had a friend over and they saw my statue of Buddha in my home shrine. They told me that they heard Buddhist’s worship “false idols.” I explained to them that unlike other religions Buddhists do not have images of Buddha as a figure of worship but as a mentor and teacher.

When a Buddhist stands before a shrine, the objects he sees on it help him to recall the qualities that are found in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This inspires him to work towards cultivating these qualities in himself. A shrine makes it easier to develop a habit of contemplative practice as it gives the practitioner a defined place to practice. The shrine also, as in my case, gives visitors a chance to become acquainted with Buddhist practices and the serenity that a shrine can bring.

A simple Buddhist shrine, common to nearly all Buddhist traditions, has a Buddha statue or picture, and perhaps a candle, incense, and flowers. Ideally, Buddhist altars should be facing east as the Buddha was facing east where he saw the morning star, Venus, and experienced enlightenment. But is you do not have the room for an altar you can just put up a picture or even just a simple Buddhist saying on a piece of paper to help center your practice and mind. I suggest the following from section from morning prayers write it down and read it each day.

May the Buddha be at my head, the Dhamma in my heart and the Sangha at my side to protect and guide me always. May all living beings including my enemies find peace.

The following website has some great pictures that you could also print out for your shrine.  Buddhist Images

I wish you the best in your practice.

Update: A friend of mine, Lhamo Rinpoche, sent me a link that had a Dharma talk on “Are Buddhist’s Idol Worshipers?” Well worth the time listening to.

Sections of the Noble Eight Fold Path

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We have been looking at the “Four Noble Truths” and are now heading into the “Noble Eightfold Path.” But before head out the gate and start the steps of the Path I want to break them down into their sections and how they relate to each other. Please note that the word RIGHT can also be translated into many different interpretations including “correct”, “wholesome”, “Perfect” and I will discuss that in a later posting.

The first section is Wisdom. Wisdom in Sanskrit it is called prajñā, and in Pāli the word is paññā. In this section there are two of the eight steps and they are as follows:

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Intention

The second section is Ethical behavior. The word for this in Sanskrit is śīla and in Pāli it is sīla. There are three steps here and they are as follows:

  1. Right Speech
  2. Right Action
  3. Right Livelihood

The final section is Concentration or Mindset. The word samādhi is exactly the same in both Sanskrit and Pāli. This section too has three steps and they are as follows:

  1. Right Effort
  2. Right Mindfulness
  3. Right Concentration
Sections Eightfold Path Steps
Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā) 1. Right understanding
2. Right intention
Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: śīla, Pāli: sīla) 3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
Concentration (Sanskrit and Pāli: samādhi) 6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration

In Buddhism one teaching builds upon another. Here we see that to reach a higher state of wisdom we need to work on our understanding and intention. To behave in a more ethical way we need to develop our speech, action and make our living in a ethically responsible manner. For us to concentrate properly we must put in effort, be mindful and develop our concentration. One all three of the have been developed you will reach Enlightenment. But every journey starts with the first step and now that we are on this journey together I look forward to traveling with you. In the next article I will talk about “Right Understanding” in detail.

Buddha’s Fourth Noble Truth – Magga, or the Eightfold Path

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Thus far we have looked at the first three Noble Truths. The Fourth Noble Truth is the Middle Path, a path leading to the cessation of Dukkha — and thus the path to enlightenment. You might have heard is called the Middle Way. The path is called the Middle Way because it is a center between two extremes.

The first extreme is to seek to extinguish suffering through the pursuit of  pleasures and the indulgence of desire. Before Buddha became enlightened he was Prince Siddhārtha Gautama he lived a life of luxury with all his desires fulfilled and yet he was not free from suffering. The second extreme is to seek to extinguish suffering through acesticism.  Buddha tried this path too, nearly killing himself by denying any pleasure, including eating. He realized that no matter how much he denied himself he still suffered.

So, neither path is effective because they both acknowledge the existence of an inherent self, the first by wallowing in the desires of the perceived self and the second by denying said pleasures and causing harm to the physical self hoping to move beyond or tame the desires. Both of these fail because the most effective way to extinguish suffering is to destroy the concept of the self.  If one has annihilated the concept of a self, one cannot thirst for, or desire anything.  To cease suffering, then, one must destroy the concept of an abiding, true self.  The Eightfold Path, or Middle Way, is a guideline for overcoming the concept of a self. Once Siddhārtha Gautama realized discovered this he achieved Enlightenment and was free from suffering.

For others to achieve Nirvana, or the end of suffering, they must follow the Noble Eightfold Path as set forth by Buddha over 2,500 years ago. The eight steps of the path form the fourth truth of the Four Noble Truths, which are among the most fundamental of Buddhist teachings.

The Eightfold Path is often depicted as a Dharma wheel, closely resembling a wagon wheel. The eight steps that make the path or wheel result in a practical guide to ethics, mental development, and modifying the way your work, live and even breathe. By achieving these eight steps, a Buddhist follower will eliminate all suffering and reach the desired state of Nirvana. The follower does not have to complete the steps sequentially, but rather, he may obtain them simultaneously.

To live according to the Eightfold Path, one must engage in the following practices.

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

The next article talks about the Sections of the Eightfold Path from there we will go into each step in detail.

If you missed any of the other Noble Truths click on the one you want to review.