QUESTION: How do I proceed to live your Amidist take on the 4 Noble Truths and Eightfold Path?

SHORT ANSWER: Live wholeheartedly

LONGER ANSWER: In my understanding, the eightfold path is an outcome. You can try to mimic it if you like, but one is bound to do so with one's deluded mind unless one is enlightened and if one were enlightened it wwould come naturally anyway. Really it is a description of how a Buddha lives, which is to say, wholeheartedly. This gives a clue. If one lives wholeheartedly, even the mistakes one makes will be instructive - in fact, they will be more instructive than one's successes, generally speaking. So one answer to your question is 'one mistake after another', but keeping faith through it all no matter what comes along.

The four truths are not so much a practice as a description that liberates. They tell us

- that dukkha is a truth for noble ones. This means both that (a) the path is not a matter of eliminating dukkha but of learning through it and (b) that the 'noble one' accepts, faces and learns from the afflictions that inevitably arrive in life, rather than running away from or hiding them.

- that when there is dukkha there is samudaya which is arising energy and this energy can go different ways. It can go into escapism and compulsive avoidance, into actions such as retaliation that are destructive, or into constructive, equitable response. For instance, as we get older (see Decay of the Body) physical dukkha tends to get more and more prevalent. That can ruin one's life or it can, at the other extreme, generate saintliness, wisdom and great compassion.

- that the noble one is able to use the arising samudaya energy constructively because of having diminished or let go of 'self'. This is a matter of faith and of 'accepting one's lot' in a deep way. Everybody has faith - it is just a question of 'in what?' When it is faith in 'self' it is only a little light that does not let us see very far ahead. When it is faith in Buddha it is a great light. If one has faith in one's body, for instance, well, it fades. If one has faith in eternity, it lasts a long time.

- that when we walk in the great light we are naturally upon the eightfold path whether we know so or not.

So, whether we are hale or sick, young or old, dukkha happens, but there is world of difference between living wholeheartedly in the midst of it and being daunted by it and overly precious about one's supposed personal needs.

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank-you Dharmavidya. Could you please expand on the meaning of wholehearted? What is your view on those of us who have had to resort to medication when all else has failed? Are we being escapists?
Namo Amida Bu, Steve

Not necessarily. Namo Amida Bu. There is surely a sensible way to use medication as well as excessive ways. There does seem to be a tendency nowadays - and I hear that this is even more pronounced in North America - to use medication simply to mask quite bearable irritations in a way that makes one unnecessarily dependent and that is a failing, but that does not mean that the proper use iof medication is wrong. A certain robustness that shrugs off discomfort is recommended by the Buddha, but it is also apparent that the early Buddhists used medicines and probably, in many cases, wandering bhikshus functioned as travelling doctors. So I think this is an area where there is a middle way.

Wholeheartedness means taking things on in a fullsome way. If one has a project it requires courage, application, persistence, optimism and realism, patience, effort, concentration and enthusiasm at least, all in proportion to the scale of the task. All these qualities are dimensions of wholeheartedness.

In my own case such projects might include writing a book, building a shed, digging a patch in the garden, doing the washing up after a meal, giving a class, improving my French, chanting nembutsu with the community, or many other things. It also extends to one's emotional life and the care that one feels, expresses and acts upon for family, friends and Dharma companions.

Of course, it is also important that the projects that we choose are wholesome ones. I know of people within our sangha who are seriously handicapped who nonetheless have taken on important projects that contribute to the well being and support the faith of others. We have a sangha member who is seriously handicapped to the point where she cannot go out of the house and attend to her garden which has, in consequence, become overgrown, who now makes films from photographs that she takes from her kitchen window of the birds that now take advantage of the wild conditions outside. These little films are beautiful and inspiring. This particular member is somebody who shines with faith and going to visit her one always comes away feeling uplifted, though she herself has a very modest view of herself.



David Brazier said:

Not necessarily. Namo Amida Bu. There is surely a sensible way to use medication as well as excessive ways. There does seem to be a tendency nowadays - and I hear that this is even more pronounced in North America - to use medication simply to mask quite bearable irritations in a way that makes one unnecessarily dependent and that is a failing, but that does not mean that the proper use iof medication is wrong. A certain robustness that shrugs off discomfort is recommended by the Buddha, but it is also apparent that the early Buddhists used medicines and probably, in many cases, wandering bhikshus functioned as travelling doctors. So I think this is an area where there is a middle way.

Wholeheartedness means taking things on in a fullsome way. If one has a project it requires courage, application, persistence, optimism and realism, patience, effort, concentration and enthusiasm at least, all in proportion to the scale of the task. All these qualities are dimensions of wholeheartedness.

In my own case such projects might include writing a book, building a shed, digging a patch in the garden, doing the washing up after a meal, giving a class, improving my French, chanting nembutsu with the community, or many other things. It also extends to one's emotional life and the care that one feels, expresses and acts upon for family, friends and Dharma companions.

Of course, it is also important that the projects that we choose are wholesome ones. I know of people within our sangha who are seriously handicapped who nonetheless have taken on important projects that contribute to the well being and support the faith of others. We have a sangha member who is seriously handicapped to the point where she cannot go out of the house and attend to her garden which has, in consequence, become overgrown, who now makes films from photographs that she takes from her kitchen window of the birds that now take advantage of the wild conditions outside. These little films are beautiful and inspiring. This particular member is somebody who shines with faith and going to visit her one always comes away feeling uplifted, though she herself has a very modest view of herself.

Thank-you very much Dharmavidya. How is living wholeheartedly different than "mimicing" the Eightfold Path (Right action, right view, etc.)?

We act from our deluded mind. Therefore many of our acts are folly one way or another. If we do them wholeheartedly, nonetheless, we learn something. However, if we do them half-heartedly we spend our life covering our tracks and pretending. Wholeheartedness is about avoiding affectation, if at all possible. Roshi Kennett used to say, "If you are going to sin, sin vigorously - that way you soon learn."

Ahhh! That's what we musicians call doing it with soul. Thank-you very much!

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