Part 4 of 4
If you’ve been following this series over the past three weeks, we’ve been taking a very rudimentary look into the first three of the most basic and most fundamental of all Buddhist teachings: the Four Noble Truths. This fourth post brings us to Buddha’s prescription for how we embark on the path out of our suffering.
We’ve explored the idea that what causes most of our suffering is our grasping and clinging as well as our attachments. This clinging and grasping can be to objects, people, ideas, viewpoints, stories about the past, or anything else.
We’ve practiced first identifying where we’ve been attached, where we cling and grasp and we’re beginning to practice letting go of our stories and our attachments.
Letting go of all of our clinging and attachments is certainly not easy. This is why absolutely everything about Buddhist teachings is a practice. Being able to develop the understanding, compassion, and mindfulness to see well enough to let go of our suffering is without a doubt, difficult.
Here’s where the Fourth Noble Truth provides us with practical tips, tools, and practices on which we can embark on the path to freedom from suffering in eight steps. This Eightfold Path gives us just what we need to create the conditions which make our spiritual awakening, growth, and maturity possible.
The Eightfold Path includes:
- Right Understanding
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
It’s not necessary to do each step one before the other, but rather to take them together collectively. In other words, you are free to begin practicing with any one of the eight steps in whatever order suits you. All eight steps are simply eight aspects of the path out of our suffering. They are mutually supportive and each one nourishes the other.
The path is organized around our bodies, our speech, and our mind.
Sometimes the Eightfold Path is divided into the three categories of ethics, inner practices, and insight. This path offers a deep world of practice. Studying and becoming familiar with all eight is well worth the effort and time.
Of the Eight, the Buddhist tradition places particular emphasis on mindfulness.
That is because our mindfulness and meditation practice is the vehicle for realizing the Four Noble Truths. It is in our meditation and mindfulness practices both on the cushion and out in the world which, if we bring awareness to our actions, helps us notice our suffering as it arises.
It is only when we notice and acknowledge our suffering that we have an opportunity to change it. When we can begin understanding its roots, we can let go of our clinging.
When we practice mindfulness and meditation, we can take an interest in our suffering instead of running away from it, ignoring it, or pushing it away. We can learn how to be comfortable with our suffering so that we don’t act out in our discomfort.
All of the Buddha’s teachings are an elaboration of the Four Noble Truths. By understanding the deep message within its simplicity, our spiritual growth and maturity can become practical and straightforward. This is not to suggest that we won’t fall back into our old habits and patterns of behavior that get triggered at times. The most important thing to remember is that our spiritual path and journey to awakening is never a linear one. It is always a practice.
In our next series, I will be walking us through each of the eight steps along the Noble Eightfold Path out of suffering. If you are local to the San Diego area, we will be embarking on an eight-week study full of practices, tips, and tools for each of the eight steps at Satsang House.
If you are not from the San Diego area, you can join us weekly beginning on January 22nd, 2023 via Zoom. Click HERE to sign up!