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The Four Noble Truths. The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path

Who I am? What for do I live? How did this World appeared?What is the main goal of Life?

When we meet such type of questions, we start to search the answers in different concepts of spiritual development. All directions give their special explanations and advices how to get these answers and deside the hesitations and quests. Somebody says: you should believe. Others say: you should serve. Or you should explore, get the experience.

In this article we will view "The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path" formulated by Buddha Shakyamuni 2500 years ago in Sarnath. The Buddha urged us not to follow something that we just heard but to test the teachings with practice, analysis and reflection. We may say: to open, experience and feel it. For our formal knowledge transforms into the real insight. And we could use our spiritual experience in other sides of life.

Thinking about human life, we can see that it includes different parts. We feel happy and sad. Sometimes we really strugle.

The phrase "Life ia a struggle" means that in our life we have some imperfection, inconstancy, changeability. So, there is something that hurts us. One may say: it is norm, it is natural: life has black and white, different mood, emotional reactions, constant suddenness of tomorrow. But according to spiritual development, a human being is able to make a decision and know, what he can expext in the future. As in this life, as in next one.

Analysing our life we discover, that our desires ( which we cant realize in full measure) are number one reason for life direction. The wisdom says: "It is not possible to satisfy the desires, they are endless." Our desires object either dose not give us an expected happyness and satisfaction, either starts to bore us fastly. Or it stays inrealizable. And what is sad mostly: everything that we will achieve at least - we will lose sooner or later.

Useally we understand this idea when we realise the fact of death.

Often it happens when a human faces a hard disease or goes throw a strong stress, or growes old.

According to spiritual development, a human life shouldnt all time balance between the wishes, the satiety and the disappointment. It shiudnt be the same unstable our material world. And a human ought to stop identify himself with endless river of " I want".

What is the most popular wish in human world ? A wish to enjoy. Wherever one is doing, whatever he is searching: the goal of his actions is a idea to get some pleasure, delight. The condition of constant enjoyment is named "happyness". People give hole their lifes to striving for the happyness. However as we know, there is nothing constant in our world, Sansara world. Trying to forger the taste of disappointment, the pain fr om losses, we start to create new and new goals. While the point of these goals stay the same: to get more pleasure, to full the life with "pleasant" and to protect from "unpleasant". We want to repeat and intensify pleasurable experiences the even if its not always available. In such a way we create an attachment to something "good" and an aversian to somth "bad".

An attachment ( a passionate wish ) is one of three venoms which chain a human to continuous alternation of birth and death - the circle of rebirth.

There are three venoms: passianate wish, ignorance and hatred. They poison our consciousness so we cant see the truth. The problem is that a human is so much involved into everyday illusion desires, so much keened on his little casual affairs which he finds very important mistakenly, that he is wasting for nothing the time of his precious incarnation. The only one wish does not follow to sufferin or attach us to this world. This wish goes beyond the material world - the wish of total liberation.

The other reason for suffering is karmic consequence - the result of our previous actions. They say - every our action leads to an aswer reaction sooner or later. In this life or in next one. The concept, that the soul or spirit, after biological death, can begin a new life in a new body, is named Reincarnation.

The doctrine of reincarnation in Buddhism is basically different from the same doctrine in Hinduism. In Hinduism, the soul comes to this world, spends some time here and than leaves. In Buddhism, Reincarnation can be explained with an example: a kaleidoscope has always the same glasses. They do not come and go somewhere from kaleidoscope. But after every next action we see different picture. These glasses are elements from with our personality is appeared. They go apart and go together with every change of Sansara kaleidoscope.

As a result of our unseemly actions and passionate wishes, we may have a degradation which leads to incarnation as a creature with more low level of development.

Is it possible to control wishes and attachments? Yes, taking away the attachments is a way to reach the Libration ( Nirvana, Samadhi ). We cant describe the condition of Nirvana with words. It is something opposit to dukha ( saffering ), but it is not a private heaven for one concrete spirit.

Also, Nirvana leads to disappearance of all known in Sansara world. So it is even not something opposit to Sansara, but it is somthing absolutly different.

In this case, some people may find Nirvana negative because it denies all that we used to love. But The Buddhas teaching says that one who had reached Nirvana can see all illusions of this world and he gets rid of suffering coneccted with it. He perceives the Truth and becomes free of all that was pressing on him before. He gets free of troubles, diffidence and fixed ideas, selfish desires, hatred, self-satisfaction and pride, pressing sense of duty. He gets free of wish to get smth, he does not gather anything: neither physical neither spiritual. He understood that all is just an illusion so he does not need to rush to so called "realization" connected with absence of own separate "I". Living right now moment, he does not regret about past and does not hope on future. He does not think about himself, but he feels real deep love to all alive beings, full of compassion, kindness and patience.

Not possible to come to this condition if you still have any selfish thoughts. So, the one who archieved it, is an independent and free being. The last but not the least - he ia able to see needs of other people, feel their pain, help them and not only be concentrated about his own hapiness.

In such a way we can see three from The Four Noble Truths:

1) The first truth of Dukkha: "Life is suffering"

2) The second truth of the origin of Dukkha - Samudaya

3) The third truth of the cessation of Dukkha; - Nirodha

4) The fourth truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. It means the Noble Eightfold Path ( ariyo ashanga maggo ).

The fourth truth - Marga - The Path to liberation from Dukkha.

The Path has eight limbs. Samyag is prefixed to all of them. Useally it is transleted as "right". But samyak means much more than just ‘right’. It is also ‘whole’, ‘integral’, ‘complete’, ‘perfect’.

Samyag-drsti, Perfect Vision

Perfect Vision represents the phase of initial spiritual insight and experience. It may arise in different ways for different people. For some people the Path of Vision arises as the result of personal tragedy,bereavement, or loss. In this wreck, this ruin of their lives, they start questioning, start ooking deeper, and start wondering about the meaning and purpose of existence.

For others, Perfect Vision may arise by way of a spontaneous mystical experience. For others it may arise in quite a different way, as the result of of deep and prolonged practice of meditation.

When the mind has been systematically stilled, and when,

although thoughts have been banished, clear consciousness still persists, then under these conditions also Perfect Vision may arise.

Finally it may arise, for some people at least, out of their whole experience of life – especially as they grow older and, it is to be hoped, more mature and wise.

What then is Perfect Vision? One may say it is a vision of the nature of existence. First of all, Perfect Vision is a vision of our actual present state of bondage to conditioned existence as represented by the Wheel of Life called Sansara.

It is also a vision of our potential future state of Enlightenment as represented by the Buddha, or the mandala of Buddhas, or a Pure Land ( Pure Land is a place, wh ere the soul development is the number one action.) Finally it is a vision of the path or way leading from the one to the other.

Samyak-Samkalpa: Perfect Resolve and Emotion

All religious people find themselves at some time in this quite terrible predicament. They know the truth rationally. They can talk about it, write about it, give lectures about it. But they are unable to put it into practice. They may feel, ‘I know this very well, and see it so clearly; but I am unable to put it into practice, unable to carry it out.’ No sooner do they lift themselves up a few inches than they slip back what sometimes feels like a mile.

We may say that we ‘know’ something, but we know it only with the conscious mind, with the rational part of ourselves. We know it theoretically, intellectually, abstractly.

There is really no spiritual life until the heart is also involved. No matter how active the brain is, or how much we have understood intellectually, until the heart is involved and we begin to feel what we have understood – until our emotions are engaged – there is no spiritual life, properly speaking.

Perfect Emotion represents the descent of Perfect Vision into our emotional nature in such a way as to transform it totally.

It means deliberate overcoming negative emotions ( longing, anger and cruelty ) and cultivation positive states ( generosity, love, compassion, calmness, trust and faith).

Most of the emotions arrise in the course of our various relationships with others. This is why it is so important that in the group, in the community, we cultivate all the time the right spirit.

Samyak Vaca, Perfect Speech

There are four progressive levels of communication: truthfulness, affectionateness, helpfulness, and the promotion of concord, harmony. First of all Perfect Speech, or ideal communication, is truthful. We all tend to twist, or distort, or at least slightly bend facts, in the direction in which we would like them to go. Do we really even know what we think? Do we really know what we feel? Most of us live or exist in a state of chronic mental confusion, bewilderment, chaos, disorder. We may repeat, as the occasion arises, what we have heard, what we have read. But we do all this without really knowing what we say. If we want to speak the truth in the full sense, we must clarify our ideas.We must know what is within us, what are our motivations, what are our drives and our ideals.

Speaking the truth really means being ourselves. It means giving expression in terms of speech to what we really and truly are and know we are.

Also there is one more aspect of Perfect Speech – speaking that which is useful – consists in speaking in such a way that the person or persons to whom we are speaking are raised in the scale of being and consciousness, and not lowered. We should see the good, the bright, the positive side of things – not fasten our attention on the negative.

Perfect Speech is speech that promotes concord, harmony, and unity. Speech that promotes concord, harmony, and unity’ really means mutual helpfulness, based on truthfulness and awareness of each other’s being and each other’s needs, leading to mutual self-transcendence. When Perfect Speech culminates in harmony, oneness, and mutual self-transcendence, it also culminates in silence.

Samyak Karmanta, Perfect Action

According to the Buddha’s teaching, as preserved in the traditions of whatsoever sect or school, actions are right or wrong, perfect or imperfect, according to the state of mind with which they are performed. In other words the criterion of morality is very important. The moral life becomes a question of acting from what is best within us: acting from our deepest understanding and insight, our widest and most comprehensive love and compassion.

This is not just action which accords with some external standard or criterion, but action which expresses Perfect Vision and Perfect Emotion.

Perfect Action is also total action, or better, total act: that act in which the total self is involved. Almost all the time we act with only part of ourselves. We may happen to be completely immersed in something. Every ounce of our energy, our effort, our awareness, our interest, our enthusiasm, our love, is involved at that moment. In such moments we can feel the satisfaction and the peace.

Samyak Adshiva, Perfect Livelihood

In this part the way earning money is explained. In the Buddhist scriptures there are many infornation about this question. First of all it is explained in terms of abstention from wrong livelihood: мarious professions are discouraged. At the top of the list comes earning a living by trafficking in living beings, meat, wreapon and earning money by palmistry and fortune-telling. It is reccomended to earn enough money for very modest life. And all other time should be spent on spiritual development and dissemination of knowledge.

Samyak - Vyayama, Perfect Effort

The spiritual life is an active life, but not an entertainment. It is a difficult and severe path. People start with lots of enthusiasm, but very often it quickly wears off. Enthusiasm wanes, and after a while it is almost as though it had never been at all. This is because the forces of inertia within ourselves, the forces holding us back and keeping us down, are very strong indeed – even in simple matters like getting up early in the morning to meditate. You might make a resolution to get up half an hour earlier, and you might succeed once or twice, or even three times; but by the fourth morning temptation will almost certainly have set in, and it will be a matter of quite serious mental struggle and conflict whether you get up or whether you stay a few minutes longer in that warm, cosy bed. You are nearly always the loser, of course, because the forces of inertia are so strong.

Thats why it is so important to explore yourself, to understand what the Mind is and what does it consists. To make it we need to be very onest to ourself. This is traditionally known as ‘guarding the doors of the senses’. The thoughts come into our mind before we realize what is happening. We even dont see how they are coming to the centre of the mind.

It is recommended to stop any negative direction of mind and cultivate a positive attitude, try to save high mental state. That is so easy to go down if you interrapt your practice for few days. You might find yourself in a place, in a posotion from which you had started few monthes ago. But if you put regular efforts at least you might archieve the level fron which you go only forward.

Samyak-Smrti, Perfect Awareness

Our mind is very easily turned away or turned aside. We are very easily distracted. Our concentration is weak because we have no continuity of purpose. There is no one overriding purpose that remains unchanged in the midst of all the different things that we do. We switch from one thing to another, one wish to another, all the time.

Mindfulness is a state of recollection, of undistractedness, of concentration. We should learn to look, learn to see, learn to be aware, and in this way become supremely receptive. By becoming more aware of our emotional life we will find that unskilful emotional states – those connected with craving, hatred, or fear – will tend to be resolved; whereas the skilful emotional states – those connected with love, peace, compassion, and joy – will tend to be refined. If we are by nature a bit hot-tempered and prone to anger, then as we develop awareness of feelings we shall first of all be aware of our angry feelings when we have been angry. With a bit of practice we shall be aware that we are being angry.

If they are suddenly asked ‘What are you thinking of just now?’ most peoplehave to confess that they do not know. This is because often we do not really think, we just allow thoughts to drift through the mind. the mind will be left silent and empty. When as a result of awareness the mind becomes silent and thoughts vanish, leaving only the pure, clear awareness or consciousness behind, that real meditation begins.

Samyak Samadhi

The word samadhi literally means the state of being firmly fixed or established. It can be understood as representing the fixation or establishment of the mind on a single object, which is samadhi in the sense of mental concentration. But it is much more than just good concentration. Samadhi – is the culminating phase of the whole Path of Transformation. It represents the culmination of the process of transformation from an unenlightened to an Enlightened state, and the complete and perfect permeation of all aspects of one’s being by that Perfect Vision with which one started.

We can see that a human following the Eightfold Path, acts differently from a one who lives in sansara circle without wish to awake. The transformation takes place on all levels: everyday life, feelings, attitude to life goals and all alive beings around.

Also it is important to remember that the Path is process of tranforamtion on all levels if we are following all the stages of the Eightfold Path all the time. We develop the Perfect Vision, something is openning inside us and it influences our emotions and, to some extent at least, we develop Perfect Emotion, the second step of the Path. It also overflows into our speech and influences that, so that our speech becomes more like Perfect Speech. Our actions are changing with this influence too. We are tranformating all our levels of being and it is neverending process.

With the aid of study and practice these deep advices, it is important to get an experience of pure, not dual perception; learn how to save it and use your energy, time and life for achievement rational goals. The rationality is determined by everyone on one's own. But the Great Teachers of past show us an inspiring example of altruism, self-sacrifice and compassion for those who are around: less awaked and realized.

The most true happiness happens when alive beings around you can find peace and harmony. They finish to identify themself with the body, the material world, desires, dependences and pain. They open their true nature.

Becoming free and happy, they are able to share this knowledge with others. To give this expirience futher. In this way, we can improve: harmonize and make helthier our sociaty and the hole World.

By Ekaterina Androsova

Used literature:
"The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path" by Sangharakshita

"Buddhism" by Kornienko A.B.