As part of an ongoing Buddhist study group, this year we are looking at the Eight Fold Path. One of the main sources we are using is the work of Gil Fronsdale. In addition to his work I have been listening to various teachers including Rodney Smith, Noah Levine, Joseph Goldstein, and Anam Thubten. The following notes come from their audio teachings as well as from my own reflections.
Right Understanding, Right View
Practice should lead to change. We practice to realize something through experience. Change happens anyway, but we can cultivate certain qualities that help us to deal with the fact of change and suffering.
1. to learn to refine attention and awareness to your experience so that you can start to observe how you get hooked by certain habits of thought, feeling, expectation, desire, memory, and your familiar sense of identity
2. to learn to be honest about what it is that you observe
3. to develop compassion for the real state of your mind and your experience
Obstacles to realization include myriad preconceptions about how things "should be" or "should work". These views are often quite different from how things actually are. We become caught up in our pictures of the world, rather than investigating how things actually are. Many people will even tell you it is naive to believe you can have a direct experience of anything. Everything is filtered. There is no way to see or touch or experience even a glimpse of "truth". Truth is an old fashioned idea. We all know that... what kind of action does this attitude lead to? Perhaps to despair, or selfishness, or nihilism. Our views make a big difference to how our lives unfold.
Awareness can be developed through meditation practice. We can use our awareness to investigate how complex and beautiful reality actually is. Also how stark and intimidating it can be.
Paying attention to how we act in the world is very important. We can learn to observe three levels of action: body, speech, and mind.
Meditation allows you to cultivate awareness to better observe action at each of these levels throughout your ordinary day. By learning to observe these levels of action you are learning to get to know the texture of your own self experience. You are able to better see how you are "bringing forth a world" through your various habits of desire, aversion, ignorance and indifference.
Everything that arises in awareness can show you the state of your own experience.
What matters to you in this moment?
What grounds you?
Are you grounded in the opinions of others?
are you grounded in desire? in aversion? in indifference?
What would it be like to be grounded in Right View? Right Understanding?
What would it be like to take refuge in Right View?
You CAN bring whatever arises into your awareness with practice
you CAN learn to Welcome whatever arises
Practice welcoming your experience, whatever it is
This is the work of a lifetime
The real challenge is to welcome the pain of experience
You can begin to notice what causes your pain
You can begin to change the patterns that sustain your suffering
You can begin to discover space for your experience
With practice, another question naturally emerges:
What must you let go of?
This is a very big exploration...
If you are not fixated on your own preferences or judgments, then what naturally arises?
The only real purpose of Dharma is to wake up
Buddha said that practice without Right View is like trying to churn water into butter
Here is a practice that I like:
What is your "view" when you wake in the morning?
What is your first thought upon waking?
How do your first thoughts or feelings or energies set a tone for your day?
You might also ask:
What is practice meant to help you connect to?
To what extent do you recognize the mystery of this existence?
To what extent can you feel the preciousness of this embodiment?
What happens to our view if we practice letting go of grasping, aversion, and indifference?
What happens to our view if we practice welcoming experience?
What happens to our view if you cultivate kindness, compassion, generosity, and gratitude?
What happens if we open to joy, despite the pain of life's fleeting beauty and recurrent sorrow?
We might glimpse something beyond the habits of self and perception, a different view, a bigger view, and essential view.
Anam Thubten speaks of a "primal forgetting" of our basic nature.
This version of Right View ultimately penetrates beyond this primal forgetting to the very root of self and object experience.
We believe in our self experience as separate from life itself. It is as if we are separate from the environment rather than embedded within it, constantly interacting.
This is the fact of "ignorance" that gives rise to self's preferences and aversion.
Our relationship to apparently separate objects is defined by pleasure and pain.
We cling to what gives us pleasure. We are averse to what gives us pain.
The meaning of renunciation must be seen as learning to let go of clinging, aversion, and ultimately even to the habit of our separateness.
This does not mean we no longer have experience. It means our experience is radically recontextualized as the play of complexity and process unfolding.
Now we can return to the idea that practice makes realization possible. None of what is described is meant to be taken as intellectual concept. Instead, it is descriptive, part of what can be seen as "skillful means".
Instead of trying to escape or control or deny pain, we learn to turn toward it. By investigating it we learn to see the sources of suffering. This gives rise to compassion and the desire to change our habits of body, speech, and mind, and to open to the openness that is actually always already present. Insight into suffering and compassion can give rise to insight into emptiness and wisdom. The path becomes pathless realization. We go back and forth between insight and embodiment, learning how to bring the two together in our creative energies, no longer trapped in the concrete habits of our projections.
Remember Manjushri, and the sword of wisdom that cuts through duality...