Thanissaro Bhikkhu has written a fairly hefty tome called ‘On The Path’ regarding the Noble Eightfold Path. I am reading it at the moment and it is certainly worth the time and investment for your practice. I offer it here as a service to all and trust that it will serve your practice as it is so doing with mine.
I have been working on the Noble Eightfold Path articles and have put up the first two of the three that are to come. They are works in progress so please forgive any inconsistences you may spot. My knowledge of the path is somewhat limited so all I can do is my best.
The Pabbatopama Sutta or The Simile of the Mountain is hard hitting. The Buddha pulls no punches for those inured in the day-to-day squabbles of mundane life. Greed for fortune and hatred for others have no place in this Sutta. From the moment you are born you are destined to suffer until your very last breath. And the Buddha is correct. We are born to suffer, we are born into a completely unsatisfactory world system that will never reach anyone’s expectations. You could be Bill Gates, you could be HRH The Queen of England, you could be George Clooney or you could be a beggar on the streets of London, there are three things we are all certain to experience and they all involve suffering.
We will all suffer from aging and all that it entails.
We will all suffer illness.
We will all suffer death.
The Simile of the Mountain is pretty harsh but there is still a message of hope bound within it. The cycle of continual rebirth can be broken and we can all escape the habit of samsara. Samsara is a Pali verb, that means it is something that we actually do, and the Buddha has the means by which we can escape this habit. To follow the Buddha, to learn the Dhamma, and to be part of the Sangha are the only necessary steps required to eventually relinquish the hold that samsara has over us. Once samsara is defeated we are blessed with Nibbana. Bliss, compassion and loving kindness.
It is a long path to follow for most of us and we must get used to the idea that it may well take several life times to achieve, but once we are on the path; The Noble Eight-fold Path, then we are at least on the home run. Practice and patience are the watchwords of being a Buddhist. Instant enlightenment will not occur for most of us, so to be patient, be methodical in your practice, be compassionate and be wise are the requisites.
Your time will come, one day, in the future, and you will be named Arahant, ‘One Who Is Worthy’ and you will no longer return to this particular reality.
And so we come to the Fourth Noble Truth. You can access it via the right hand menu as usual, but this one is somewhat different. Over time there will be sub-articles added regarding the steps involved in this Truth because it is much more involved than the previous three. This truth explains how to escape Samsara, the never ending cycle of birth, death and rebirth that we find ourselves in.
Certainly most people are completely unaware of this cycle, we have no memory of our previous lives. There are many ‘New Age’ practitioners out there that claim to be able to train you to access previous life memories, which is all well and good if they are the genuine article, but they do not explain how to escape the cycle of constant suffering. In this final truth, that is exactly what the Buddha does explain; and during rest of his life, all the Suttas and discourses he gave, was his attempt at enlightening mankind to the fact that we can escape this cycle. We can have freedom. We can have peace.
May all beings live in peace. May all being attain Nibbana.
Buddhism Now posted this video a few days ago and it seems rather coincidental with my current writings regarding the 4 Noble Truths that I am trying to put together. So, without further ado, here is Ringu Tulku Rinpoche in a short, 12 min, video describing the Four Noble Truths for the average man in the street. That man is my target audience, so I do hope you find it informative and useful.
May you all be free from fear. May you all be free from the causes of fear.
The Four Noble Truths were the first teaching Buddha gave after his awakening. They are the foundation of all Buddhist teachings. Short Buddhist video (about 12 minutes)