Saturday, January 26, 2013

Walking the Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path is the 4th of the Four Noble Truths, which are 1.  the truth of suffering, 2. the origin of suffering in craving, 3. the cessation of craving will eliminate suffering, and the way to accomplish this is 4. the Eightfold Path.  This path consists of Right View, Intention, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration or Meditation.   The Japanese Zen and Tibetan Kagyu schools place great importance on the 8th stage of the path, the sitting practice of meditation.  They believe this is the most effective way to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha, who also practiced meditation for many years before coming to his realization and beginning of his teaching career.  They also balance this with study of Buddhist teachings to provide the proper context for their meditation experiences.  It is said we are producing the seeds of karma all the time, which good or bad will ripen and create future constraints upon us, except when we meditate, when no karma is being produced. 

To stop producing karmic seeds creates a gap in our compulsive thought process and its tight ego and allows fresh air into the dank recesses of the cocoon of personality.  We begin to see the insubstantial nature of our self-created ego boundaries and sense of separation from the world.  This is considered a good thing, a relaxing thing, a ray of sunshine into the dark dungeon where our ego has fortified itself through innumerable lives.  Meditation creates chinks in this ego wall, stopping momentarily our compulsive subconscious gossiping mind and allowing what lies underneath, pure consciousness, to shine forth. 

Like any other skill or habit, meditation needs to be practiced regularly to become effective.  We do not go into our place of practice with towering expectations that we will immediately gain something from it.  We just sit, in an upright position, lowered eyes, watching our breath, and get up and stretch our muscles doing walking meditation from time to time.  An attitude of cool boredom, as Chogyam Trungpa puts it, is beneficial.  We sit when we sit and we try to cultivate an attitude of mindfulness practice in our ordinary life (the 7th of the Eightfold Path).  There can be said to be an air of regal ease in this practice.  We sit in great dignity and in the post-meditation experience delight in experiencing the chaos and clamor of the phenomenal world without aversion or enticement. 

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