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Practicing the Eight fold Path

  • Buddha head - Eight fold path

The Buddha's teachings explain and teach a very accessible way to the freedom and liberation from earthly sufferings. This metaphor of a path helps a person to draw an idea of a cleared way which allows him/her to travel through smoothly in an otherwise an impossible and impassable forest. As the person brings his/her entire body along when waling on the path of the forest, then only he/she follows the Buddha's path by engaging all the aspects of his/her identity. The Buddha's path only exists in our engagement with it while a physical path exists whether we walk on it or not. The path is created by the activities of our minds, bodies and hearts. Teaching about the Buddha's path are simply maps indicating how we create the path as we walk on it.

A version of the metaphor of this path, the Buddha teaches about the spiritual freedom to a long-forgotten and overgrown city lying deep into the forest. Just as it is possible to retain and inhabit this city once the hidden path to it is found, it clearly is possible to live a free life when we find and walk on the path that will take us to the city.

The Buddha compared the forest's dense nature to various psychological and emotional obstructions in our lives that not only limit our spiritual liberty but stops us from exploring the life's inner meaning. Building on this metaphor of the path, he further explains that we not only have our inner wilderness with its own dangers and challenges, but also that we have, within us, what it takes to rid ourselves of these dangers to be free.

As both the path to freedom and the obstacles are hidden within us, the Buddha's path helps us to be responsible for our own attitudes, actions and thoughts within ourselves. It is based upon the principle that any of us can move forward and towards the freedom by stopping our engagements from our behaviors and perspectives which pulls us down and by replacing them with the ones that lighten us and support us as we move on with our lives.

Eight Noble Paths

The Buddha's path to this freedom or liberation is known as the Noble Eightfold Path. This path consists of eight noble and interrelated activities or practices. The names for each of this practice in Buddhism are prefaced by Samma (translated from Pali as "right", "proper", "Complete" and "harmony"). Taking "right" as the translation, it may be as meaningful as "appropriate", as when we speak of having the "right tool" for any particular task. "Right" does not point to the truths we are obligated to adopt or to moralistic judgments of right and wrong as the path consists of practices rather than beliefs.

The Path of Right View

The first step of the Noble Eightfold Path is the Right view. A sensible approach that leads or guides along the longetivity of the path. To walk through the path, we, the humans, must have the idea where we are travelling so that we would not wander aimlessly and eventually end up getting lost. Even when a compass points us towards our destination, taking the most direct course may not be possible every time if it involves plunging over the steepest cliffs, walking into the dense and the most overgrown parts of the forest. By having the knowledge of what to pay attention to, we can "read" the forest and later discover the aspects that show the best way forward.

The "Right view" perspective in the Buddha's path is more of a practice of keeping a keen eye on our relationship to whatever we are experiencing in our lives. Moreover, this particular practice is also described as using the perspective of the Four Noble Truths. In this approach of practice, we rather ask ourselves a series of questions: "Are we in stress, discomfort or are we suffering in how we are relating to what is happing or not happening? What is the contributing factor to this suffering?" Right view contains the encouraging viewpoint that is clinging and consequently, the suffering can be ended. It also introduces us to the practices of the entire Eightfold Path as the easiest and the clearest path towards the liberation from the suffering.

The Right view does not only mean to be perspective from which to see and understand our lives. Other viewpoints or perspectives can be necessary for other purposes. Moreover, in order to walk in the Buddha's path to freedom, Right View is an important ingredient. It is the outlook which is required to discover the path and to stay on the path.

Right view does not need believing in something we cannot or do not know for ourselves while practicing. The right view does not endorse or rely on any mystical beliefs. Similarly, it does not require us to be ahead or be more than who or where we are. Following the path involves walking or moving where we are on the path; we cannot walk on what lies ahead until we reach it.

The other remaining practices of the Eightfold path are Right Intention, Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. These seven paths have mutually supportive relationship with the Right View. Right view helps us to differentiate between the speech, intentions, livelihoods, ethical actions, and mental states, which are the main causes of sufferings and the ones that attenuate it. On the other hand, Right View becomes easier and more effective to practice as we practice other factors of the Eightfold Path.

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