Ringu Tulku Rinpoche kindly agreed to Bodhicharya Berlin’s request to teach on the topic “A Meaningful Life – The Eightfold Path” over eight evenings.
In his Christmas and New Year Greetings Rinpoche wrote “Let us resolve 2022 to be a most meaningful and transforming year in our lives”, so they asked Rinpoche to give us more detailed advice about ways to lead as meaningful lives as possible.
The Eightfold path, the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, shows the path to the cessation of suffering. It gives the basic practices in Buddhism:
1. Right view (right understanding), 2. Right thought (right intention), 3. Right speech, 4. Right action (right conduct), 5. Right livelihood, 6. Right effort, 7. Right mindfulness, 8. Right meditation.
by Maggy Jones
Rinpoche regularly says, “Make your life meaningful”; he was asked how we should do this, and this is his answer.
A “meaningful life” is when you look back and see that you have avoided doing the negative, have tried to do the positive and lived life in a satisfactory way. If we understand the eightfold path and use it, this will help us make our life meaningful, Buddhist and non-Buddhist.
1. RIGHT VIEW This is wide and controversial. It is our way of seeing things, “right” and “wrong”. When we talk about Buddhist principles – compassion, impermanence, kleshas – these all depend on our view. Right view should bring more harmony; but WHOSE view is the right one? Watch your actions and their results; what brings most harmony? We are all interdependent with all phenomena. The Right View is the foundation for our life. Q & A
2. RIGHT THOUGHT. There are many reasons for practising dharma but all accept the eight-fold path. Our conduct is influenced by our mind, by our views, so we must always watch our mind. Too often we blame others for our anger but your anger is your own. Realise that no one is perfect; find other ways to react. Discover what you truly want and avoid a “victim mentality” whatever has happened, then you will sleep soundly. It is always emphasised in Buddhist teaching that YOU are your own practice; working on your own mind is the practice. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to have “Right Thoughts”. Q & A
3. RIGHT SPEECH. Speech is communication, used mindlessly it can cause great harm. Words do not draw blood but they can wound. Nagarjuna, “Words can be like honey or a flower or shit. Honey is the best – it’s healthy and sweet. Speech like a flower may appear nice but may not last. The worst is shit which smells bad and is useless”.
It is not always what you say, but how you say it that causes the problem. Harsh words create conflict; the same thing said quietly may create understanding. What sort of person do you wish to become? Do you want friends or enemies? Negative speech includes: (1) telling lies; (2) harsh words. (Patience is often better than anger); (3) divisive speech – setting people against each other; (4) gossip – pointless, speech. Avoid these and try to do the opposite. Q & A
4. RIGHT CONDUCT. This is the actions of the body but Mind is the source of all actions. Action is direct, not subtle like speech. We must try to reduce our negative actions and increase the positive. There are 3 levels: – Vinaya, Bodhisattva, and Vajrayana. Vinaya is body and speech – the 5 vows (precepts) against wrong-doing; Bodhisattva level focusses on developing our good motivation; Vajrayana is the path.
1st Precept, “Not killing” is about taking a life. Rinpoche discusses the vegetarian controversy; Buddha said, “Avoid extreme conduct”.
Stealing, sexual misconduct and intoxication are the other 4 precepts. Rinpoche gives detailed explanations. One should try to do the opposite of these. Watch the effect of your actions and reduce the negative. Life with the 5 precepts would create a harmonious society. Q & A
5. RIGHT LIVELIHOOD is part of sila (Skt. Discipline) but it is self-discipline; it is our choice. “Livelihood” is how we earn our living. Try to choose something that will bring benefit. A job that is useful will often bring more satisfaction than something that appears exciting and becomes dull. Do not despise people because of their job; realised beings appear in all places. Focus on yourself and make your livelihood your practice. Appreciate a good situation. One approach to “right livelihood” is to try to create a good atmosphere in your work place. Try to live in a way that benefits yourself, society and the environment, without too much greed, or aversion. Leave time for appreciation of what you have. Q & A
6. RIGHT EFFORT “Right View” the first, is training in wisdom. The next four are about self-discipline. Right Effort and Right Mindfulness are the necessary tools for all. “Right effort” or “diligence” is not about forcing yourself; from Buddhist view it is more about good motivation, enthusiasm. Treat your practice like a hobby (right view will help).
Three things are important to develop wisdom: 1st study and listening; 2nd contemplation; 3rd meditation. Our understanding of impermanence is very intellectual and rarely related to our lives; we hold on to negative feelings. Right effort and faith will help us. Laziness is the opposite of diligence. Three kinds of laziness: 1st “I’ll do it tomorrow”; 2nd very busy but wrong priorities; 3rd deciding it is all too difficult so you don’t start. But you can train, you can learn. Remember laziness will re-appear in your next life. Be diligent and practise in a steady, joyful manner. Q & A
7. RIGHT MINDFULNESS. The word means to know what is going on and remember what to do. It is our tool for mind-training. Accidents, mistakes, these happen when we are not mindful. You shouldn’t drive after drinking alcohol because you won’t have mindfulness. We need mindfulness to work on all our practices. Bring your mind to your body and stay focussed. Our mind is usually elsewhere, past, future, good and often bad. The way you focus your mind is important and it’s your decision. Even if you are feeling disturbed, there are many techniques for self-control. Train your mind this way. Without mindfulness, meditation is not possible; with mindfulness the whole day becomes a meditation. It is about relaxing naturally. Q & A
8. RIGHT MEDITATION. Mindfulness is a meditation. We should repeat something regularly to integrate an understanding until it becomes second nature. This is shamatha, making our mind calm and focussed. We usually understand with our intellect and think we know it. But that is a shallow approach; it doesn’t change us. We have to learn how to use it.
Vipassana is insight meditation. The one who sees the problem in meditation then works on it is a true practitioner and will gain wisdom. “Wisdom” is not “knowledge” it is deeper; you understand not only intellectually but also with compassion. Theory and application are two different things. To say “Calm your mind” is easy; doing it requires practice, then you must integrate it into your life-style. Do not keep your practice separate from your life. Advice on the Ngöndro practice – understand what you are doing and why. Q & A
There were live simultaneous translations into French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.
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