The Noble Eightfold Path is a simplification of the Buddha’s teachings: The Buddha Way.
We can remember these through the acronym VISA LEM C.
It is worth repeating that ‘Right’ doesn’t mean the only acceptable way, rather it is guidance given by Buddha, recorded in the Dharma, and supported by Sangha. Our connection with sangha and our teacher helps us keep the compassionate view of no judgements, and no errors, just stepping back on the path when we see we’ve fallen off.
Right View is like putting on a pair of glasses that allow you to see the world as it truly is. It's about understanding the interconnectedness of all things, acknowledging the impermanence of life, and embracing the nature of suffering without being engulfed by any of it.
Right Intention serves as an internal compass. It guides us to accept things as they are and infuse compassion into all aspects of our journey, enhancing our morality, equanimity, and patience.
Right Speech is the art of verbal alchemy. The words we use are not merely sounds but potent elixirs that shape our reality.
Right Action therefore is the dance of ethical harmony, where each step is a move towards a compassionate and virtuous life. By practising with Right Action, we attempt to balance the pull of our human nature (Ego) with that of our True Nature (Buddhahood), like two dance partners. If life was a ballroom; your actions should be elegant, and considerate. noble and dignified. Leaving a trail of goodwill in the wake of your steps. Which dance partner takes the lead is down to mindfulness. Indeed the Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said,
"The basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness."
Cultivating ‘Right’ Action
The Buddha recommended that we: 1) do not harm others 2) do not cheat, steal or be dishonest and 3) avoid sexual misconduct and help others to live a life of similar values.
Therefore proceed with a Noble, non-arrogant kindness and integrity. Guided by ‘Right’ Intention and informed by ‘Right’ View. Consider the impact of your actions on yourself and others. Avoid actions that cause harm or suffering, and instead, engage in deeds that promote well-being and understanding. It's the dance of ethical grace – a rhythmic flow of kindness, consideration, and prudent choices.
Rising Lotus Sangha is part of the Mahāyāna Buddhism line, where a bodhisattva refers to anyone who has a genuine wish and compassionate mind to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Bodhisattvas nurture the Four Immeasurables of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity, as well as the various bodhisattva "perfections" (pāramitās). In Soto Zen Mahāyāna Buddhism there are 6 paramitas; ethical conduct, generosity, patience, effort, meditation and wisdom. A student of Buddhism, a Bodhisattva makes efforts to realise;
1. That they are not separate from all that is. This is the precept of Non-Killing.
2. That they are satisfied with what they have. This is the precept of Non-Stealing.
3. Meet the diversity of life with respect and dignity. This is the precept of Chaste Conduct.
4. Listen and speak from the heart. This is the precept of Non-Lying.
5. Cultivate a mind that sees clearly. This is the precept of Not Being Ignorant.
6. Bear witness to the offering of each moment. This is the precept of Not Talking About Others’ Errors And Faults.
7. Speak what I perceive to be the truth. This is the precept of Not Elevating Myself And Blaming Others.
8. Use all the ingredients of my life. This is the precept of Not Being Stingy.
9. Bear witness to emotions that arise. This is the precept of Not Holding On To Anger.
10. Honor life as a Peacemaker. This is the precept of Not Disparaging The Three Treasures.
-These are Zen Peacemaker’s versions of the Precepts we try to follow.
Following the Buddha Way, we can develop “prajñā”: a transcendent knowledge or wise discernment giving rise to skilful actions.
You might see that each of the above asks us to consider our ethics and morals, our core beliefs, and that at times what is Right and the most compassionate may not quite align with these.
As we deepen our Buddhist studies with a teacher, we might pose questions like: If animals and plants both have life, how do we uphold the precept of non-killing? Is there ever a time when stealing might be the most appropriate course of action?
Journal Prompt: Even as those who have taken refuge and declared themselves as Buddhists, we should from time to time take stock of our views, intentions, speech and actions. We are always learning more about how to interact with compassion. Ask yourself and reflect upon;
What are my core values and how do they influence my actions?
Think of your actions as choreography, each step contributing to the harmonious dance of existence. Reflect on instances where your actions reflected ethical grace, bringing joy to yourself and those around you. In contrast, consider moments when your actions may not have been in alignment with your values. How can you refine your dance to leave a more positive imprint on the world?
Approach this inquiry with the spirit of a dancer perfecting their routine - a willingness to learn, adjust, and embody the principles of The Buddha Way. Envision a life where your every step is a contribution to the symphony of kindness, leaving a lasting resonance in the hearts of those you encounter.
Take a moment to acknowledge that everyone experiences moments where they act out. Moments where we are afraid, greedy, hateful and under some illusion or other. In this, we are all similar. Regardless of any difference. We all have similar needs, wants and desires. To be safe, to have enough, to have a place, to be free of the dis-eases that plague all of us. The main religions have a common thread: Treat others as you would wish to be treated.
“May I be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.”
“May they be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.”
“May we be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.”
Judge not the actions of others for they may be struggling with things we can not see. Would we not appreciate that grace too? Don’t judge yourself too harshly either.
Compassionately return to the path, when we find ourselves misstepping. Addressing any impact it may have had on others, where we can.🙏