Author Topic: Eightfold Path  (Read 411 times)

Offline ZenFred

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Eightfold Path
« on: August 25, 2017, 08:56:26 am »
In the back to basics thread, Francis mentioned the eightfold path. In order to not get off topic I'm starting a new thread.

As a religious, but non-confessional theist I've been trying to discern a spiritual practice. I've been struggling with how many times a day to pray or using structured prayer or times at all. I'm also debating various dietary observances (pork, shellfish, blood, no meat on Fridays, etc). Also I find some ritual observances meaningful, others not, but feeling alone isn't good grounds for a practice.

What it occurred to me is the whole intent of such practices is cultivating virtue, basically the eightfold path.

Do specific practices help in following the eightfold path? How do I know what I should adopt and what I should not adopt? Monks in the east have an abundance of rituals.

I believe that God gives us a naturally occurring, self evident revelation. Special revelation about such things eating pork are not necessarily at best and subject to suspicion. God does not require ritualistic observances in earn His favor, or avoid his wrath. but perhaps we as humans do need them to remind us and purify our intentions.

The Buddhist prohibition against eating meat is ethical, not ritualistic so that's a separate issue.

With metta,
Fred

Offline meez

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2017, 10:54:32 am »
I would say that the benefit of "practices" vary from person to person.  For example, if taking time throughout the day to pray, meditate, etc. in order to serve as a reminder of the eightfold path (or any other path), and helps that person stay focused on that which they follow, it seems beneficial.  Of course, some may need to do that once a day, some ten times.  I think the ritualistic aspect is less important from a standpoint of simply checking the box. 

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2017, 03:23:56 pm »
In the back to basics thread, Francis mentioned the eightfold path. In order to not get off topic I'm starting a new thread.

As a religious, but non-confessional theist I've been trying to discern a spiritual practice. I've been struggling with how many times a day to pray or using structured prayer or times at all. I'm also debating various dietary observances (pork, shellfish, blood, no meat on Fridays, etc). Also I find some ritual observances meaningful, others not, but feeling alone isn't good grounds for a practice.

What it occurred to me is the whole intent of such practices is cultivating virtue, basically the eightfold path.

Do specific practices help in following the eightfold path? How do I know what I should adopt and what I should not adopt? Monks in the east have an abundance of rituals.

I believe that God gives us a naturally occurring, self evident revelation. Special revelation about such things eating pork are not necessarily at best and subject to suspicion. God does not require ritualistic observances in earn His favor, or avoid his wrath. but perhaps we as humans do need them to remind us and purify our intentions.

The Buddhist prohibition against eating meat is ethical, not ritualistic so that's a separate issue.

With metta,
Fred

MY feeling is the N8FP is not something you "follow" it's more like something that "happens".

I have a friend who translates Dharma texts professionaly.  In a converstation, she once told me that what is often referred to as the "Noble Eightfold Path" is better translated as the "Eightfold Path of the Noble One".  Noble, here, is a reference to  enlightened beings gnerally and Buddhas in particular.  This cast the subject in a somewhet different light, especially in regards to the practice.

Anyway, with that in mind.....

As we get into Mahayana teaching, especially, Emptiness, Prajnaparamita, Threefold Purity and so on, the idea that we can "practice" the N8FP and attain enlightenment becomes a little suspect.    In the Heart Sutra, we see than in Emptiness there is no Path.  As we delve deeper into the Mahayana, we start to see that attempts to "practice" the N8FP are excercises in the establishment of self and as such unable to bring us to enlightenment.  We also see that terms like "right" are suspect as this will denote a duality (right/wrong)  that is invalid.  If we ask translators, we will find that "right" isn't the best translation, either.  "Complete" is more appropriate.

So, does this invalidate the N8FP?  No.  What this means is we can look to the Path to manifest itself naturally as fruition of our practice.  Complete Speech, View will devlop.  WE don't have to force it.

I suppose that in the context of the teaching set forth in the Pali, the acting to excerise the path would be appropriate.  For someone on the Mahayana path it's different.

Offline ZenFred

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2017, 04:09:21 pm »


MY feeling is the N8FP is not something you "follow" it's more like something that "happens".

I have a friend who translates Dharma texts professionaly.  In a converstation, she once told me that what is often referred to as the "Noble Eightfold Path" is better translated as the "Eightfold Path of the Noble One".  Noble, here, is a reference to  enlightened beings gnerally and Buddhas in particular.  This cast the subject in a somewhet different light, especially in regards to the practice.

Anyway, with that in mind.....

As we get into Mahayana teaching, especially, Emptiness, Prajnaparamita, Threefold Purity and so on, the idea that we can "practice" the N8FP and attain enlightenment becomes a little suspect.    In the Heart Sutra, we see than in Emptiness there is no Path.  As we delve deeper into the Mahayana, we start to see that attempts to "practice" the N8FP are excercises in the establishment of self and as such unable to bring us to enlightenment.  We also see that terms like "right" are suspect as this will denote a duality (right/wrong)  that is invalid.  If we ask translators, we will find that "right" isn't the best translation, either.  "Complete" is more appropriate.

So, does this invalidate the N8FP?  No.  What this means is we can look to the Path to manifest itself naturally as fruition of our practice.  Complete Speech, View will devlop.  WE don't have to force it.

I suppose that in the context of the teaching set forth in the Pali, the acting to excerise the path would be appropriate.  For someone on the Mahayana path it's different.
[/quote]

This reminds me of how Hyon Gak a Korean zen teacher would say that your knew your True Self when it was spontaneous right action. You didn't have to think about, it was just natural to be compassionate.

I think I may want to take another look at Mahayana texts and Buddhism in general again. Thanks to everyone for wetting my appetite again.

Offline francis

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2017, 08:32:57 pm »
I think I may want to take another look at Mahayana texts and Buddhism in general again. Thanks to everyone for wetting my appetite again.

Hi ZenFred,

Good to see you giving Buddhism another go.

I find it helpful to check the The Four Noble Truths every now and again.

The Noble Eightfold Path (aka The Fourth Noble Truth) is an integrated, not a linear path. It's central to all traditions of Buddhism. It does require practice, because if it just happened then everyone would be enlightened. Unfortunately, this is not the case or the world would be a much better place.

Buddhism is non-theist. There is nothing wrong with rituals if the help us, it's attachment to them (like everything else) that cause the problems.

Religious laws around eating pork for example, can be traced back to health issues around parasites and uncooked meat. The same goes for not eating dead animals by having special killing requirements. Unfortunately, some people have forgotten the origin of theses practices, have become attached to them, and such practices have become part of religious dogma. I’m not sure where the eating of fish on Fridays came from, but Jesus hung out with fishermen ;)

Different Buddhist traditions vary on the ethics of eating meat.

With metta
« Last Edit: August 25, 2017, 09:04:09 pm by francis »
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline ZenFred

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2017, 09:14:30 pm »
Francis,

  I think saying Buddhism is non-theist is probably too broad of a statement. Thervada is definitely non-theistic and Zen on the surface is neutral also takes a non-theistic bent. Dharmakara, the closest person I had to a teacher, would always challenge me in doubts on theism. He was right that the deity who most people believe in doesn't exist.

  The divine reality I'm talking about isn't believed in, it's experienced. Maybe that's because I'm conditioned to see it that way and my zen study couldn't ever liberate me from it. That Nich Hahn talks about our spiritual DNA and he has good advice that people shouldn't try to convert but should find the good in their own faith and live as a good Christian or Jew or whatever rather than becoming Buddhist. I would definitely agree.

  However, I think the "positive" force of love and source of being and good shows up in Buddhism too. Even thervadans speak of the Dharma in very religious terms that exceed its definition. In Mahayana, you have avalokitesvara the embodiment of all bodhisattvas' compassion. There's also pure land. It's not that these are God and it's not that I'm right in thinking there is a God. But I get what they are talking about and there is something. It's the mystic call to find that something and be found by it. Though it's probably a lot more like the oxherding pictures than accepting Jesus as your personal savior. Though I think accepting Jesus, though an intellectual error, works to find God too. Words fail me here.


Offline francis

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2017, 10:26:06 pm »
Hi ZenFred,

Religions generally require belief (conditioning) in some mystical God, god or goddess that will save our immortal soul (or atman) by blindly following. Buddhism on the other hand, is about helping people become unconditioned by practicing the steps on the N8FP which leads to liberation from conditioned existence. It’s a much different path to Christianity or Judaism.

Buddhism requires the practice of both wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna) to realise enlightenment, so the "positive" force of love is an integrated part of Buddhism as outlined in the N8FP for example.

I’m not familiar with terms like divine reality or spiritual DNA, do you mean bodhicitta?



"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2017, 05:58:18 am »
Hi ZenFred,

Religions generally require belief (conditioning) in some mystical God, god or goddess that will save our immortal soul (or atman) by blindly following. Buddhism on the other hand, is about helping people become unconditioned by practicing the steps on the N8FP which leads to liberation from conditioned existence. It’s a much different path to Christianity or Judaism.

Buddhism requires the practice of both wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna) to realise enlightenment, so the "positive" force of love is an integrated part of Buddhism as outlined in the N8FP for example.

I’m not familiar with terms like divine reality or spiritual DNA, do you mean bodhicitta?

Google is your friend.  Look up both terms.  There's  plenty to keep you busy while you wait for Freds response.

Offline francis

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2017, 06:53:43 am »
Hi ZenFred,

Religions generally require belief (conditioning) in some mystical God, god or goddess that will save our immortal soul (or atman) by blindly following. Buddhism on the other hand, is about helping people become unconditioned by practicing the steps on the N8FP which leads to liberation from conditioned existence. It’s a much different path to Christianity or Judaism.

Buddhism requires the practice of both wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna) to realise enlightenment, so the "positive" force of love is an integrated part of Buddhism as outlined in the N8FP for example.

I’m not familiar with terms like divine reality or spiritual DNA, do you mean bodhicitta?

Google is your friend.  Look up both terms.  There's  plenty to keep you busy while you wait for Freds response.

I did and they conjure up images Gods, gods and immortal souls. Nothing to do with Buddhism.
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline ZenFred

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2017, 06:58:39 am »
Hi ZenFred,

Religions generally require belief (conditioning) in some mystical God, god or goddess that will save our immortal soul (or atman) by blindly following. Buddhism on the other hand, is about helping people become unconditioned by practicing the steps on the N8FP which leads to liberation from conditioned existence. It’s a much different path to Christianity or Judaism.

Buddhism requires the practice of both wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna) to realise enlightenment, so the "positive" force of love is an integrated part of Buddhism as outlined in the N8FP for example.

I’m not familiar with terms like divine reality or spiritual DNA, do you mean bodhicitta?

Francis,

  Sure I'll define what I meant. To be fair googling them might not help.

"Divine reality" was really just another way to get around using "God". What I do not mean is something like the anthropomorphic dieties of pagan religions. Im going to stop using either term. How about monad? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monism
« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 07:00:55 am by ZenFred »

Offline ZenFred

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2017, 07:01:39 am »
(The forum, Cut off the second part here)
Spiritual DNA" is taken from a book Living Buddha, Living Christ by That Nich Hahn. I'm pretty sure he means it as a metaphore not as anything metaphysical. In my case, I grew up in the church and my family and friends are mostly Christian. So for me to convert to Buddhism and leave the church while tempting perhaps would be a bad idea. It's going against the grain. TNH says there a plenty of good teaching within any religion and if you follow the moral teachings you can love a good life. You don't need to and shouldn't convert. I suppose you could talk about the conditioning and dependent arising that's probably behind his thought here. It is a false, western view of self that I am a solo independent actor who can make an unbiased existential choice between faiths. I don't know this helped explain what he means. If not read the book, it's good.

You all have been helpful in giving me a refresher crash course on Buddhism. It's also humbling because I realized how much I thought I understood but didn't really before when practicing zen. Perhaps it is too easy to feel super-spiritual when you start meditating and get caught up in the trappings of it all. I never really got to the level of understanding you all have.
It's clear that I can't treat Buddhism like another religion. With the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam you can distill it down to one central teaching "the Lord is your God, the Lord is One" and have a vague sort of spiritual practice. Buddhism won't fit in with that. But if I'm seeking the truth and walking a path of self renunciation (rather than ego fulfillment) then Buddhism has a lot to teach me. I started reading some pure land sutras for example. It's great stuff.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 07:28:29 am by ZenFred »

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2017, 08:27:13 am »
Hi ZenFred,

Religions generally require belief (conditioning) in some mystical God, god or goddess that will save our immortal soul (or atman) by blindly following. Buddhism on the other hand, is about helping people become unconditioned by practicing the steps on the N8FP which leads to liberation from conditioned existence. It’s a much different path to Christianity or Judaism.

Buddhism requires the practice of both wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna) to realise enlightenment, so the "positive" force of love is an integrated part of Buddhism as outlined in the N8FP for example.

I’m not familiar with terms like divine reality or spiritual DNA, do you mean bodhicitta?

Francis,

  Sure I'll define what I meant. To be fair googling them might not help.

"Divine reality" was really just another way to get around using "God". What I do not mean is something like the anthropomorphic dieties of pagan religions. Im going to stop using either term. How about monad? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monism

Keep using whatever terms and their meanings that you like.

People use terms with made-up meanings around here all the time.

Offline francis

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2017, 09:00:42 am »
(The forum, Cut off the second part here)
Spiritual DNA" is taken from a book Living Buddha, Living Christ by That Nich Hahn. I'm pretty sure he means it as a metaphore not as anything metaphysical. In my case, I grew up in the church and my family and friends are mostly Christian. So for me to convert to Buddhism and leave the church while tempting perhaps would be a bad idea. It's going against the grain. TNH says there a plenty of good teaching within any religion and if you follow the moral teachings you can love a good life. You don't need to and shouldn't convert. I suppose you could talk about the conditioning and dependent arising that's probably behind his thought here. It is a false, western view of self that I am a solo independent actor who can make an unbiased existential choice between faiths. I don't know this helped explain what he means. If not read the book, it's good. ..........

Hi ZenFred,

I read a few reviews of “Living Buddha, Living Christ”. I didn’t know he became a Catholic while retaining Buddhism. That’s a big step, considering the role the Catholic Church had in Vietnam. I’m not big on interfaith, but finding common ground between different belief systems is a good first step to reduce violence in the world.  The Dalai Lama has also expressed similar sentiments.

I understand your point about being in the church and having mostly Christian family and friends. I came to Buddhism via the “New Age” route of mediation and self-development, so I have a fairly secular view of Buddhism. Concentrating on building life skills and self-development through Buddhism, might be a way to bridge the gap between Buddhism and Christianity.

My personal views (opinions) on the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity are, Jesus was a bodhisattva, and it’s the development of bodhicitta that is perhaps common to both.

With metta

« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 09:11:01 am by francis »
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2017, 10:17:17 am »
(The forum, Cut off the second part here)
Spiritual DNA" is taken from a book Living Buddha, Living Christ by That Nich Hahn. I'm pretty sure he means it as a metaphore not as anything metaphysical. In my case, I grew up in the church and my family and friends are mostly Christian. So for me to convert to Buddhism and leave the church while tempting perhaps would be a bad idea. It's going against the grain. TNH says there a plenty of good teaching within any religion and if you follow the moral teachings you can love a good life. You don't need to and shouldn't convert. I suppose you could talk about the conditioning and dependent arising that's probably behind his thought here. It is a false, western view of self that I am a solo independent actor who can make an unbiased existential choice between faiths. I don't know this helped explain what he means. If not read the book, it's good. ..........

Hi ZenFred,

I read a few reviews of “Living Buddha, Living Christ”. I didn’t know he became a Catholic while retaining Buddhism. That’s a big step, considering the role the Catholic Church had in Vietnam. I’m not big on interfaith, but finding common ground between different belief systems is a good first step to reduce violence in the world.  The Dalai Lama has also expressed similar sentiments.

I understand your point about being in the church and having mostly Christian family and friends. I came to Buddhism via the “New Age” route of mediation and self-development, so I have a fairly secular view of Buddhism. Concentrating on building life skills and self-development through Buddhism, might be a way to bridge the gap between Buddhism and Christianity.

My personal views (opinions) on the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity are, Jesus was a bodhisattva, and it’s the development of bodhicitta that is perhaps common to both.

With metta

Interfaith is always a challenge.  Status quo never changes easily.  Yet, it is all around us - everything builds on something else. 

Tibetan Buddhism migrated from India and China.  India provided the so-called Hinayana as well as Tantra.  China provided Mahayana.  The indigenous Bon religion provided much of the material culture.  I've read that Nestorian Christianity had some minor influence.

Acculturation demands that there be a constant shifting and blending in the cultural landscape.  Buddhism will always remain "pure" is some way, but much of it will be assimilated into the more prevalent Chrstian belief system.  We're already seeing it.  Jodo Shinshu practices are very Christian-like.  Much of our approach to the practice of Dharma is colored by the Christian aspects of our extant culture.  If you read Thomas Merton, you will find an interesting blending of the Christian and the Buddhist. 

I know a young woman from our days in the Shambhala sangha.  She was very active.  She took all the trainings, attended Dathun and even enlisted in the Dorje Kasung.  Recently she returned to he Christian roots and seems happy there.  She may well be a Christian now, but the Buddhism she practice will remain an influence forever.

I know another woman who went through my Gurus study curriculum with me for a couple years.  She taught comparative religion.  She had a marvelous grasp and understanding of the Dharma.  She would, eventually return to a focus on the her Mormon upbringing, but the Dharma went with her.

Some have said "Western Buddhism" will be akin to Secular Buddhism.  I disagree.  Western Buddhism will be more Christian in the changes that occur.

It will be fine.

Offline ZenFred

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Re: Eightfold Path
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2017, 12:30:09 pm »
Thanks, I appreciate a positive dialogue. I was beginning to worry I had gone off track into a debate on theism, which wasn't my intention.

Interfaith dialogue is vital. Here in America then anti-Muslim propaganda is toxic and fuels religious extremism on all sides. I remember Dharmakara called the monks calling for Buddhist states and persecution of Muslims as "Dharma impaired".

I'm not the best representative for Christianity though. I'm well versed in Christian theology and scripture, but I'm heretical :) I'm a non-trinitarian and I don't believe Jesus was God. So I should distinguish between orthodox Christian positions and my own. That being said evangelical Christianity and mainline Protestantism are just a piece of the very diverse traditions within Christianity which unfortantly steal the airtime. I'll probably post some of the desert fathers and Eastern Orthodox stuff at some point, you all would appreciate it.

Reading more Paul Tillich today I came across this that he wrote, which puts my stumbling attempts to describe my position of theism to shame.
"The condition of man's relation to God is first of all one of not having, not seeing,not knowing and not grasping. A religion in which that is forgotten, no matter how ecstatic or active or reasonable, replaces God by its own creation of an image of God... I think if the theologian who does not wait for God, because he possesses Him, enclosed within a doctrine.. because he possesses Him enclosed in a book... enclosed in an institution... I am convinced that much of the rebellion against Christianity is due to overt or veiled claim of Christains to possess God."

I don't know if this needs to be said but since evangelicals do steal so much attention, I'll say it. I'm a Universalist and I think that it's most likely everyone will go to heaven. We are all children of God and God is of infinite love. What mortal parent would punish any of their children for eternity? How much more compassionate is God. But it doesn't matter what I say. First off you may not even believe in God and we can't be morally responsible for the lack of clear revelation. If you go to hell for not believing then God would be responsible for not informing you in the same way a sentry has the moral responsibility to warn of an impending attack.  Second, it is God that grants salvation not man and God doesn't consult men. So my or anyone else's opinion on a person' salvation has zero effect on what happens to them. In fact, Jesus' parables (the speck and log, the ungreatful debitor) would make me very cautious of proclaiming anyone damned since it's clear that's a good way to end that way myself.

 


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