Buddhism, as they say, is more like a science of mind than a religion. A view of life that does not emphasize on rewards for good deeds and the punishment for the wrong. It is modern to the context of realizing life in its reality and does not dispense false hopes.
The words of an Indian prince who left his world of comfort and luxury to find out how can one seek happiness and peace of mind amidst a turbulent life has inspired people all over the world since centuries. Buddha’s 8 simple suggestions, illustrated as the Eightfold Path are what it takes to build character, stay upright with a clear heart and conscience – something that we badly need in today’s life.
1. The Right View
Why do we let things upset us more than they should? It is because we see the world as we would like it to be and not the way it really is. Once our view of the world is mended, we realize that losses and gains, happiness and heart aches are just part of the deal. There is no way we can change the cycle and the best we could do is endure the experiences with strength, grace and dignity.
The Right View is the first of eight paths of Buddhism and it forms the base of the rest. Perhaps, Buddha wanted us to view life and matter in a way that is beyond judgement and understand the different dynamics of everything that matters to us because the same things that cause immense pleasure can cause sadness as well and we should be prepared for that.
2. The Right Intention
We think that what matters is what we do and not how we think. Thus, we give ourselves the license to fantasize anything we want. We tell ourselves its alright to think about having sex with our best friend’s partner, murder, pillage, rape in our minds and linger over criminal ideation as long as we don’t do it in real life.
Little do we realize that it is from these harmless guilty pleasures of imagination that we drift towards sadism, misogyny and often masochism because we fail to keep our conscience clean. The quality of our character should be blazing bright in our eyes but with the murky thoughts, we often find ourselves avoiding eye contact with people we know on the streets. It is interesting to notice how Buddha had a modern outlook so many years ago.
3. The Right Speech
Although, we grow up to idioms such as “words once spoken cannot be taken back” and “words cut deeper than knives”, we simply think of them as old cliches. Now that we have a plethora of communicative devices and platforms, putting a check to our choice of words is often the last thing on our minds. We say things we don’t mean, believe, we tell lies and we slander indiscriminately.
Thus, we create resentment, disharmony and perpetuate hatred. We hurt others and we hurt ourselves. True, speaking the truth, speaking words of love and respect and speaking words that mean something and not just idle chatter is more difficult than we think when it comes to practice. Perhaps, that is why Buddha urges humans to practice the Right Speech so that we don’t have to try to take back our words once spoken for it is simply not possible.
4. The Right Action
Buddhism urges us to stick with the right thing to no matter how small or big it is. However, in our daily lives, it is often difficult to do the right thing. It’s hard not to take credit of the presentation that your junior has made; it’s hard not to sext with the other person while your partner is asleep and there are so many other things that we do and consider harmless.
Although, it seems too much work to do the right thing in every big and small aspects of life, in the long run, when self-esteem, self worth and spiritual contentment becomes more important than material gains and instant gratifications, this particular advice of Buddha does seem more relevant than ever.
5. The Right Livelihood
Buddha was a practical man and never urged his followers to quit jobs and become monks. Understanding the importance of earning a living, the Eightfold Path includes the concept of Right Livelihood which encourages to earn but in an honorable way and never transgress the idea of compassion and love.
In today’s life, we often find ourselves associated to work that destroys lives. We work for corporate sharks who destroy nature, root out the poor off their lands; we work for media and think being inconsiderate to people’s sentiments or manipulate the mass wrongly as a part of our profession and although we make money, we fail to feed our souls with self-respect.
6. The Right Effort
We are all blessed with wholesome qualities. We all have virtues of talent, love, observation, philosophy and other skills and most of us realize them early in lives. We dream that our qualities would eventually let us be someone but very often, we give up on those dreams and end up doing something that we believe we were not meant to.
With such dissatisfaction in life, it is hard to harbor love, respect, patience and compassion in our hearts and we end up bitter and resentful. However, it is with the right effort that we can hone our skills, achieve what we desire and never let the sense of failure make us lose our faith. With so many of us stuck in the wrong jobs and hammering the last nails on the coffin our dreams, putting in the right effort to realize our aspirations seem like a sensible advice.
7. The Right Mindfulness
We miss out on a lot of finer aspects of life and regret later. We fail to notice the little things our partners do for us, our kids grow up to be a completely different person without us realizing and our parents finally leave the world leaving us pining for another chance to call them up and ask them how they have been.
We are caught up with so many things at a time that we neither are entirely attentive to our personal lives nor professional lives and end messing up both. The teachings of Buddha urges us to be mindful of every action we take, things we say, hear or see. Let’s just be more observant instead of skimming life as if it were a listicle.
8. Right Concentration
As human beings, we are blessed with immense energy and skill and the achievements we could make are limitless. However, what holds us back is the straying of the mind. Today, with distractions at every corner, humans beings are competing with gold fishes as far as attention span is concerned. If you have already made it to the eighth point, you’re probably on the right path and you would be glad to know that Buddha wants us to concentrate all our energies into one particular action at a time.
It is the state of being absolutely immersed in concentration that we are the best of ourselves. It is a question of mental discipline and regular meditation had always been recommended in Buddhism.
There is no heaven to go to nor there is a savior to wait for.