Just this noble eightfold path:
That is the ancient path,
the ancient road,
traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times.
Enlightenment or Awakening！
It reveals existence as a state of suffering and shows the path to purification and liberation from that multiple state of suffering, teaching us that suffering (dukkha) is an inevitable fact of life, that greed or desire (tanha) is at the root of that suffering and that there is a way out of this web of affliction that leads to the condition of release and liberation, referred to as ‘Nibbana’. ?
One must be committed incessantly and genuinely to this personal discipline that leads to liberation consisting of a Noble Eight-fold Path (Ariya-Atthangika-Magga) that touches the mind, consciousness and ethical conduct.
The monks who give themselves totally to the discipline of Buddhist spirituality can tell us about the experiences that are involved in this eight-fold spirituality. It is presented as the way leading to the Cessation of Dukka (Dukkhanirodhagaminipatipada-ariyasacca). It is also open to ordinary lay Buddhists, though their condition of life might create obstacles in their commitment to the discipline.
In fact, it is a major part of the second .refuge.. one of three that all Buddhists have to confess, namely the Dhamma.
The Eight-fold Path: A Synthesis This article wishes to consider in detail the Eightfold path and to see it in a Christian sense as a basic ethical discipline that is needed even for the practice of a Christian spirituality. Of course, Christian spirituality goes beyond the Eight-fold path which appears to a Christian as a natural discipline of character-building in a person. It makes him fully self-possessed, in command of his faculties and wellequipped to lead a life of personal integrity and truthfulness an immanent type of spiritual enlightenment.
Though Christian spirituality is based on God and is interpreted as one’s journey to Him under the influence of grace and the Holy Spirit, the predisposing of oneself to good ethical behaviour is needed, since without this ethical component, no spiritual experience is ever possible. Could one imagine a spiritual life or life in the spirit in a person who, blinded by ignorance, does not know what is good and what evil, is given to lust and greed, is constantly inclined to violence and other evil habits and who basically leads a selfish, introverted life?
These are the very areas that need cleansing and purification areas that touch mental activity, freedom and freewill, urges, appetites and inclinations. As a result of these things getting the better of people in today’s pleasure-bound culture that is hedonistic and consumer to the core, civilization is becoming less and less spiritual, not to mention the hallowedness of human dignity being violated.
The Eight-fold path is a gateway to preserving and enhancing human dignity. Submission to these precepts of ethical and mental discipline can certainly vouch for a better human community emerging in our civilization!
The Eight-fold path concentrates on three specific areas where conscious human activity is involved and through which human beings accomplish both good and evil.
Those who suffering endurance are goodness and those who suffering lust are suffering trapped in sins.
Wake up! It’s time to stop violating humanity’s security law! Time to aware and correct the hallowedness of human dignity!
Many gratitudes to this author for writing this article. I just encountered the webpage on google search that I share to my readers, the salvation knowledge.
The Eight-Fold Path of Buddhist Liberation Seen in a Christian Perspective – Fr Leopold Ratnasekera, O.M.I.
The infallible dogma of Buddhist teaching is found in the Four Noble Truths (Cattari-ariya-sacca) that the Buddha taught in the very first discourse he gave to his first five disciples and referred to as the teaching that turned the wheel of the True Doctrine. Dhammacakka-pavattana-sutta. These truths acquire their dogmatic and infallible quality due to the fact that they can never be changed, altered or modified. They remain eternal and universally valid transcending time, civilization and cultures. As the Law of Reality, it was there long before its discovery by the Buddha and not even he was able to change it. In fact, this is the doctrine that creates the state of Buddhahood, that is, the state of a person who attains enlightenment or awakening. It reveals existence as a state of suffering and shows the path to purification and liberation from that multiple state of suffering, teaching us that suffering (dukkha) is an inevitable fact of life, that greed or desire (tanha) is at the root of that suffering and that there is a way out of this web of affliction that leads to the condition of release and liberation, referred to as ‘Nibbana’. One must be committed incessantly and genuinely to this personal discipline that leads to liberation consisting of a Noble Eight-fold Path (Ariya-Atthangika-Magga) that touches the mind, consciousness and ethical conduct. The monks who give themselves totally to the discipline of Buddhist spirituality can tell us about the experiences that are involved in this eight-fold spirituality. It is presented as the way leading to the Cessation of Dukka (Dukkhanirodhagaminipatipada-ariyasacca). It is also open to ordinary lay Buddhists,1 though their condition of life might create obstacles in their commitment to the discipline. In fact, it is a major part of the second .refuge.. one of three that all Buddhists have to confess, namely the Dhamma.2 PART I The Eight-fold Path: A Synthesis This article wishes to consider in detail the Eightfold path and to see it in a Christian sense as a basic ethical discipline that is needed even for the practice of a Christian spirituality. Of course, Christian spirituality goes beyond the Eight-fold path which appears to a Christian as a natural discipline of character-building in a person. It makes him fully self-possessed, in command of his faculties and wellequipped to lead a life of personal integrity and truthfulness an immanent type of spiritual enlightenment. Though Christian spirituality is based on God and is interpreted as one’s journey to Him under the influence of grace and the Holy Spirit, the predisposing of oneself to good ethical behaviour is needed, since without this ethical component, no spiritual experience is ever possible. Could one imagine a spiritual life or life in the spirit in a person who, blinded by ignorance, does not know what is good and what evil, is given to lust and greed, is constantly inclined to violence and other evil habits and who basically leads a selfish, introverted life? These are the very areas that need cleansing and purification areas that touch mental activity, freedom and freewill, urges, appetites and inclinations. As a result of these things getting the better of people in today’s pleasure-bound culture that is hedonistic and consumer to the core, civilization is becoming less and less spiritual, not to mention the hallowedness of human dignity being violated. The Eight-fold path is a gateway to preserving and enhancing human dignity. Submission to these precepts of ethical and mental discipline can certainly vouch for a better human community emerging in our civilization! The Eight-fold path concentrates on three specific areas3 where conscious human activity is involved and through which human beings accomplish both good and evil.
In Buddhism, they are called wholesome, unwholesome and neutral actions and thoughts. This applies to activities on all three areas of mind, consciousness and conduct. They contribute either: to lessen suffering or to aggravate it, reinforce its causes or neutralize them. It is good to observe that a person walking in the path of liberation is bound to pay attention to all these eigth-fold commitments “conjunctim” (together). They are also known as ‘links’. They must eventually become habitual qualities in his personality and way of life. When this complex of qualities, mental and ethical are permanently ensured in practice, a Buddhist is well on his way to liberation or release from suffering, cutting off all roots of evil that poison his mind, consciousness and conduct. It is specifically the Buddhist approach to a moral philosophy. This Eightfold path enables a person to avoid two extremes of involvement in which human beings are often trapped while searching for happiness either through the pleasure of the senses or self-indulgence (kamasukhallikanuyoga) which is habitual hedonism and/or that of pain, self-mortification or self-torture or severe asceticism (attakilamathanuyoga). Thus, the former is low, vulgar, ignoble and thus retards spiritual progress and harmful, while the latter is painful, ignoble and weakens one’s intellect – both profitless. The Buddha tried these and failed and finally discovered through personal effort the path which gives vision and knowledge, which leads to Calm, Insight, Enlightenment, Nirvana – the state of release from all suffering that leads to bliss. This Eightfold-path, which opens a middle-way to practising a liberative spirituality known therefore as “Majjhima Patipada”), leads to righteous living – which in Christian and biblical terminology would come closer to righteousness, to what is “right” in the sense that it is mid-way between extremes and thus close to the idea of “virtus stat in medio”, virtue stands is the middle. It is worth remembering that the middle-path taught by the Buddha is a reaction both to the hedonism propounded by the materialists of his time and to the others defending a transcendental self or soul bound to a material body which should be annihilated by severe ascetic practices in order to release the true self. The Eight-fold path is divided in the following manner: 1. Right understanding (samma ditthi) Both these lead to “Pañña” 2. Right Thought (samma sankappa) which is Wisdom or highest knowledge 3. Right Speech (samma vaca) These three lead to “Sila” 4. Right Action (samma kammanta) (virtuous conduct or morality) 5. Right Livelihood (samma ajiva) 6. Right Effort (samma vayama) These three lead to “Samadhi” 7. Right Mindfulness (samma sati) (mental discipline or mental health) 8. Right Concentration (samma samadhi) We could now look at these in detail taking links 3-4-5, the “Sila” component first, since it is the easiest to understand.
SILA Right Action (Samma kammanta): Honourable and peaceful conduct which also helps others to do so. This in general consists in observing the Five Precepts (generally known to all as the Pancha-Sila).
They have positive and negative demands. First, do not kill or abstain from destroying life in all forms and instead practise loving kindness (metta) and karuna (compassion). These are readily understood as the virtue of “ahimsa” or non-violence; second, refrain from stealing and taking that which is not given, practise instead charity and generosity; third, refrain from committing sexual misconduct, illegitimate sexual intercourse and instead practise purity of mind, chastity of body and self-control. This amounts to avoiding all abnormal or illegal practices in addition to any practice or pursuit tending to over-stimulate the senses. This is a condemnation of lust. Fourth, abstain from indulging in lying and dishonest dealings, cheating and false witnessing: instead practise sincerity, honesty and truthfulness. Fifth, abstain from intoxicating drinks or drugs which cause heedlessness and the correct use of mental faculties: instead, practise restraint and prudence in matters of eating and drinking. There is in all these a pointer to greed (tanha), that appears in all forms, and a warning to destroy this root-cause of evil in one’s behaviour. Right Livelihood (Samma ajiva): earning one’s living or pursuing a profession that does not hurt or bring harm to others. This is another way of non-violence. In this category are forbidden all forms of injustice. Special emphasis is laid on not engaging in the arms trade, ytrafficking in human beings, sex and the drug trade, prostitution, intoxicating drinks, killing animals, cheating, etc. One’s occupation should be entirely honourable. There must be a sense of duty and service in life. It is clear that Buddhism is anti-war. This path may also embrace the idea of vocation, for example, the ideal state of a “homeless-life”. The layman though encumbered with a family and business responsibilities, should simplify his needs and devote more time to meditation (Bhavana). Right Speech (Samma vaca): Discipline of the tongue and use of language. There is the obligation to avoid lying, back-biting, harsh talk and idle gossip. Through this we link up thought and action. Right speech is marked by wisdom, gentleness, and should be free from dogmatic assertions and a discriminatory tone. We should not incite passion by our talk. Speech is for expressing the truth and such language will naturally be gentle, kind, understanding, meaningful and useful; or else, it is better to guard a “noble silence”.
SAMADHI This practice concerns the mental discipline and hence includes: right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Right Effort (Samma vayama): This is simply the energetic will. It involves four systematic steps such as not allowing evil and unwholesome thougths to arise in the mind, if arisen already to expel them as soon as possible, to induce or produce good states not yet arisen and to cultivate or perfect the good states that are already present in the mind. Constant exercise of these mental activities makes one capable of cultivating the higher spiritual ideals which are formulated as the Ten perfections: generosity (dana), morality (sila), renunciation (nekkhamma), wisdom (pañña), energy (viriya), patience (khanti), honesty and truthfulness (sacca), determination (adhitthana), loving kindness (metta) and equanimity (upekkha). Some of these remind us of the four moral virtues of Christian ethics. There is an indication that right effort is not in the order of simple exterior action. It is basically a mental activity: a pure state of the mind. Right Mindfulness (samma sati): This implies a constant, diligent and attentive awareness to the activities of the body, emotion, brain and ideas engendered in the mind and in fact, it is the sixth sense in Buddhist psychology. Much emphasis is given to this activity in the important discourse called “Satipaththana Sutta”, where the Buddha taught on how to “establish or set up the state of awareness”. This subject is a treatise by itself. But, here some essential things cannot be bypassed.
1) There is the concentration on breathing exercises connected with the body that help mental development. A definite still posture in needed for this. But, this is not meditation. It is a kind of yoga that helps the mind to relax psychologically 2) This capacity is essential to transit from the intellectual process to the intuitive process which helps getting insight into reality (Vipassana meditation) 3) This too differs entirely from mental concentration called samatha bhanvana which is the discipline of the mind. The real mental culture consists in Vipassana bhavana (insight-meditation) that reveals the nature of things and opens the way to liberation of the mind, the realization of the Ultimate Truth, which is Nirvana (state of bliss and release from all illusion). There is however an ongoing link between these exercises. The mindfulness of breathing is meant to develop concentration leading up to very high mystic attainments leading to Nirvana. The above four-fold forms of concentration (body, emotion, mind, ideas), will bring in fact the seven factors of enlightenment. This is just to show how important meditation is in the Buddhist way of spirituality. Hence the usefulness of detachment, living the life of a recluse as a monk, control of the senses, feelings, ideas and desires which are conducive to meditation. Right Concentration (samma samadhi): this is the third component in mental discipline – enabling one to concentrate undisturbed by any distraction that might come from the body, from sensations or from the mind itself. It is therefore helpful and important to fix the mind in a single, wholesome object. This will enable a person to realize that everything in and around him is impermanent, unsatisfactory and without substance. The practice of meditation brings the realization of these truths.
PAÑÑA (Wisdom) According to Buddhism, two great qualities are needed and should be developed in order to be perfect: compassion (karuna) and wisdom (pañña). The former ennobles emotional life or the qualities of the heart, while wisdom represents the intellectual life or those qualities of the mind. As modern psychology has shown both the EQ (emotional) and the IQ (intellectual) must synchronize well for a balanced way of life and to create an integrated personality. That is also the aim of the Buddhist way of life. Hence, we now look at the two factors or links that constitute Wisdom in a person. Right Thought (samma sankappa): in order to have correct and wholesome thoughts and to exercise the right way of thinking – thoughts free from lust, ill-will, cruelty or violence – welcome those of selfless renunciation, of love and non-violence. It is to be appreciated that thoughts of selflessness and nonviolence are grouped within wisdom. This is proof that true wisdom is endowed with noble qualities and that selfishness, hatred and violence result from a lack of wisdom. It applies in all spheres of life whether personal, social or political. This is the Buddhist image of a wise person. Right Understanding (samma ditthi) or correct vision: It simply boils down to the understanding of the four great noble truths, the infallible dogma, of Buddhist philosophy. This was the first discourse that Buddha made to his first five disciples immediately following the experience of Enlightenment as stated above. In sum, it is stated as follows: 1) existence is full of sorrow (Dukkha); 2) the arising or root of dukkha (Samudaya); 3) the cessation of suffering (Nirodha) which in reality is the state of bliss, that is “Nibbana”; 4) the path to attain it is the Eight-fold discipline that this article is discussing (Magga). If these things are experientially known, we know the way things are. It is not a mere intellectual grasping but a deeper understanding called “penetration” (pativeda). It can be attained only when the mind is free from all impurities and is fully developed through meditation. This part of wisdom includes also knowing the three characteristics of life, namely, impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and soul-lessness, egolessness, impersonality (an-atta), and the very complicated process of the 12 factors that condition existence in the long cycle of rebirths (Paticca-samuppada or Conditioned genesis). Breaking this chain by killing greed is the key to liberation. We begin to see why these last two ways really lead to “wisdom” as understood by Buddhism. It constitutes wisdom realized.
This Eightfold path is therefore: “a way of life to be followed, practised and developed by each individual. It is self-discipline in body, word and mind, self-development and self-purification. It has nothing to do with belief, prayer, worship or ceremony. In that sense, it has none of what may popularly be called ‘religious’. It is a Path leading to the realization of Ultimate Reality, to complete freedom, happiness and peace through moral, spiritual and intellectual perfection”. Nibbana is that realm beyond space-time and causation which is the ultimate Good that all should attain and without which it would not be possible to transcend the conditioned existence of suffering and rebirth.
A Christian Evaluation A. Initial observations 1. The above three components should not be thought of as consecutive in the sense that one passes from sila to Samadhi and finally to Pañña. Often one state of perfection cannot be attained without the other, for example right action and the rest cannot be had without right understanding. Hence, these are not separate, but inter-dependent, and mutual steps though as perfections they are distinctly understood. It is easier to understand that Samadhi influences the practice of sila and the highest mental state is to achieve the perfections of wisdom. Through interaction, these perfections should ultimately lead to that purity of mind devoid of bodily defilement into which wisdom can flow. It is an integral and total discipline of the spirituality that is proposed which in summary is mental culture with sila subordinated and ordained to this level – call it if you will, a spiritual anthropology, leading to a supra-mundane experience. The entire path leads to illumination from within. There is no reference to an outside source that reveals a truth of liberation to a mind that is open to its influence. The transcendence of the spiritual experience emerges from within the immanence. They seem to be identical in the spiritual journey of the mind and in the achievement of the state of liberation which is called “Nibbana”. The experience of suffering with its root which is greed and the resources for liberation from suffering which are identified as the capabilities of the Eigth-fold path lie within the same suffering subject – the individual. In fact, the individual, him/herself is the biggest ILLUSION. 3. There is no such thing as an “I” or “Me”. This is a basic principle of Buddhist Metaphysics. The individual is nothing but a non-substantial and impermanent composite of FIVE aggregates of phenomenal existence surrounding the individual and the cosmic phenomena around him which we refer to ordinarily as the “world”. The five aggregates consist of: 1) matter (the four great elements), with the five senses as its derivatives 2) sensations of six kinds (traditional five senses and the mind, which is the sixth sense, with its mind-objects, i.e. ideas and thoughts). This is unfamiliar to Western philosophy as a material sense). But it must be remembered that mind is not spirit as opposed to matter. It is just one other organ like the eye, the ear, etc. 3) Perceptions derived from the six senses. 4) Mental formations (all volitional activities both good and bad: also identical with the classical Buddhist concept of “Karma” and, 5) Consciousness: a reaction or response which has one of the six faculties as its basis. It is a sort of awareness. These aggregates form what we call “being”. But, the Buddha has said: “There is mere suffering, but no sufferer is found; the deeds are, but no doer is found”. Such is Buddhist psychology. Besides “Nibbana” presupposes the extinction of the five aggregates (pañcaskhandha), which constitutes what is conventionally called “person”. 4. The Eight-fold path enables a person to reach the ultimate good, the summum bonum – the purpose of any code of ethics. This is defined as a state of Nibbana. Coming from Sanskrit roots it is a combination of ‘ni’ (negation) and ‘vana’ (craving). The path is the infallible means to destroy this craving appearing in many forms of greed with its roots in delusion/ignorance, hatred and attachment.
It is the state of utter release that is blissful, beyond which there is no other state of happiness. Two classical examples are presented to visualize the state of liberation: 1) once the supply of wood is curtailed, there cannot be fire 2) once the supply of oil is curtailed, the flame in the wick fizzles out. B. Comparison with Christian Ethics 1. We see from the above that the Eight-fold path which defines the path to liberation (salvation in the Christian sense), is man-centred and is immanent in nature. It begins within man’s awareness and fructifies within the same. It is radically a man-centred ethic with no references to an extrinsic reference point as a principle of morality. Buddhism believes that within man there is the potential for self-liberation. It therefore, while conceding the unsatisfactory condition of human existence, still maintains there is a basic ability for good and virtue in man. There might be a touch of stoicism here, in the sense that virtue is pursed for the sake of virtue and its inner goodness. 2. Christian anthropology has as its first principle the identity of the individual and the lofty concept of the person, endowed with intelligence to understand and the will to opt and choose freely. We hold that the law of morality written in human nature is a reflection and participation of the Law of God, which guarantees to the human being the basic criterion of morality: whatever is in accordance with the demands and dignity of human nature is declared to be morally good and vice-versa. Conscience is considered to be that inner voice that discerns between good and bad. The classical Buddhist concept of awareness or consciousness (Viññana) also operates as part of the process of voluntary action. It is only when one with full understanding, awareness and free-will performs an act without any hindrance, such as fear, inculpable ignorance, force and the like, that a person can be held responsible for an action voluntarily done. 3. Christian Psychology considers mind, the mental faculty and the human intelligence as different from the sense-faculties corresponding to the five external senses. The human person is a composite of the senses, intelligence and will, in the tradition of Aristotelian philosophy. The mind contains awareness and that makes a person conscious that the sense faculties are at work, that the mind is thinking and understanding and that the will is making a morally good or bad choice. The criterion of morality is founded on human nature but it has a reference to the eternal law that is rooted in God, which is the transcendental principle and is located in the inner sanctum of the human conscience. 4. In recent years much has been said about human nature as the ultimate point of reference in development, in economics, in democracy, in scientific inquiry and medical ethics. Anything that contravenes human dignity is looked upon as failing in justice towards the human being. In fine: man is object of nothing, but is the subject as, for example, capital is for labour and not vice-versa, or technology is at the service of man and not vice-versa. A human being could never be used or manipulated as an object. All these result from the high value that is given to the human personality and indeed to every individual person. It would be difficult to place such high demands on the person if individuals are considered a complex of aggregates in a world of becoming that is without any finality in a compounded series of phenomena. However, it is significant that Buddhism attaches great importance to the precept of nonviolence to life and especially to human life, given such a philosophical background to the understanding of being. 5. In the light of the above, the categorical denial of a permanent and substantial reality called the .SOUL. places Buddhism in diametrical opposition to Christianity. Basic psychology teaches that the soul is the substantial form of the body and that each person has his own incommunicable individual personality which cannot be cloned. It is difficult to define the person as understood in the Christian sense in terms of Buddhist metaphysics. On the contrary, the five aggregates of attachment that come together to form the “wrong-self” in reality is Suffering (Dukkha)”. It is even in contradiction to the Cartesian formula: .I think, therefore I am.!
The Eight-Fold Path and Christian Spirituality 1. Could the Eight-fold path of Buddhist ethics and the spirituality embedded therein be adapted to Christian spirituality? It is an interesting question. Because once again we have to compound a non-theistic philosophical system with its philosophy of life and spirituality with another, where God and the human person stand as two great pillars. No-God and No-soul (An-atta) are part and parcel of the Buddhist dogma. No-god can assist in the salvation of a person and there is no-soul that needs purification to attain salvation. The purificatory process is within the chain of births that are conditioned on the good or bad actions that a person does. It is the law of the deed. Recompense is within the structure of the deed itself. A good deed bears good effects and a bad one, evil effects. It is simply the principle of cause and effect (hétu-phala vada) working in a dialectical manner with every effect becoming in turn a cause. We could call this a natural morality based on reason. 2. In Christian spirituality, self-mastery is emphasized in the experience of salvation and is seen as a preparatory phase. Hardly any spiritual experience can be had without this personal discipline of the self. A man given to selfishness, or lust of some kind, or quick tempered or violent, habitually acting out of anger and given to alcoholism, with a mind filled with unwholesome images and constantly taking pleasure in evil could never acquire any spiritual quality, unless through the painful process of committed personal discipline he rediscovers his virtuous-self. Here we see how the Eight-fold path serves positively in the exercise of self-denial or self-mastery. 3. The mind plays an important role both in Christian and Buddhist spirituality. All evil and good thoughts that prompt the will to action arise first in the mind. The mind has to be cleansed of defilement. Your mind is what you are, as it is said. Buddhist ethics is primarily an ethics of the mind. Words and deeds flow from the mind and therefore the realization of the right mind or thought is the root-challenge of ethics. However, this ethic is not only individual but has a collective aspect. It is not a passive ethic of the mind. The practice of the four great virtues such as compassion, loving kindness, altruistic joy and equanimity requires an out-going attitude towards others. The ‘Sila’ component is clearly other-centred and helps a person to relate well to others and avoid being a cause of harm to them, such as making use of others as objects to achieve one’s selfish desires. Would it not be the Buddhist way of saying; “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.Neighbourliness is thus part of personal discipline. 4. This point leads us to discuss the social implications of the Eight-fold path. Both Buddhism and Christianity embody a social ethic since inter-relatedness is part of our human existence. Wisdom and Samadhi drive a person to open him/herself to the outer beings. Sila helps in disciplining one’s relationships to others and to the world outside, including nature, for it says that we must not harm any form of life and wish that all beings be happy (Sabbé satta bhavantu nidukkha). Today we speak of structures and institutions of evil that cause social sin and create social injustices wherein there is collective oppression that causes collective suffering. They can be ideologies or actual oppressive structures. Buddhism condemns these evils or social ‘kusala’. Justice and peace issues too are involved in this dimension. If there is no social ‘sila’ especially on the part of those who exercise social responsibility, suffering is inevitable in society. For example, a sense of collective responsibility that comprises the exercise of social virtues should be part and parcel of those who exercise public office. More than anyone else they need wholesome thinking patterns and a spirit of altruism so that the common good can be achieved in the exercise of their responsibilities. Often socio-political and economic woes are caused by collective selfishness or greed and at times accompanied by hatred and violence. The social implications of the Eight-fold path come in here as a pedagogy and school of justice. The ignorance, greed and hatred that are clearly at the bottom of so much of the misery, conflict, war and oppression of today’s world can only be overcome by collectivizing the discipline inculcated by the Eight-fold path.
In this effort, Buddhism and Christianity could be active partners in the dialogue of life and social cooperation for the transformation of society through globalizing those social values.
The Buddhist ethic propounded by the Eight-fold Path is a code of discipline at the heart of the way of life and spirituality that is absolutely mandatory for achieving liberation. There is no other alternative that Buddhism can offer to those who desire to follow its teaching. It is within the radical dogma of what the Buddha taught, being the fourth Noble Truth of the Dhamma. We can say that the Eight-fold path is at the core of Buddhist ethics that govern both personal conduct and collective social behaviour. The social implication of this path is very clear when the virtues involved in its practice are transferred to the social demands of the Buddhist ideal. It could well be the criteria for a more just economic or for that matter political order. The emphasis on the Eight-fold path as mental culture has to be appreciated. It is when the mind is purified that the mystery of human existence is understood and one acquires skills to attack the inclination to greed and thus root out the cause of all suffering. In a system of religiosity that denies God and the influence of divine intervention, Buddhism is left with having to rely on an immanent philosophy of life that begins with the human condition and ends with the emancipation of that human condition. Both sin and grace, if one could use the Christian terms are within man and man is capable of self-redemption. Both the cause of suffering and the way out of it has to be found within man. Some would like to deny that Buddhism is a religion. On many counts it is so. It is basically a philosophy of life where living is seen as wholesome existence where there is inner harmony and harmony with others and the cosmos. One who practises the Eight-fold path is in realty an enlightened person and even if he still has an earthly existence, he would never act in a way that involves him in forms of greed. He is an ‘arahant’ a noble one. To the extent the Eight-fold path is an ethical discipline both of the mind and the body, it can be adapted to Christian spirituality as a path of purification disposing a devout Christian to the reception of grace and the action of the Spirit. No less a person than St Paul has dealt severely with ethical indiscipline that brings with it terrible woes of which he speaks in Romans I and II, categorizing it all as the law of the flesh (sarx) which rebels against that of the spirit (pneuma). The life in the spirit that he advocates in his Christian catechesis presupposed precisely this purity of mind and body. The openness to the Word of God and the action of the spirit help in this purification together with one’s effort to respond to it. In the terminology of the Christian tradition, the Eight-fold path would be placed in the context of asceticism which is a prelude to a further deep spiritual experience. But unlike the Christian way of understanding salvation and spiritual fruitfulness in God’s initiative in us, but not without our co-operation and participation. _______________ Notes 1 WALPOLA, Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, Gordon Fraser, UK, 1967, p. 76. SADDHATISSA, H., Buddhist Ethics: Essence of Buddhism, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, 1970, pp. 64, 185. 2 The other two refuges being the Buddha and the Sañgha. These three are qualified as the Tri-Ratna, the triple Gem of Buddhism, something that could be compared with the Trinity of Christianity, the Christian Triple-Gem. This is a justified thesis, for we speak today of the Trinitarian foundations of the mystery of salvation, of the Church, of the mission of the Church, the whole spirituality of communion and dialogue. 3 Opus Cit., pp. 45-50; SADDHATISSA, H., Opus Cit., pp. 69-74; Narada (Thero), A Manual of Buddhism, Buddhist Cultural Centre, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Year 2000 Print, pp. 132-134 4 SADDHATISSA, H., loc. cit., p. 74. 5 Ibid., p. 69; WALPOLA, R., op. cit., p. 45. 6 WALPOLA, R., loc. cit.
7 SADDHATISSA, H., Op. cit., p. 69. 8 Cfr. NYANATILOKA (Mahathera), Buddhist Dictionary, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy (Sri Lanka), 4th rev. edition), pp. 143 and 199; SADDHATISSA H., op. cit., Chapter 4 (pp. 87-110), explains all these 5 precepts basic to all Buddhist devotion. On special festival days, monks recite these 5 precepts to all devotees gathered in temples. It is also recited in the ritual of blessings for any occasion. 9 Non-violence has also been used as a tool of prophetic denunciation of unjust social oppression. The movement of nonviolence (a-himsa), was Mahatma Gandhi’s tool to raise the cry of political liberation based on the sovereign dignity of the people of India. Another form of non-violent prophetism is ‘Satyagraha’. (peaceful protest) coupled with fasting. 10 In the context of nuclear proliferation, this applies as a clear condemnation of the production, deployment, trade and use of all types of weaponry. In the same vein: trafficking of women, prostitution and child-abuse. 11 SADDHATISSA, H., op. cit., p. 72. 12 Buddha.s most important teaching on mental development .Setting up of Mindfulness., is found in two places in the Buddhist Scriptures of the Dhamma: No 22 of the Dîgha Nikâya (Longer sayings) and No. 10 of the Majjhima Nikâya (Medium-size sayings). 13 RAHULA, W., op. cit., p. 68; NYANATILOKA, op. cit., pp. 230-232. 14 Cf. JAYATILLEKE, K. N., The Message of the Buddha, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, 1975, p. 47. All liberation depends on how in depth these truths are understood and realized. In Buddhist epistemology what is emphasized is experiential knowledge. What the Buddha taught in these four noble truths, if it is to be of any use, has to be personally experienced by individuals and collectively realized by society. Only truths discovered in practice and tested in experience are liberative. The Buddha discovered these truths this way. Verifiability in the light of reason and experience is characterisitic of the truths of Buddhism. 15 RAHULA, W., op. cit., pp. 49-50. 16 Ibid., p. 35. 17 Ibid., p. 42. 18 Ibid., pp. 25-26. 19 Cf. NYANATILOKA, Buddhist Dictionary (Opus Cit.), for this basic and very important category in Buddhist Philosophy, under title KHANDHA , pp. 98-102. 20 Visuddhimagga (cited by Rahula, W., op. cit., p. 26), 4 A.D. Buddhist classic written by Thera Buddhagosha. 21 See Dialogue, New Series, Vol. II, No. 3, Review, Study Centre for Religion and Society, Colombo 4, Sri Lanka, reporting on Buddhist-Christian Encounter 7, as reporting a statement made by Dr Gunapala Dharmasiri, author of .A Buddhist critique of the Christian Concept of God., pp. 97-98. 22 For example most writings and speeches made by John Paul II and the basic premise of the Church’s Social Doctrine defend clearly and distinctly the irreplaceable value of the human person, indeed every individual person. Most theological and philosophy faculties in Christian institutions have a number of courses bordering on this theme. In addition in the secular world there is so much insistence on human rights. 23 Cf. the clear stand of Buddhism defended by RAHULA, Walpola, op. cit., Chapter 6 on the doctrine of No-Soul: Anatta, pp. 51-66. Anatta, one of the three basic characteristics of existence, is not only human but cosmic as well. Only that which is without self is real: ‘Sabbé DHAMMÂ anattâ’. 24 WALPOLA, R., op. cit., p. 26. 25 As for example the emphasis given in classical works on spirituality with the first stage being the Purgative Way. The Eightfold path could easily be compounded with this stage while the illuminative experience of Buddhism cannot be annexed since it is from within the meditating subject that all insight and illumination comes. In Christian spirituality the source of illumination is through the action of the hat all insight and illumination comes. In Christian spirituality the source of illumination is through the action of the Holy Spirit and intervention of Grace . God acting in the person who is open to him in asceticism, prayer and meditation. 26 Today one speaks about Buddhism for peace, justice and reconciliation. It speaks about Peace meditation that helps a person to radiate thoughts and cosmic forces of peace spiraling around him to the outer atmosphere. They want to be a force for peace spreading the spirit of non-violence. In the context of inter-religious dialogue Christians and Buddhists find in these peace activities a profound level of dialogue of life. 27 Many Buddhist scholars today use the three roots of evil, namely, ignorance, greed and hatred as tools of social analysis to show how these evil tendencies are at the bottom of much of global evil in the contemporary world. On the contrary they advocate recourse to education, training in other-centredness and spirit of non-violence and loving kindness to be impacting social forces that can bring about a new world order. When the Day of Vesak (Celebration of the Birth-Englightenment and Death of the Buddha),was declared a Day of universal significance at the UN in the year 2000, the Ven. Bhikku Bodhi of Sri Lanka (An American Christian by nationality and convert to Buddhism), was invited to address the UN in which he clearly spoke on these lines of the root-causes of all the social ills of today’s world. 28 Here comes the whole question of a person.s freedom and free will. Buddhism states that no one needs to feel hopeless in the sea of suffering in which existence is immersed. Every individual and culture has the freedom to reverse the cycle of suffering and free itself from the fetters of conditioned existence. The basic need is to kill the overwhelming intrusion of greed and further the practice of detachment and practice noble qualities of the mind and heart.
Ref.: Text from the Author for the SEDOS Bulletin. (Fr Leopold Ratnasekera, O.M.I., STL (Greg-Rome), Th.D.(Istitut Cath. de Paris). Secretary to the OMI Superior General, Casa Generalizia, Via Aurelia 290, 00165 ROME. E-mail: email@example.com Tel: 06.39.87.72.72 (Direct).
may God be within your mind and action