Buddhism is more than meditating.
Here in the west we hold ideas of how things ought to be and how we ought to live. We are constantly at war with our environment trying to make everything fit into our desired outcome – and when we fall short, which we most often do, we carry the stress of failed expectations.
We hold a fixed idea of who we are and how we want to be perceived. But there is no fixed I or Ego because everything changes – new causes produce new effects.
“One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being.
Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
The Buddha realized that most often people were carrying stress, and that this stress prevented them from appreciating the refreshing taste of cool water – the beauty of a young girl – or the satisfying taste of rice (his awakening.)
Buddha also realized that the stress is most often self-inflicted. He addressed this in The Four Noble Truths.
The Four Noble Truths
1. Duhkha*: Life is often like a wheel out of kilter. We are constantly dissatisfied. We feel we have to fight for control. We move from one crisis to the next – reacting – never satisfied with our outcome.
2. Our dissatisfaction originates from our own expectations and desires.
3. By focusing on, and being content in the present, instead of fantasizing on future or the past, we can alleviate much of our dissatisfaction.
4. The Eight Fold Path is the Buddha’s teaching – a suggested path toward a fulfilling and contented life.
*(Spelled Duhkha in Buddhism Plain and Simple; spelled Dukha in The Essence of Zen; spelled Dukkha in Intro to Buddha – and probably other spellings. There are four major sects of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and Zen; this probably creates confusions in spellings and definitions. It is the concept that is important.)
THE EIGHT FOLD PATH
1. RIGHT VIEW: accepting the way your world is, though not necessarily the way you would like it to be. Understanding that nothing is static and everything is changing.
2. RIGHT INTENTION: address each problem in your life with resolve; but always choosing the noble path – you instinctively know what is right and what is wrong: for the good of all – unselfish centered.
3. RIGHT SPEECH: speak the truth; but never to injure.
4. RIGHT ACTION: act from a clear mind, not from preconceptions or prejudices.
5. RIGHT LIVELYHOOD: we should strive to choose an occupation that benefits others, and one that satisfies our needs; but we should apply ourselves in whatever endeavor we occupy.
6. RIGHT EFFORT: live in the NOW.
7. RIGHT MINDFULNESS: conscious of how we are actually engaged in the world from moment to moment.
8. RIGHT MEDITATION: practice zazen regularly
Notice that the Buddha does not give commandments – there is no ‘thou shall not…’ These are the Buddha’s suggestions – his clarity.
Buddhism is not a belief system. It is not about accepting beliefs or following rituals. It is about seeing the world clearly.
It is said that at his death the Buddha told his followers ‘Look not for refuge to anyone beside yourself.’