Life is Shitty (The Eight Fold Path)
Fa Hui is a regular contributor to the Discussion Forum, and as such, he has done quite the job of providing us with some very interesting and educational material over the past few months. He has been kind enough to submit some information on Buddhism in order to help us understand it better. As for his background, I'd rather let him tell it. As for the title of this piece, that's my fault. It was relevant, and besides, it's true.
The Four Facts of Life
Buddhism has been around for quite awhile, about 2500 years, and the thing that makes it such a long lasting WAY is that it has two basic truths to it: conventional and ultimate. This conventional way is how Buddhism ‘makes sense’ or is able to apply to the so-called “reality” of our puny little lives. The ULTIMATE TRUTH is the fact that there is no reality and no puny little life. We’ll get into the ULTIMATE TRUTH some other time, let’s just stick to the basics for right now.
When the Shakya Buddha attained awakening (i.e. enlightenment) he discovered that there were four truths or facts that are in our lives. Most people will agree to these too (as did my mother when I tried to explain it to her, the first time I ever heard silence from her). Why do people agree to these so much? Well lets look at them. The first truth is that life is shitty. The second is that life is shitty because we make it that way. There is a way out of this shit. The way out is to follow the Eight-Folded Path. Now I believe an explanation of the Four Facts of Life is in need.
Life is Shitty
Really this says it all. Life is shitty. It’s plain and simple. How many of us wake up in the morning regretting what we have to go do during the day or just plain waking up? Hearing the horrible sound of an alarm clock that same old sound of BEEB BEEB, how many of us cringe as we here this sound on television.
Or how about this one: we go out for an evening of fun with our friends with the intent of meeting a fabulous member of the opposite sex and everything seems to go just fine and by the end of the evening everything looks hopeful, then you find he or she is either gay or taken. How many of us have experienced this? Probably more than can be counted.
Why Life is Shitty
We make life the way it is for us. We can be held accountable for all of our faults, be it directly or indirectly, it’s all our fault. This can be a very rude awakening too.
Now you maybe wondering the hell is he talking about? Well, I’ll tell you. What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. How many of these clichés have we heard over the years of our growing up (I sincerely doubt that whoever told us this was actually following what they were preaching to us). Many of us think of Karma as destiny, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We must remember that all our actions be it physical action, speech, or thought; they all seem to cause Karma. Now Karma isn’t necessarily good or bad it just is, we make Karma what it is. The reason I say this about Karma is that one day I was in the car and Lady gets on a very popular Los Angeles radio station and says, “Karma is bad and Dharma is good.” Now after laughing for about five minutes I was tempted to find a pay phone (because I am the only person in L.A. without a Cell Phone, I guess I still live in the stone age) but I figured that the laws of Karma are still in effect and I am quite sure she will get what she deserves for her ignorance.
Now lets go to why we do what we do. Our ego causes all our problems, yeah that’s right our personality is what the problem is. All that we desire; be it money, sex, material objects, food and drink, its the problem. This isn’t all of it either (is it ever). No the way we think, talking shit as my generation so kindly puts it, thinking that we are better than others or thinking that we are worse than others and I assure you that saying it only makes it worse. Yes saying that you are worse than others is a manifest of your ego, it’s not being humble or modest. We have to remember that the Buddha taught the Middle Way and not the ‘I am a piece of shit’ Way. Ignorance of other peoples or of any views are also the cause of suffering or our shitty lives.
There are three types of ‘evils’ or the three poisons: Greed, Anger and Delusion.
Greed can work in several ways, it can be for money or what we want and how we will get it no matter what. Also it can apply to relationships and we are always taking yet never giving or how we get into arguments. Yes that’s right I said arguments. The reason we are so greedy in arguments is that we think the opponent should know and understand and follow our perception. This is definite greed.
We are greedy for one reason and one reason only, attachment. In fact all three poisons have something to do with attachment. Which brings us right into why we get angry.
The reason we get angry is so simple it’s disgusting. How many of us are attached to our materials such as our television, the VCR, the computer, the car? How many of us are attached to the people we love? Now I am not saying give up all your possessions. I am not saying slay those you love, although there is a very good Ch’an story that is quite necessary for this:
One day a monk walked to up to the Master and said, “What must I do to become enlightened?”
The Master said, “Kill all those you love.”
“Even my Mother and Father.”
“And what about you?”
“There is nothing left of me.”
Now this doesn’t say really kill the ones you love, it basically says that you should abide nowhere. Abide nowhere, one of the very first things my teacher ever said to me. When he said it, I knew that I had screwed up, all there was was to live our normal lives but abide nowhere. How simple it is to understand. How hard it is to live by.
What does this mean? Are we allowed to get angry? Yes of course. The Buddha said that you shouldn’t suppress emotions but see what causes them. How about this, next time you are getting angry, instead of saying ‘I am angry’ say ‘there is anger in with me.’ Trust me you will see something different.
What is delusion? Good question. Lets see how I do on explaining it. Delusion is basically seeing things from a single-pointed view. It is our perception. Going back to the argument, say I am having an argument with another individual about ‘what is enlightenment?’ (this is a usual argument). I say that enlightenment is purity of thought but the other guy is saying that enlightenment is living daily life by being mindful in what we do. Technically we are both right but since we won’t agree to each others’ view and also the fact that neither of us are enlightened (and won’t be unless we give up our greedy deluded thoughts).
Perception is delusion because of the fact that it is the use of the intellect to try to understand what Buddhism ‘is.’ Trying to use the intellect is like trying to drown a fish. You can try all you want but more than likely it will just slip right through your fingers. Then what are we supposed to use? Intuition. Yep that’s it, Intuition. How the hell are we suppose to do that? Quite frankly, oh how simple this is, just practice. That’s all, practice. Bodhidharma said that there are basically only two ways to walk the path. Reason and Practice. What is there to reason and practice? I’ll get to that next.
The Way Out
Yes, there is a way out of this shitty life. The way is enlightenment, awakening, satori, whatever you want to call it. Actually the final way is called Nirvana. Now many people get confused by this word. Can we attain Nirvana in this life or does our body have to die? Well, basically (from the definition I have always gotten) was that you have to leave this body behind. Yes you die, but you are free from the wheel of life and death. After leaving this body you are no longer subject to karmic retribution. What happens to us after the body dies? Beats the hell out of me. You’re better off asking someone who has gone through with it.
Awakening should not be considered a way to ignore your problems. I assure you that you will not become an Enlightened Being by ignoring your problems. You should face them and ask your self why am I suffering? To overcome the egos’ want to ignore what is going on is a very hard thing to do. Many people do wish to become enlightened to escape what’s happening to them instead of clearing themselves of the problem.
Bodhidharma talked about two main ways, Reason and Practice. By Reason one should realize the essence through being taught and to believe that all beings contain the same nature. But this is hard to see because of the three poison discussed earlier. This is the mind to mind transmission common with Ch’an (Zen). Reason or realizations are something that must come from the intuition. Intellect as I said before cannot fathom Buddhahood.
Practice includes “four all-inclusive practices:” suffering injustice, adapting to conditions, seeking nothing, and practicing the Dharma. These are sometimes considered a Ch’an variation of the Four Facts of Life. Think of them as you will.
By suffering injustice, you should understand that whatever you did in the past that causes your current conditions is your fault. The shit in your life will begin to slow down when you start accepting what happens. It happened, get over it. What can you change about it. Now you may say I can prevent it happening again in the future. That may be but if it happens it’s supposed to happen. It’s their karma. It doesn’t mean you should show compassion for their misfortune but you should let them face their problems. Someone once told me that the reason they didn’t like Buddhism was that when people are suffering that it is because of their Karma and that they wouldn’t help people out. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact that it is recommended that we help all people out that are suffering. But the one thing that we shouldn’t do is become attached or become dependant either them to you or you to them. This way there is endless loving-kindness to go around. Wouldn’t you want help if you were in trouble? I know I would.
Adapting to conditions means changing with the times. Do not dwell in the past. The past is good for learning just as a long as the learning is beneficial. All things change, and I mean all things. Eventually you won’t have the money from your paycheck or that car will die. People grow older every day inevitably dying. This is very hard to accept for people. Our ego constantly is trying to grasp at things. We try to grasp at a moment or the way a person is right now or our material objects. Now you’re asking, doesn’t Buddhism say to live in the now? Yes, very much so but do not abide. The Buddha taught mindfulness not attachment.
Seeking nothing, boy this is a hard one. We are always searching for something. But have you ever noticed when you are looking for something that you haven’t seen in years and you can’t seem to find it and then you stop looking and then find it? That’s what is meant by this. We should stop seeking for everything. Yes, even enlightenment. Wherefore? Because enlightenment is nothing that can be attained. Now you look like you just got absolutely lost. You will understand later just keep practicing.
Practicing the Dharma. How the hell do I do that? Many people have their own views on how to practice the Dharma. The Dharma is one of the three jewels of Buddhism. The other two are the Buddha and the Sangha. When you become a disciple of a Buddhist Monastery you usually take the five precepts and Refuge. When you take refuge in the three jewels you mark your devotion to studying the Dharma. The Dharma is the teaching of the Shakya Buddha. The Shakya Buddha is the man who attained in enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, 2500 years ago. By practicing the Dharma you are usually studying sutras and shastras (sutras are the teachings of a Buddha and shastras are the teaching of disciples or monks), meditation, and studying with a teacher (which is quite recommended, your chances of attaining Buddhahood without a teacher are one in a million).
The Way to Escape is to Follow the Eight Folded Path
The Eight Folded Path is probably one the must profound teachings of Buddhism. It shows the practitioner how to help oneself along the path. These should not be used as like the ‘Ten Commandments’ of Buddhism but they should be used as a bag of tools in which one can use to hike through the sometimes, especially at first, dreadful path ahead of you. Now what I mean by this is that upon starting out on your journey you will have to face your ego a lot. Many people tend to give up at a point because they cannot transcend the ego. Remember that the ego is the greatest trickster of all, and it is within us all. But it is nothing because the ego is not an enduring entity.
The Eight Folded Path is as follows:
1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thought
1. Right Speech
2. Right Bodily Action
3. Right Livelihood
1. Right Effort
2. Right Mindfulness
3. Right Concentration
This is the Buddha Path, The Eight-Fold Path That ends suffering.
This is all for now. I hope that this Discourse sheds some light on Buddhism. If not oh well I tried. Take care and Amitofo.