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The Buddha's "Eightfold Path" and "The Three Refuges"



I. The Buddha's Eightfold Path

The Buddha's Eightfold Path (1) consists of eight admonitions which were devised to assist human beings in their endeavor to:
  • restore their original authenticity of self-expression as human/divine beings,
  • restore harmony and unity at all levels and in all aspects of a human being's personal, social and universal existence.
The eight points of the Eightfold Path form a series of quite radical urgings in which the Buddha prompts a way of being and living that is altogether different from the way of life that most of us have become so accustomed to.

The Buddha's suggestions point to an existential and essential authenticity of being-and-living that is radically holistic from the get-go. He advocates a living authenticity for each of us that is in actuality the realization of everyone's original intent and purpose at the moment of each person's initial conception - a way of being that is uniquely primed into each human being - uniquely seeded as it were into everyone at the moment of their individual conception.
(It is indeed quite unfortunate that so many of us have been made to lose sight of it so soon after birth.)

In the Eightfold Path eight distinct attitudinal formative aspects of human life are recognized:
(1) insight,
(2) intent,
(3) vocal expression,
(4) action,
(5) lifestyle,
(6) effort,
(7) mindfulness,
(8) concentration,
each one being an essential tool in the realization (making real - actually and factually) of everyone's life.

The Buddha advises us to use these tools appropriately, effectively and with integrity: the right way.
The Sanskrit adjective that is used for this effective and right use is samyañc (2), a Sanskrit word that traditionally gets translated as "right", as in, for example, "Right View", "Right action," "Right Speech", etc.
The word "right" however is a rather incomplete translation of samyañc, as samyañc actually means “whole” or “complete", or more dynamically: "integrating”, “completing” as well as “healing” in the sense of “making whole."
Samyañc carries the sense of a perfect, ideal and truthful state of being. Thus, rather than the word "right", words like “integrating”, “holistic”, “positive”, “healing” and “truthful” better represent the full meaning of the Buddha's use of the word samyañc.

The application and practice of the eight promptings that make up the Eightfold Path will enable those who are intent on the reclamation and realization (making tangibly real) of their original authentic being - the originally intended full expression of the human/divine Self that each human being so uniquely represents.

These promptings are designed to undo the habits and attitudes that (up to the effective application of the Buddha's eight urgings) have disturbed most everyone's individual life and the lives of others they are in contact with.
The Buddha's suggestions will assist a person in un-learning and letting go of often arbitrarily acquired character traits. They will help to un-train oneself from the artificially acquired habituated behaviors that at various points in one's life one was forced or tricked into, cajoled to adopt and identify oneself with - adopted behaviors and manners that come from suffering, lead to suffering and keep suffering going.

These eight urgings form a practical - 'hands on' so to speak - heart, mind and willpower driven set of motivating tools that enable us to facilitate and realize our own and our fellow human beings' enlightenment and liberation.

II. The Three Refuges

"Triad" (Stephanie Leigh)

To better understand and thus to enable us to more effectively apply the Buddha's eight admonitions, they can be divided up according to the Three Refuges (also called the Three Treasures or the Three Jewels) three approaches that in their combined oneness represent Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as a triad: - a Triple Gem:
  • Buddha - Gaining crystal clear insight into the original nature of:
    (1) the individual human in its uniqueness,
    (2) humankind as a species in its unconditional perfection,
    (3) the all-encompassing universe from its smallest dimensions to its largest,
    (4) the intrinsic and essential divinity of ALL (Sanskrit: Aum Tat Sat, ओम् तत् सत्).
  • Dharma - Applying this clear insight unconditionally according to the universal laws of spiritual and physical nature.
  • Sangha - Applying and realizing that clear insight and  the universal laws in the physical and social reality of one's own personal body and social community.
Click this line  to read about the symbolism behind the triple spiral 


A "Buddha Footprint"
1st century CE, Gandhara, India
Top symbol: Dharmachakra
Bottom symbol: the Three Jewels 

The Three Refuges or Triple Gem's Vows (3):
  • I take refuge in the Buddha.
    I wish for all sentient beings to understand the Universal Truth profoundly and to realize it in their lives with the greatest resolve.
    (In other words, the full development of insight and clarity is wished for every sentient being, as well as the full development of their highest potential: the perfection of all of everyone's inherent qualities and functionality.)
  • I take refuge in the Dharma.
    I wish for all sentient beings to immerse themselves deeply into the universal teachings causing their wisdom to expand to its fullest extent.
    (The universal teaching is not only in reference to the teachings of the Buddha but also to the living experience, realization and teachings of all past and contemporary realized beings.)
  • I take refuge in the Sangha.
    I wish for all sentient beings to bring their community unconditionally into harmony.
    (The community or congregation also references all who are actively applying the universal teachings to the mutual benefit of self and others.)
III. The Eightfold Path and The Three Refuges 

In this section we will explore if by any chance The Eightfold Path equals The Three Refuges or The Triple Gem.

Could it be that The Eightfold Path is The Three Refuges... but just 'in other words'... more words?
Could it be that The Eightfold Path shows more facets of that Triple Gem?
Could it be that those clear and ardent, lucid and applicable, concise and to the point guidelines are  outlined to realize the full reality of ALL of Buddha Nature actually and factually when one takes refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha?

Yes! Apparently 'taking refuge' is not enough, one has to realize Buddha Nature, meaning: not just recognize it and live under its protective wings (however compassionate those Buddha wings may be) but be buddha - one needs to uncover, reclaim and revitalize one's original nature!

The list of the Eightfold Path's admonitions can be subdivided into three sections:

1. Insight & Intent
insight,
intent.
2. Conduct & Action
vocal expression,
action,
lifestyle.
3. Mind & Will
effort,
mindfulness,
concentration.
Check it out:
1. Insight & Intent pertain to Buddha,
2. Conduct & Action pertain to Sangha,
3. Mind & Will pertain to Dharma.
Notice the different order though! Instead of Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, it is now Buddha, Sangha, Dharma!

Let me list the Eightfold Path's admonitions again, but now not only showing the triple division but also using the more expanded, more correct translation of the word samyañc as discussed above.

Buddha - Insight & Intent:
  • Right or All-encompassing Insight.
    (An integrative, 'whole-making' view, understanding of, and insight into life and all of existence.)
  • Right or Consistent and Steadfast Intent.
    (The intent to restore wholeness and harmony as the motivation behind all our actions and interactions in human life and in all existence and essence.)
Sangha - Conduct & Action:
  • Right or Truthful Vocal Expression.
    (Positive truthful communication skills that come from and lead to support, agreement, compassion and truth.)
  • Right or Constructive Action.
    (Action aimed at restoring our own and everyone else’s wholeness, so that we may repair brokenness and fragmentation in human interaction and intercourse.)
  • Right or Wholesome Lifestyle.
    (Wholesome, healthy, life sustaining and healing living practices.)
Dharma - Mind & Will:
  • Right or Well-Measured Effort.
    (Effective appropriate effort and willpower in all activities and actions.)
  • Right or Pure Mindfulness, Clear Mindedness.
    (In order to always be positively mindful - to have our mind filled with truth only - we need to identify all negative thoughts as coming from the illusive realm of deception and deceit. We need to relegate all negativity to the realm of illusion - maya - so as not to give any negativity the semblance of reality, as negative thoughts are conceptual only, based as they are in fear and depending on threats, they carry no tangible value in reality.)
  • Right or Steadfast Unwavering Concentration.
    (Positive focus, mental concentration and steadfast motivation to advance our own and everyone else’s life in love and truth - Sat-cit-ānanda (Sanskrit: सच्चिदानंद).)
Notes 


(2) The Sanskrit roots SAM or SA (meaning “taken together”, "integrated" or “same”) are the basis of such Indo-European words as the German zusammen or the Dutch samen which mean “together” or "taken as a whole." The English same and similar also derive from SAM, as does the word homo in homosexual. Homo- came to English via the Greek hama and homos which (surprise?) are also based on the Sanskrit root SAM. (Etymologically speaking, the “h” often replaces the “s”.)



~~~

Comment by Barry: 

I like the simplicity of the word right - as in there is a right and wrong way - so get it right. 
From there we can all interpret if we are right in what we think do and say. I learned that from my catechism as a child and actually tried to figure out if God liked my interpretations. 
I do appreciate your challenging us to what we know of Buddha's basic directive on the 8 fold path. We do well to look deeply into the meaning of the word that Buddha used samyañc† for this word and help guide our interpretations of what right is. 
I very much appreciate the scholarly details you provide to Buddha's guidance. It has a intuitive feel of rightness. That makes sense in that wisdom comes from practice and I have had many years of practice since my spiritual quest as a child. The two steps back will be countered by a validated and greater depth understanding of the next step forward.

Wim: There is a bit of a problem with the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Islamic and even Theravadic meaning of what is "right" or "wrong". 
Those distinctions have too much of a moral-human-behavior connotation.

All realized beings (such as the Buddha) function/live in terms of Universal Dharma and Dharma is not something like the Judaic or Christian Ten Commandments.
That does not mean of course that they live "in sin" (Haha, of course not :) as their "standards" are not merely human but of a universal divine nature.

Thus, also the Buddha's meaning of "samyañc" was not in terms of moral behavior... far from it!

There is something innately "perfect" about realized beings such as the Buddha, they live from a universal standard... (Jesus too, he used the word "uranois" in his reference to the divine)... to indicate this trans-human universal aspect of Truth or Dharma in which human behavioral morals don't operate.

The next reasoning may sound strange, but when you consider the affirmative answer to the question, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" it should become clearer.

Animals have no morals, as they... ... ... don't need any!
Neither do plants or minerals or insects, nor galaxies or quarks. In fact, non-human entities live fully in Dharma - except perhaps for some domestic animals that have been too domesticized as they picked up a-natural or de-natured human behaviors.
Enlightened beings' (Bodhisattvas) intent is to help "de-natured" human beings to reestablish living and experiencing universal dharma.

When a human being reclaims that, no morals are needed for him or her either.
Again, not that they will be immoral or even a-moral, morals will just not be embedded in their genetic code anymore.
Or, if not that, the dualistic distinction "right/wrong" will not be part of their personal vocabulary anymore, all such judgments voided as universal unconditional compassion has been reclaimed.

Barry: OK let's cut to the chase and that is get to truth. I am starting to feel that Truth is equal to or better than Love.

Mindfulness is on the list of eight. You mention to be Mindful ones mind need be filled with truth only. Let's take out the right and wrong of it. We might say we are Mindful when we are in the state that we are knowingly on target, connecting to the max. We are not only keeping our attention on the moment hoping we are fitting in etc., we are totally connected.

If any negativity filters in -like I do not think I should be here right now because no body seems to want to talk with me- then even if we are in the moment we are not being mindful.

From recent readings of Buddhas comments as interpreted by various individuals I am learning that we get to truth by participating on that righteous path. Not learning about it but applying it through action and expression and lifestyle.

Would we not add that meditation is a big part of getting to truth via the clearing of our self (our ego) so we are acting and intending to act with insights to our mindful connection.

Not many talk about meditating and acting at the same time, yet with Mindfulness (as you explain it) there is no other way to put it. To be truth and to always think truth we do best to not come from our self.

Of the 8 on the Eightfold Path I think I left out effort in getting to the truth through action which brings up a point that this Mindfulness only works when all of the 8 fold path is blended.

I guess when the truth sets us free we are thrust into the thick of what is and essentially able to have equal say to the momentum of that moment. That Freedom would only continue when Love is engaged. Otherwise negativity of self would separate.

opps hate to end on a negative note.

Wim: Barry, you wrote: "...Not many talk about meditating and acting at the same time..."

Lets get into the act here:
Although it may have a different angle on "activity" than what you might expect. :)

When meditation is done together with exercises and spinal manipulation (massage and/or chiropractics for some) to - initially - return the spine to its proper curvature and flexibility, then meditation also works better...

The reason is that the cerebro-spinal-fluid (CFS) in the spinal canal, the meninges and the brain ventricles has to circulate unimpeded and increase in volume and quality (more on quality later).

By the way #1:
The movements of sexual intercourse, during which the lower spine really gets mobilized, increase the CSF volume. That's why rest/sleep after is very healing for the brain.
(Hence the attraction of Tantric yoga for some.)

By the way #2:
When its volume increases, CSF seeps out from the spinal canal via the applicable vertebrae and bathes the nerves that emanate bilaterally from the spine forward to the front of the lower body. This enervates the nervous plexi of the involved body areas, and produces the sweet erotic sexual feelings.

By the way #3:
When we embrace someone intensively and lovingly - especially with some good kissing - one gets the same effect with the CFS seeping out and bathing the nerves that supply the chest area. It enervates the nervous plexi around the lungs, heart and throat, again producing a soft sweet feeling of love in the upper body.

This (#3) of course affects the Heart and Throat Chakras, while enervation #2 affects the Sacral Chakra.

By the way #4:
Kegel exercises also have the effect of increasing CFS volume... which of course affects... (you guessed it) the Root Chakra.

By the way #5:
Meditators who have been involved in intensive yoga workshops may have noticed within themselves or observed with others, energetic movements above the chest area involving neck, shoulder and head movements (often called kriyas). Again the same activity of the spine and its applicable vertebrae, again an increase in CSF and again a seeping to the applicable nervous plexi but also... to the space between the eyebrows and the top of the head. This of course affects the Brow and Crown Chakras.

By the way #6:
The Navel Chakra (Solar Plexus) is a bit harder to enervate with that resulting sweet experience. But once an authentic unconditional free will is reclaimed, the same sweetness results.
Many people might remember from early childhood that there was some strong enervating energy there. Of course strong children will quickly lose this as their freedom gets hampered or conditionalized with "carrot or stick" character modifications.

In any case...
The micro minerals and trace elements in CSF (various mineral salts are higher in the CSF than in blood plasma.) are extremely important to feed the nerve cells and especially the brain's nerve cells and synapses.

With a wholesome organic diet (lots of greens, seeds, nuts, beans, leafy, root and cabbage type vegetables, but also whole milk (goat milk is for most readily digestible) (breast feeding!!!), fish and organic meats or chicken and a variety of fruits) the quality of CSF improves dramatically (as biochemists found out with lab rats)
Memory improves, relaxation increases, spatial coordination and decision making as well.
Meditation works hand in hand with this.
(Did you know that originally the words "meditation" AND "medication" meant the same? Healing or becoming whole! Wholesome eating is the best mediCation...

When our CSF reaches the quality of rich nutrient holding saline water (the way the proto-ocean was in which life originally developed) then we are back to our physical origins... which of course reclaims our awareness of our divine spiritual origin.

Now, call THAT right action!

Comment by Barry:
Another scholarly response from obviously looking up the syntax of words and...
Just kidding. I have always liked your hands on approach to spirituality. Try it and if it works your headed in the right direction. I should have remembered I was talking to a master of meditation and movement. From yawning to pelvic rock related to CSF is your forte.

I never did mention I spent an hour plus rocking my pelvis, I think with backward thrust to stimulate CSF flow after reading here in Free by Nature a technique you recommend. I found it mesmerizing and grounding, and would have to keep at it to understand benefits fully. 
I have to admit most probably with readings of your posts a while back and having experienced a simple machine that oscillates at the ankle, while prone, produces a rocking motion for the torso; I learned a side to side motion of my pelvis. After spending eves at that I found meditation enhanced it and I am now left with a spontaneous urge, when I relax into my body to subtly oscillate from pelvis up, again side to side.

Now we could go back and forth around CSF because I know Craniosacral Therapy as taught by John Upledger. I have some anatomical perspectives and some rather basic physiological understandings. I feel your understanding of CSF related to spiritual dynamics catapulting.
The grounding of what occurs may be elusive yet your experience of what occurs is telling.

Rather then continue this all over the placeness with our comments let me say this. Truth in mindfulness seems apparent when the mindfulness is coupled with awareness. By awareness I mean that knowing focus that comes with meditation, siting or moving. That truth is graspable. 
To add action or speech or lifestyle to that awareness enhances each, yet Truth is elusive. Which is to say in speech, for instance, what is said may be closer to truth yet not necessarily truth. Buddha mentions we can know the wisdom of Truth through participation in righteousness, say by following the 8 fold path. 

Today I feel the Truth that is spoken of is the awareness from blending of the self of individuals involved. As we lose our separate self and blend with another through a Loving action we become something bigger then self. When that awareness of integration approaches a lifestyle and the ensuing blending of culture in that perspective can be the Dharma that is graspable yet unknowable. 

At one point, with loss of self to the whole group occurs, then experiencing the universal Dharma, that you mention would become second nature. At that point to harm another would be an action against the self.

Why do I keep ending on these negative notes

Barry again:

To be clear - the comments up to this one are in response to the Eightfold Path - Only recently have you included The Three Refuges.

Call me simple minded - I Love it. Truth can be complicated but the closer you get to it the simpler it can be. To integrate various key components to a blended understanding simplifies and actually enhances understanding.

Take blending Mind and Will with Dharma: the elusive Dharma has a graspable meaning. When I see Dharma defined as Buddha's teachings I recoil because Buddha learned his path by being, not by following rules of others. 
Now to say Dharma is realized with well-measured effort, clear mindfulness, and steadfast unwavering concentration it is easy to conclude that Dharma is what you feel when applying those principles. To explain what that would feel like is difficult yet as you approach increased skill in these what you get is Dharma. So now we are actually combining the teachings of the Buddha with realizing and experiencing from application of mindfulness, effort,and concentration.

As a massage therapist and body-worker I know how I feel when I am applying those principles. The client and I enter the zone together, we know when it is happening and do not want to leave the space. That special feeling I can now call Dharma. I can have that by my action and interaction because of application of teachings of the Buddha yet I can get it from other teachers. Before I thought Dharma was something obtained by a blessing of a guru or grace you get from intensive study.

I can say I take refuge in the Dharma and know when I am letting that slip when entering a more ego state.

Now I should try to apply what I just said to the other two refuges of that Gem. 8 does fit into 3 nicely.

Barry again:

The Buddha was first named Siddhartha. Even he had to get to know the Buddha. In this case the Buddha Nature. After freeing himself from his Royalty trappings he learned about reality, that which was kept from him. This relative truth was full of stark reminders of the good life is not always accessible. The inevitable impermanence, even pain and suffering observable was unavoidable; as is for us all as we mature and feel loss of loved ones. He could have tried to reintegrate back to his cocoon of royalty and hide from truth as many of us do.

Instead his curiosity took him to others attempting to transcend only to find following the guidelines to the max were unsatisfactory. Abandoned by close seekers he was alone and contemplated hoping to find his own way. In that struggle he would have considered that he failed, would have considered a possible return to his father and the life of Royalty with his wife, son and possibly the pleasures of opulent food and other women for pleasure. It is reported that he had to face both the temptation of lust and seduction and the struggle to avoid the want (aversion). To succumb to neither inner demon the fetters melted away.

After Steadfast Intent, Consistent and Steadfast Intent, with he attained All encompassing Insight. He discovered his Buddha Nature thereby becoming the Buddha. It is reported he enjoyed the bliss for 7 days. Liberated he could return home to his father (the King) and his wife and son. And he could leave. Complete unto himself and understood by others in his inclusive wisdom he was free to go or stay. You mention radical urgings as if we all have them, an urge to our authentic nature by steadfast concentration till adopted behaviors that come from suffering subside.

Lust/Aversion difficult. What about when the yoke around the neck, the millstone around the neck drags us down to the depth of the sea. Unthinkable unscrupulous acts. Facing our inner demons come to mind. The Steadfast Concentration that takes us beyond. I drift to the movie the "Changling" before his hanging singing "Silent Night", as if he surpassed the fetters. This world is teeming with despicable. To think the Buddha Nature is a radical urge away. We have all trespassed, we can overcome. The task is at hand - thank you for pointing the way.

Barry again:
You mention radical urgings as if we all have them, an urge to our authentic nature by steadfast concentration till adopted behaviors that come from suffering subside. Getting ones head around that might take some time and steadfast concentration and All-Encompassing Insight.

Lust/Aversion difficult. What about when the yoke around the neck, the millstone around the neck, drags us down to the depth of the sea. Unthinkable unscrupulous acts. Facing our inner demons come to mind. The Steadfast Concentration that takes us beyond. I drift to the movie the "Changeling" before his hanging singing "Silent Night", as if he surpassed the fetters. This world is teeming with despicable. To think the Buddha Nature is a radical urge away. We have all trespassed, we can overcome. The task is at hand - thank you for pointing the way.

Barry again: 

Hanging out here is both grounding and uplifting. At times I promise myself that I will get back to your site then get distracted with all the, so called, fetters that pull and push, repel and attract - I say later. Yet this piece that you put together seems to give me hope that I will anchor my focus with repetition of understandings and make a breakthrough toward waking up. We can say the teachings are very basic. So why go on. Reading and debating can take its toll. If the combination of understanding here can take us the distance to the depth within where that calm is pervading; why seek elswhere. The calm after the undoing of all the other stuff that misdirected individuals say is necessary to get right before we can get to that calm.

Which brings up a point. We are taught that Buddha, after realizing his middle way and reaching enlightenment that he enjoyed the calm/bliss for seven days. I have been told, and can surmise, that upon reaching that mindless stage that transcend consciousness by non focus on phenomena as such and have an awareness that is held; that one would be receptive to what is out there. A phrase 'Great Mirror Wisdom' connotes awareness of other due to ones own awake-emptiness.

I would like to believe there is an ability to stay in that calm of bliss. Maybe an empowerment to control the arena surrounding ones presence. Yet to open to the other in that state is to open to the active ways the others hold onto the commotion that surrounds them. An awareness of how the choice to protect ones separateness for whatever reason is to draw the energy into a slowing of motion leading to a clinging to a focus that defeats liberation.

With awareness the 'Great Mirror Wisdom' would offer others a chance to reflect on what it is keeping them from progressing. It seems that helping the other frees up energy that is felt by all. It seems natural that turning to others to help in that liberation process would enhance the light and love and bliss throughout.

In this process of trying to get there it seems we do well to be in the moment where awareness predominates over mind and help others that sense the energy lift. To consider Sangha with each member taking steps toward wholesome lifestyles, as you say life sustaining and healing living practices. With engaging in constructive action that contributes to others wholeness with communicative skills with emotional intelligence leading toward an interactive inclusiveness we can promote a peaceful environment conducive to enhancing energy excess leading to cultivating joy.

It seems to be around others that want liberation is helpful for those of us that are seeking rather than being. Yet as one progresses it seems a person in awareness from being in the moment can contribute to others unaware of what might be a blessing from their world view. Meditation has its usefulness yet applying that focus on awareness to the interactive daily life moments seems to be an enhancement to joy. Sangha seems like a word that belongs in a monastery yet it seems applicable to us non-monk types that want to achieve degrees of liberation.

13 March, 2010

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