Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Conditioned Things Decay — So Tread the Path with Care

These are reported to be the last words of Buddha to his disciple Ananda before he passed away, “Conditioned things decay, so tread the path with care!”

All suffering is conditioned. All conditioned things lack self. This no-self is not nihilistic, but for example when I feel in pain, it's the recognition that it's not actually the whole body in pain though it might feel like it, but just some part. If we go into and observe this pain, we perceive it to be lacking self. Lacking self, it is changing and impermanent, especially if I take a painkiller. So from knowing that conditioned things lack self and are impermanent, we come to realise inter-being. When the walls of separation come down, this frees a lot of energy. We come to realise a limitless capacity. The path of liberation from suffering is one of ethics, meditation and wisdom. This is usually further broken down into the eight components of the noble eightfold path.
For example, the first of these is “right view”. And it's important to stress that this isn't just about having one perception or another, but also the quality of perceiving with a recognition of impermanence: to watch things rise and pass away, and instead of attaching, to engage creatively with a sense of wonder… “hmmm… how long is it going to last?”

Or in the case of “right thought”, then this is the quality of renunciation, generosity and harmlessness that we cultivate in our minds. We might think, “if only I had … , then I'd be happy”. Happy for ten minutes, maybe. Rather, we creatively engage, and ask ourselves, “what is it I have that I can appreciate?”, “what can I do to help?”, “how can I be harmless?”. And we cultivate the practice of compassion, “May I be happy, may I be at peace, may I be free from suffering. May you be happy, may you be at peace, may you be free from suffering.” Thoughts are important because they are the seeds for our actions.
So, when Buddha said, “tread the path with care”, it is a guidance to ask ourselves, with a sense of conviction, but also with the creative energy of wonder, “what is the best I can do to cultivate qualities of ethics, meditation and wisdom?”

Source: Anonymous. This is merely written up by me. Any errors of interpretation are mine. 

The second image of the eightfold path is courtesy of K. Jayaweera:

This was published originally on Buddhist Travellers in 2011.

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