Right Thought, Right Speech

This month I want to return to my presentation of the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path is the guideline expressed by Gautama Buddha by which we can overcome the suffering of human life and attain nirvana. Previously I discussed the first of the Eightfold Path, Right Understanding. Simply put, Right Understanding is seeing things in their true light, stripped of the illusions caused by our biases and ego.

The second of the Eightfold Path is Right Thought. Right Thought is important because without it we cannot reach Right Understanding. We usually approach people and situations with a set of preconceived ideas. Generalizations and stereotypes cloud our thinking. We are unable to see things as they really are. Right Thought is approaching every person and every situation as new and different. If we enter a new situation with a negative attitude the results will most times be negative. Anger will also distort our perceptions. Right Thought teaches us to view things with a calm mind, a mind that is in the moment and not carrying the baggage of the past. Today’s world is a prime example of the need for Right Thought. We cannot allow our anger or the misdirected actions of a few extremists to distort our view of any race, nationality or religion. To do so only extends our suffering.

The third of the Eightfold Path is Right Speech. Right Speech is speech that is truthful and not meant to cause disharmony. Lies, exaggeration, insults and hypocrisy are examples of speech that is not right. All these types of speech are designed to try to gain an advantage over others. Right Speech is not praise or blame, gain or loss. Right Speech recognizes the oneness of all thing and brings harmony not strife.

Buddhism throughout the centuries has recognized that we live in a world that puts up obstacles to following the Eightfold Path. Surrounded by events and situations that test our resolve we often do not follow the Eightfold Path. Are we to chastise ourselves for this failing? Buddhism is not about being penitent or seeking forgiveness. Rather, it teaches that we cannot change what we have done and therefore we must live in the present moment with an ever new awareness. There is no sin in Buddhism as there is no divinity against whom to sin. This does not mean that Buddhists feel they can do whatever they wish with no repercussions. Buddhists recognize that actions others might define as sin lead to a continuation of suffering. Only when we are able to eliminate the repeating of such actions will we be able to achieve enlightenment. The Eightfold Path is a guideline to this freedom from suffering.

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