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Lions Roar : January 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2013 54 may live by this ethical code but you don’t know why, and so you can’t enjoy it. If your ethical and spiritual practices are connected, you will be able to follow your ethical path and be nourished by it. The Buddha’s First Teaching Hundreds of years ago, under a sacred fig tree in Bodhgaya, India, the Buddha woke up; he realized deep awakening. His first thought upon awakening was the realization that every living being has this capacity to wake up. He wanted to create a path that would help others realize insight and enlightenment. The Buddha did not want to create a religion. To follow a path, you don’t have to believe in a creator. After the Buddha was enlightened, he enjoyed sitting under the Bodhi tree, doing walking meditation along the banks of the Neranjara River and visiting a nearby lotus pond. The children from nearby Uruvela village would come to visit him. He sat and ate fruit with them and gave them teachings in the form of sto- ries. He wanted to share his experience of practice and awaken- ing with his closest five friends and old partners in practice. He heard they were now living in the Deer Park near Benares. It took him about two weeks to walk from Bodhgaya to the Deer Park. I imagine that he enjoyed every step. In his very first teaching to his five friends, the Buddha talked about the path of ethics. He said that the path to insight and enlightenment was the noble eightfold path, also called the eight ways of correct practice. The eightfold path is the fourth of the Buddha’s four noble truths. If we understand the four noble truths and use their insight to inform our actions in our daily lives, then we are on the path to peace and happiness. A Path to Action The four noble truths are the foundation of Buddhism’s contri- bution to a global ethic. These truths are: ill-being exists; there are causes of ill-being; ill-being can be overcome; there is a path to the cessation of ill-being. The four noble truths, including the noble eightfold path con- tained in the fourth noble truth, are the Buddha’s strategy for han- dling and relieving suffering. The truths are called “noble,” arya in Sanskrit, because they lead to the end of suffering. The four noble truths are about suffering, but they are also about happiness. Suffer- ing exists, and we can do something to relieve the suffering within us and around us. Happiness, transformation, and healing are possible. These truths encourage us to act in order to create the happiness we want. They offer an ethical path to our own transformation.