The Noble Eightfold Path

-By Bhikshu Heng K'ung

Continued from issue #120

The Buddha spoke of five benefits of virtue.

1) One never lacks anything.

This benefit is due to diligence. Diligence is being thorough and fearless no matter what the task. One does not fear adverse conditions but accomplishes his purpose calmly and decisively, unconcerned about what others may think. This person doesn't fear that others might not understand what he is doing and gossip about him or slander him. Being thorough is not stopping when almost complete.

2) One has a good name among people. This is acquired by following one simple rule. What is this rule? It is never doing by yourself what you wouldn't do in front of everybody else.

3) One is able to enter the assembly without fear or hesitation. A person who remains true to himself and does not interfere with himself, who is satisfied with his position in life regardless of it being high or low, who strives hard to accomplish to completion all the projects he begins, is at ease among an assembly of kings and noble people or among beggars and sinners. The man who hesitates is lost. We hesitate because of false thinking. False thinking arises when we are not clear about what we are doing. If we have a clear idea of exactly what we are doing before beginning a task, then we will find no need to hesitate. We must be very clear about what we are doing every moment of our lives.

4) One is able to die unconfused. Within every thought there is birth and death. Our thoughts cause us to act. Our actions produce results. The results are death of a thought. If we are not pleaded with the results of our actions, we will be confused at the time of death. This is why we must treat all our pursuits as if our life depended on our success. We must be positive in all our undertakings and pay particular attention that all is seen through to completion.

5) One is reborn in the heavens. Rebirth in the heavens is recognizing that heaven and hell do not exist apart from our present environment and that it is according to our actions that we perceive it. A virtuous person does not act when he has doubts about acting. A virtuous person is able to recognize the proper time to act and is cautious not to act too soon in order to have the deed done away with and off his mind, nor does he act too late and find that the deed he should have done was done by another. A virtuous person aggressively repents of his faults. I say aggressively because he does not wait to be asked nor does he cover up his mistakes. He deliberately makes known his mistakes. In this way he is ever at ease. A virtuous person does not wish to know of his good deeds but only wishes to be aware of his mistakes. One endowed with virtue does not concern himself with the affairs of others, but only strives to be mindful of his own deeds, and does so responsibly. This is not due to selfishness, but only because he realizes that solely by single minded attention can his own deeds be carried out in the proper fashion. Because his actions are for the benefit of other people, he does not feel the need to pay attention to what others do. 

      Restraint of the five sense faculties so that false and improper thoughts do not arise is virtue born of restraint. If differs from ordinary restraint because nothing actually arises for the virtuous one to negate. This restraint is a natural outflow of his inner peace, born of right and wholesome intentions.
Whether he is a ruling king clothed in silk and satin enjoying the comforts of a palatial dwelling or a beggar naked on the streets, he walks the way cut out for him with no thoughts of gain or fear of loss, striving solely for a deepened understanding of life's nature. He is constantly at the doors of his sense faculties and careful not to let any intruders slip in and rob him of his mental energy. One with virtue is without pretense and totally direct. He is without pretense, not only when dealing with others, but also when dealing with himself and the problems that the flow of life brings upon him. He does not pretend to be something he is not and so he has no difficulty or confusion when dealing with situations. Being direct, he is quick to  recognize his faults and gifts. Being able to recognize his faults, he applies the proper medicine to ensure a quick cure. Recognizing his gifts and on what foundation they rest, he is quick to put more reinforcements in his foundation and further develop his good points.

A virtuous person, whether he be a wealthy landlord or an unsightly beggar, is not easily recognized. Why is this? A virtuous person is virtuous because he has the unique ability to conceal his uplifting and vitalizing influence on those about him. He does not compromise his integrity and act in a way that feels unnatural to him in hopes of impressing those he comes in contact with. This is not to be confused with the help common people offer to one another That kind of help is not truly genuine because the one giving aid or charity has a view of attaining personal satisfaction. A virtuous person is willing to help others at the cost of his own personal comfort. Because he is able to bear what others cannot bear and is unwilling to yield where others do yield, he can be a great ascetic with few desires and still appear a common person. When he speaks, his words are like arrows shot by a skilled archeródirect and to the point. He never speaks in a crooked manner that carries a hidden meaning he cannot articulate.

      A virtuous person never talks near to a subject without quite hitting on it as a means of getting his way. He never acts inferior to others in hopes of flattering them. Knowing the faults and shortcomings of others to be his own, he never gives rise to gossip. Virtuous people enjoy simplicity of dress and don't give undo concern to making the body more than it is by over bedecking it. Nor does a virtuous one fail to conceal what should be concealed in his dress. Knowing all phenomenal nature to be impermanent and transient and knowing his own body to be a part of these phenomena, he never takes food for the sake of entertainment, but only that his body be properly nourished. His food is his medicine; A virtuous person does not climb on conditions while conducting his affairs. If in the market place he purchases an object and sometime later sees a better bargain or a better edition of a book he has just purchased, for instance, he does not become full of remorse and try to exchange what he has for another. Being content with what comes his way by chance, he goes through life without anxiety or regret. Though he may be starving, he will not accept food offered by ill faith. He under stands the virtue of clinging to his own class and does not seek to mingle with those above his station to benefit himself. Nor does he degrade others below him in order to appear great. He will not accept praise he not earned or that belongs to another. He wisely acts out his part in life's drama, carefully avoiding excess and binding attachments so that when the play is over, liberation is his reward rather than another part when the play is recast.

-Continued next issue