Prajnaparamita. The Noble Eightfold Path. Upright Action

Dear Friends,

In the introduction to the previous post about Upright Intention ( Click here to read ),  I introduced a simile for the Noble Eightfold path as an origami crane with eight unique folds and sixteen steps. Perhaps as you review the previous four postings ( The Noble Eightfold Path , Upright Understanding , Upright Speech ) you will begin to have a sense of the enfoldment of the Eightfold Path similar to the origami crane. Each of the practices are seeded by and are fruit of the other. Upright Intention is inspired by Upright Understanding. Upright Understanding, opens the way for Upright Intention and Upright Speech. Upright Speech clarifies Upright Understanding, similar to the way a mirror reflects our image. And now, exploring the practice of Upright Action the crane of Prajnaparamita and the Noble Eightfold Path begins to take shape with each fold unique but not separate from, and contributing to, the whole.

The Noble Eightfold Path

Upright Action

As with the other folds of the Eightfold Path, there are recipes for Upright Action. And like with all recipes there is the first step of seeing what ingredients are already on hand and working with just what is here; adjusting the recipe according to what is available in the present cupboard of experience s.t.s. This is the practice of approaching the recipe with uprightness. Sometimes this upright posture of mind, heart and body may not show up until the prep work or the cooking. Sometimes we may settle into uprightness by other practices, like cleaning the surfaces of the kitchen and laying out all of the implements that we need to make the recipe, or by just being still.

The recipe for Upright Action is similar to some of  the specifics of Silaparamita, the practice of harmlessness, and is related to actions of the physical body: “Do not kill or cause physical harm, Do not steal, Do not misuse physical intimacy”. In the same way that the repeated preparation of a recipe leads to not having to refer to the hard copy or the internet and to even feeling free to add ingredients or approaches that enhance the recipe or make it an original recipe, the diligent practice of harmlessness, in a sense, becomes a habit of beingness that is no longer conceptual, that adapts to the moment, is flexible, and uniquely responsive to the present moment of experience. 

As the flow of the practice of Upright Action becomes just the way things are, there is more of an opportunity to realize unconscious habits of the body that may be harmful to self or others. These could be things that we may not associate with causing harm, like advocating for the death penalty or incarceration, without seeing the causes of an individual’s suffering, and as a result causing more harm and creating more suffering. Or as simple as withholding touch or an embrace of someone who is in need out of our aversion to them, or embracing someone, who does not want to be embraced, out of our own greediness. With consistent practice with the recipe of Upright Action there is the chance to see more subtle and deeply ingrained physical habits that cause harm or impede the practice of harmlessness. In seeing these, we might realize that they are just concepts that have nothing to do with the present experience and in seeing them for what they are, they lose their importance, influence and substantiality and we can freely choose to not engage them.

It seems that diligent use of the recipe of harmlessness leads us back to the beginning: the open, unconditioned awareness of just what is here and the resulting freedom of acting without habitual causes and conditions, craving or grasping, aversion or hatred. We are fully present and understand what actions are perfectly appropriate for the moment. Using the simile of the cooking recipe, this approach would be seeing just what is available in the cupboard and creating a meal from that, or going to the farmer’s market and working with what is in season. Eventually we might be free to abandon all recipes responding to and creating from what is here, in this moment.

In the Mahayana path, the path of the bodhisattva, Upright Action is action that flowers from the understanding that there is no independent separate self. It is the action that is taken that manifests out of the realization that any harm that I may cause, to my self or others, through my actions, is the result of being ignorant of the interdependence of all beingness. Upright Action is the result of awakening to the reality that I or my people are not the chosen one(s), and that I am neither more or less deserving of harm or harmlessness than any other. It is when I am aware of my ingrained, habitual tendencies from beginningless time but my action manifests free from those habits. Upright Action is when I am like the whippoorwill and I take flight, or I nestle down for the night, or when finally free from fears, doubts, greed or hatred, I sing the original song that has been sung and heard by all of the ancestors and all beingness throughout all of time.

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With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

William

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Practice

Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

 We practice on ZOOM:

Mornings

  • Mondays: Calm abiding. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
  • Tuesdays: Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays: Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Wednesdays and Fridays: Zazen Practice 7:00 AM Pacific Time.
  • Sundays: Paramitas. 7 AM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link:   https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to wrgentner@gmail.com 

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Check-In

If you have questions about meditation practice, or would like to have a conversation about the practice or anything else, you can check in with William by making an appointment. Go to “Check In Appts.”

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