From the philosophical and moral point of view, Buddha has adopted middle path. There are two limits which the aspirant should never approach. On the one hand pleasures of sensual objects, interest in passions, a low, uncultured, deplorable and undirected pleasure seeking meant only for the low people and on the other hand the habit of suppressing the self, which is painful, worth discarding and useless. Buddha has discovered a middle path which opens the eyes, and which guides towards peace and insight, supreme wisdom and nirvana. Actually, it is only the noble eightfold path.
The first means in Buddha’s eightfold path is bright vision. Ignorance generates a wrong view regarding the relation between the world and self, and man mistakes at ransient, painful and unspiritual object for a permanent, blissful and spiritual one. The abandoning of this fallacious view and attending to the real nature of objects is said to be fight vision. In this way, unflinching meditation on the four noble truths is proper view. This meditation takes one towards nirvana.
The second means is right resolve. The determination to root out thoughts which emersion ill will towards others and contemplate their harm and attachment to sensual pleasures is right resolve. The noble truths can be profitable only if life is led according to them. Proper volition should be with a proper view. Proper volition includes sacrifice, benevolence and sympathy.
The third means is right speech. As a first step, man should control his speech by right resolve. Right speech means avoidance of falsity, criticism, unlikable and false speech. Everyman should avoid bad and adopt good speech. One word calming the mind is better than innumerable meaningless words.
The fourth means is proper conduct, which means for bearing from activities like destruction of life, theft, sexuality, falsifying, excessive eating, visiting, social recreations, artificial means of beauty, Jeweler, use of comfortable beds and gold etc. All these laws apply to hermits. But married people need obey only five laws. Ordinary people have a number of other laws. Parents should protect their children from evil qualities and cultivate good qualities in them, and marry them after their education is over. The offspring should make themselves noble by serving their aged parents.
The students should study, respect their teachers, obey them and fulfill their needs. The teachers should be have lovingly towards her husband, manage the house efficiently, be hospitable to all guests and exemplify material fidelity. Continuing in the same vein, Buddha has made a detailed description of laws regulating the mutual behavior between various people related socially. He has preached the lesson of sacrifice, benevolence and sympathy to the multitude in its entirety. His laws aim at making both society and the individual happy. Considering these laws no one can declare Buddha to be an escapist.
Right livelihood means earning one’s bread and butter by right means. Without it right activity cannot be fully practiced. According to Buddha, one should not trade in weapons, animals, meat, wine etc. It is never good for any person, to earn his money by unfair and bad means like pressure, fraud, bribe, extortion, Chicanery, decoity etc.
Along with the obedience of law regarding view, volition, speech, action and livelihood, it is also necessary to stop bad impressions and avoid bad feelings. Endeavoring to this end is called right effort. It includes self-control, negation of sensuality, stopping bad thoughts, awakening good thoughts and concentration the mind upon universal welfare. Four modes of restricting bad thoughts have been advocated.
- Meditate upon some good thought.
- Study the results of acting upon bad thoughts.
- Analyze the cause of bad thoughts and stop its results.
- Control the mind by physical efforts.
Obedience of dharma depends upon the mind, upon the obedience of dharma is dependent the attainment of liberation. In this way, even a person who has made some progress along the spiritual path, needs proper exercise in order to eliminate the risk of a lapse in future.
Right mindfulness means the retention of the body conscience and mental state in their real form. Bad thoughts occupy the mind only by forgetting their real form and when actions take place according to them, pain must be suffered and the tendencies become stronger. Right mindfulness includes the remembering on impurities of the body, pleasure, nature of suffering, nature of pain, hatred and doubtful mind five skand has, senses, object of senses, means of liberation and the four noble truths. right mindfulness destroys attachment and releases one from pains.
Gautama Buddha described right mindfulness meticulously. He preached that the body should be treated as constituted of earth, water, fire and air, is filled, it must be remembered, with deplorable things like bones, skin, intestines, spleen, urine etc. One should see the burning of the body in a crematorium, its destruction, conversion to food for futures and dogs and becoming dust. Remembering these truths makes one forget or lose love and attachment for other bad tendencies is also destroyed. It results in complete lack of passions and elimination of pains. In this way, man avoids worldly attachment due to the effect or right mindfulness.
By pursuing the seven laws propounded above, man’s tendencies of the Citta or mind are pacified and he becomes capable of entering right concentration. Before nirvana is attained, right concentration has four stages.
In the first stage, the four noble truths are meditated upon with a calm mind. Pure and detached thought creates unique hapiness.
In the second stage, efforts like meditation are suppressed and reasoning becomes unnecessary, doubts are removed and faith in noble truths increases. Here institution replaces thought. Profound contemplation results in peace and permanence in the mind. At the same time, bliss and peace are sensed.
The third stage is one of indifference. Here the endeavor is to remove happiness and introduce indifference in the mind. In this the mind is in equilibrium, but one becomes indifferent to the happiness of concentration.
The stage of absolute peace is the fourth stage in which pleasure and pain are destroyed. In it the tendencies of the mind are negated. It is a state of perfect peace, perfect indifference and perfect negation. In it, pains are completely destroyed and nirvana obtained.
Sheel, Samadhi and Prajna:
The eightfold path of Buddha has three major parts- Sheel, concentration or Samadhi and Prajna. Prajna is real knowledge superior to intellectual knowledge. Good conduct is impossible without real knowledge. On the other-hand, perfection of knowledge, too is not possible without right conduct. Accordingly, in accordance with the tradition of Indian philosophy, Buddha looks upon sheel and prajna as complimentary. Prajna is destructive of sexual and ignorant tendencies. Prajna awakens or arises undisturbed concentration. The first seven laws of the eightfold path guide one to wards the perfection of concentration.
Pursuing it leads to the evolution of Prajna and Sheel. perfect Prajna, perfect Sheel and perfect peace spring immediately after nirvana is attained. In this way, it is extremely wrong to consider nirvana to be an empty state. Besides preaching the meditation on physical defects or bad feeling Buddha has also stressed the adoption of friendliness towards everyone, sympathy towards the suffering and aloofness towards everyone, sympathy towards the suffering and aloofnes towards the bad. These four together are called Brahma Vihara. No-violence has major importance in the preaching of Buddha. Non-violence requires both sympathy and friendliness.