Nityaprem, who recently began writing comments at Sannyas News, presents some key lessons he’s learned from Buddha’s teachings.
First, a little personal history:
After a successful (and very un-spiritual) career in software development, I had a breakdown which led to me losing my job and needing a long time off to recover. Luckily I had enough money saved up to see me through quite a few years, and so suddenly I had a great deal of time on my hands.
This led to me reconnecting with Osho. I started listening to his discourses again regularly, but something about the ‘Dhammapada’ series caught me. The thought came to me, “why don’t I go and investigate Buddhism myself, to add to what Osho said?” It resonated. This started me off on a long study: I bought books, did courses, watched videos, joined forums, asked questions. It took a while before I could find my way among all the different schools, and could identify what was meaningful to me, and what was not.
What I focussed on in the end was finding the words of the enlightened. The Buddha, through his sutras, but that was troublesome because through five hundred years of oral transmission and two thousand years of transcription and several translations and who knew how much meddling by various people, there are only traces left of what the Buddha really said. But there must be other Buddhist enlightened ones, even though in the Buddhist tradition it is not done to discuss one’s advancement. So I looked, and where to look better than among modern masters? Among the more promising whose words are still easily accessible are Thich Nhat Hanh and Ajahn Chah.
A quote by Osho stuck by me:
In the end, I can’t say that I found. A quote by Osho stuck by me: “Learn from the Buddha, but don’t be a Buddhist.” I decided that it was time to digest what I had learned, to take a step back and see what all from five years of study had stuck around. A few highlights I thought I would pass on here.
First, there was right speech. These are the principles of speaking what is factual, true, beneficial, and preferably also kind-hearted and not hurtful. It is quite a core area of Buddhism, and if you look, you can see its influence in how buddhist forums are very welcoming and kind places.
Second, focus your life on what is wholesome and beneficial to the path. It’s easy to spend an awful lot of time on entertainment and things which pollute the mind and take you away from peace and clarity. Just drop all that stuff and look at what helps you.
Third, it helps to be mindful. This was one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s favourite areas to talk about. If you can be aware of what is happening within your mind, a lot of things become clearer. If you can be honest about this it really helps. Its something you can learn.
Fourth, there is testing the teachings. The Buddha was fond of saying that we should test teachings “like a goldsmith tests gold that he is going to buy at the market”. The Kalama Sutra is a wonderful tract where the Buddha teaches how to identify what is worthwhile.
Fifth, there is identifying clinging, and letting go. The Four Noble Truths tell us that clinging causes stress, and often one can find a way to let go. This is like untensing a clenched fist, sometimes it doesn’t immediately want to let go, you have to convince it to relax. Often it is true that when we feel stressed it is because we are holding on to something.
“Let go a little, and you will have some peace,
Let go a lot, and you will have much peace,
Let go completely, and you will have complete peace.”
— Ajahn Chah