There are these two extremes that should be avoided. The pursuit of happiness through the five senses, which is low(hīna), vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble, unbeneficial; and the pursuit of practices that fatigue the body and mind, which is painful, ignoble, unbeneficial.
Without going to either of these extremes, the Buddha has awakened to the Middle Way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to wisdom, which leads to peace, to direct understanding, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.
It is this Noble Eightfold Path; right view, right motivation, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right endeavour, right mindfulness, and right stillness.
This is that middle way awakened to by the Buddha, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to wisdom, which leads to peace, to direct understanding, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.
– SN56.11, Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, with an amendment of “stillness” in place of “concentration” for the word “samadhi”
This course is called “Eight”, because it is solely focused on the Eightfold Path as taught by the Buddha Siddhartha Gotama. It is targeted at people who want to be happier, peaceful, contented and mindful, but who are turned off by all the mumbo-jumbo, rituals and traditions, and who are also super confused by all the different sources.
Unlike most other courses which focus on telling you what is Buddhism, this course is focused on applying the core teachings (the Eight-fold Path, which includes the Four Noble Truths) to everyday life. These core teachings provide tools for any individual of any faith or background to be a happier, more peaceful and more contented person.
The aim of Eight is simply to create more peace, happiness, contentment and kindness in this world, one mind and one moment at a time.
Why is there the need for Eight?
First, in this seeming dark age of wanton terrorism, fake news, political and economic disruption, people around the world desperately need peace between their ears, and love and kindness in their hearts. I believe that these tools would allow people around the world to get some degree of peace, stillness and love and kindness.
But often, what’s stopping people from trying to understand the tools is the label of “Buddhism”: the label is associated with “religion”, “faith”, “belief”, etc., which stops people from trying to explore the tools behind the label.
Which is too bad, as people are missing out on time-tested gems of wisdom which bring true happiness. While aspects of Buddhism have been secularized (for example, in the mindfulness movement), unfortunately I think that the mindfulness movement has also stripped out some of the most powerful and useful concepts in Buddhism, such as the overwhelming focus on kindness, as well as the importance of ethics. So it is important to present the core teachings beyond mindfulness, to include other parts of the Eightfold Path.
There is also a “fake news” problem in Buddhism, almost to the point that there is an “alternative Buddhism” (what I call “fake Dharma”). These teachings have nothing to do with what the Buddha Gotama taught (from the best scholarship that we know):
- An example is the concept of “crazy wisdom” (i.e. basically anything is permissible): a concept introduced to the West by a German Indologist who borrowed from a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. While the root comes from a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, the concept does not exist in any of the early Buddhist texts at all.
- Another example of the fake Dharma problem are the many memes and fake quotes that are falsely attributed to the Buddha. For examples of the many fake quotes, check out the website fakebuddhaquotes.com
- Yet another example of fake Dharma is the persistent fake belief that the Buddha taught “samatha” (calming) vs “vipassana” (insight) meditation. This division of “samatha” vs “vipassana” is a concept that only arose after the Buddha passed away: in fact, both the Pali and Chinese versions of this sutta confirm that Ananda quoted the Buddha as only praising the four jhanas as praiseworthy meditation. The reality is that insight arises as a result of progress on the Eightfold Path: it is NOT a “type” of meditation taught by the Buddha.
To address the need of people and this fake Dharma problem, my intention is to increase awareness of what the Buddha actually taught, without the bells and whistles from traditional Buddhism. Just the core teachings, and to jointly explore their applications in day-to-day living.
No faith required. No beliefs. No rites. No rituals. Not even chanting.
But skepticism and an openness to experiment for yourself is required.
Ultimately, my aim isn’t to convert anyone at all, but to give you the tools to feel more peaceful, more still, more loving, and more kind. And perhaps that will result in one less quarrel, one less fight, one less broken relationship, and possibly one less terrorist in the world.
I have provided references to the texts and online resources; please refer to the direct sources to check out for yourself as best as you can. I have endeavoured to quote the most accurate translations of the Buddha’s words to my knowledge. I would also like to thank Ajahn Brahm for his encouragement of this project, and Ajahn Brahmali for his generous support. If there are any errors, they are mine and mine alone.
Also, since this is an experiment and this is the very first cut, I would greatly appreciate any feedback/comments. Specifically, how did you feel the course came across, and how would you improve it? And why? My sincerest thanks in advance. 🙂
Wishing every one of us happiness and freedom from suffering.