The practice of Zen is to experience, without resistance, the nature and interconnected relationship between ourselves, the present moment, and the dynamics of our natural environment. Zen is an attitude of presence.
With practice, this natural way of being can become the source from which life can flow and evolve. According to Buddha, Zen meditation is a path of liberation and self-discovery.
According to Buddha, awakening the mind is achieved through the experience of Zen meditation.
On his journey to enlightenment, Buddha developed the Noble Eight-Fold Path to Nirvana as a guiding light towards happiness as a fulfilled human being.
For Buddha, happiness begins when one understands the truth and reality of human suffering. These teachings are as practical today as when they were first passed down from Buddha.
This is an aspect of Zen meditation that encourages real world steps to alleviating the stress we cause ourselves and others throughout our lifetime.
The Eightfold Path to Nirvana
One of the most inspiring aspects of the Buddhist meditation culture is it’s development of various practices designed to help us strengthen who we are as human beings and optimize how we think and feel about life.
Just as the Samurai warriors had a code of conduct to live by, the Eightfold Path is Buddha’s guide to liberation through the release of attachment and the understanding of causes.
This remedy is based on three essential components: moral conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom.
1. The Right Awareness
Ultimate awareness means seeing the world and everything in it as it really is, not as we believe it to be or want it to be.
As a human being, you are able to perceive something from your own unique perspective. You can acquire intelligence by studying, reading, and examining new information — this, however, is considered preparation for your journey. The right awareness can only be achieved through personal experience and observation.
In his book 'Old Path, White Clouds', Thich Nhat Hanh tells the story of the Buddha. Buddha says "My teaching is not a dogma or a doctrine, but no doubt some people will take it as such."
The Buddha goes on to say
"I must state clearly that my teaching is a method to experience reality and not reality itself, just as a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. A thinking person makes use of the finger to see the moon. A person who only looks at the finger and mistakes it for the moon will never see the real moon."
2. The Right Contemplation
How you perceive and analyze your experiences becomes the foundation for your intentions. Contemplation is to recognize the equality of all living things and compassion for all that exists, beginning with yourself.
Right contemplation means always staying hungry for new experiences, while maintaining a passion for the journey and the ongoing process, not the destination.
3. Right Speech
The right speech means being mindful of the words you use with yourself and in communication with other people. It is about moral discipline and righteousness — refraining from telling lies, harsh words, slandering, ego driven talks, and falsehood. This helps cultivate self-awareness and personal growth, without developing a shallow character.
4. The Right Action
How we perceive reality and draw meaning from our experiences will ultimately dictate how we behave in the real world.
Although survival, ego, and adversity will always play a role in influencing or decisions, right action encompasses the five precepts described by Buddha, not to kill, steal, lie, to avoid sexual misconduct, and to avoid harmful drugs.
5. The Right Livelihood
This refers to lifestyle. For example, certain types of work were discouraged by Buddha, in particular those where you deal in harmful drugs and intoxicants, weapons, and activities which are harmful to animals or other human beings. In a nutshell, this virtue emphasizes an existence that does not bring harm to others.
6. The Right Effort
The will power to prevent violence and destructive mental states. The discipline to become aware of negative thinking that already exists, and to produce and nurture positive thoughts that are yet to arise. The final aspect of this point is to emphasize higher conscious thinking and inspiration that is already present in the mind.
7. The Right Mindfulness
Mindfulness describes a state of consciousness that is characterized by a vivid and alert experience of your immediate surroundings. In meditation, mindfulness is an effective technique that helps us tune into what is taking place around us and within our self by drawing our attention to energy of the present moment.
Many philosophical and spiritual traditions emphasize this state of mind for overall health and wellbeing. Contemporary scholars in psychology would agree that this presence of mind is a very effective way to calm down and manage our emotional activity into a more positive state.
8. The Right Concentration (samadhi)
The term samadhi means 'to collect' or 'bring together'. it is often translated as 'concentration' or 'unification of mind'. The right concentration is reaching a one-pointedness of mind that unifies all mental energy.
Daily meditation will help develop a calm and centered mind ready to acquire new knowledge and attain nirvana. In the early Buddhist texts, samadhi is associated with the process of calm abiding meditation.