Be Free, Part One: Buddha
When I wrote my post about obsessions and attachments (Slaves), it was right after knowing about the teachings of Buddha. I understood that I should detach myself, but didn't know how. And although the answer lies in his great philosophy, my mind was too busy thinking about all the things it's attached to, and was unable to see how to set itself free from these attachments. I understood from Buddha back then that one should always find the middle way, as in one should enjoy whatever they wish to enjoy as long as it is not harmful, yet our lives should not depend on them. But I didn't know how to set myself free from obsessions that already exist. Of course there was the part about being attached to timeless values instead of everything that will eventually decay and die, but back then it didn't seem practical. Then after reading other people's opinions in the past few weeks, and after rereading Buddha's teachings, I think I now know how to set myself free, and I understand that his words are more practical than I have ever thought.
Let me first tell you a part of his teachings in a nutshell. It's basically about two things; the first is about the middle way again, it explains that a sustainable action is one that doesn't go to an extreme and to find an action between two extremes is the answer. The second teaching, which will complement this one, is about pain. It explains that pain exists and it has a reason, and this reason is probably being attached to unreal things. The most important part of his teachings is his idea of how to set ourselves free from these attachments that cause pain, it's what is called the Eight-Fold Noble Path. What one should do is to find the right path, the middle way in everything in her/his life.
The following lines are an explanation of the eight steps, that also complete each other, that should lead to the Noble Path:
- Have right views, see things for what they are, always try to refine your views and opinions to bring them closer to wisdom. Also to actually understand that these views are not the actual truth, but your idea of it and that this idea is changeable with time, with the more you know, and with the closer you get to wisdom.
- Have a right intention in life, to find what you actually want to live your life doing, to define your goals and the meaning of success to you.
- Be a person of right speech, to not be someone who says too much or too little, to say the right amount of words you need to say. To say what you really mean, but to also know how to say it. Yes, one must always say what s/he means, but the way we say it would definitely change according to the person we talk to. Talking to your younger sibling is not like talking to your grandparent, talking to your friend is not like talking to your lover. It is also about the right listening, to give time for yourself to listen, and to really listen.
- Do the right action, as I have already said, a right action is one that is away from all extremes, one that is sustainable and of true value. It is also about doing the right action without waiting for a reward or being worried about a punishment. It is to do what you know should be done, even if it's hard to do.
- Live by a right livelihood, have a balanced life, to not live your life working all the time and not have any fun, also to not spend your life not doing any work at all. To not spend too much and not be cheap. To not spend five minutes when you should spend an hour, and to not spend an hour when you need to spend ten hours.
- Do the right effort, to find your right rhythm in life. Some people are born to live a life with a very fast rhythm, to do ten things a day. Others are born to do just one or two things. Find the right pace for you and stick to it.
- Give the right mindfulness, give your attention to what really deserves it and when you find what deserves it, give it your full attention. Also to focus your attention on one thing at a time. Again like our Egyptian proverb says, he who attends to two things at the same time is a liar. So when you're working, focus on working and when you're partying, focus on partying.
- Give the right concentration, where exactly to focus, to look for keywords, to filter all the unimportant and keep the fruit of a conversation for example.
These lines are an idea about how each step can help set us free from attachments:
- Right Views: to always remember that you do not hold the truth and that your views will eventually change is set yourself free from being attached to these temporal views.
- Right Intention: if your goal is to make a lot of money and you lose it all in one of those economic recessions, then you'll definitely break down. If your aim is something timeless that can't fade and your attached to that aim you'll be free. If your goal is to live your life helping people, inventing something that might change the world, being happy (the happiness that comes from within). Then you're attached to the right aim that can't harm you or break you.
- Right Speech: this will not only set you free of being attached to lying or to talking in general, but will also help you stop wasting your time on useless talking that we all do. It will simply make you live free from hypocrisy.
- Right Action: being attached to this kind of action rather than any other action will set you free of the war that takes place inside you between doing what is right and what is easy. You lose that feeling you get when you choose to do what is easier to do even though you know it's wrong. You set yourself free of regret and wondering what could have happened if you chose to do the right thing. This will leave you feeling at ease and satisfied with your actions, like our Egyptian proverb says, you do what's right and throw it to the sea.
- Right Livelihood: by not spending too much, whether it's time, money or energy, you set yourself free of being too obsessed with anything, because that's what obsession is really about; spending too much on something. By being cheap you try to force yourself into living an ascetic life which will also cause you to turn back to someone who is even more obsessed by everything.
- Right Effort: if you do too little when you are able to do more, you'll live your life obsessing about wanting or having to do more. If you live your life doing too much when your ability is to do much less, you'll spend your life obsessing about not having a life and not being able to live the life that you want to live, you'll live your whole life needing a break.
- Right Mindfulness: you make sure that there is no obsession that is enslaving you all the time while you try to pay attention to something else.
- Right Concentration: this saves you the time and energy you waste on thinking or analyzing all the unimportant and forgetting about the real intention of the conversation.
The next part will prove how these teachings can be used in practice in order to be free of all obsessions.