The Buddha’s four tasks
In his first teaching, Mr Gotama presented his listeners with ‘a middle way’ that avoided the religious dead-ends of his time – mortification and indulgence.
To tread this middle way, we need to:
- acknowledge, deeply understand and embrace the human condition – especially its inevitable difficulties
- let go of the clutching and fantasising that these difficulties usually stimulate in us
- experience the profound peace of mind that comes from this letting go, and
- set a direction in our lives – ‘the eightfold path’ – with which we work on eight aspects of our lives: our understanding of our life process, our intentions, our communication with others, our ethically significant actions, our approach to work, the effort we put into our spiritual development, our presence of mind, and our mental integration.
Seriously tackling these four tasks (which is best understood as a positive feedback loop rather than a linear progression), leads to a process of awakening – of realising our full human potential to live intelligently, compassionately and hopefully with wisdom.
Alone, or with others, we can experience the deepest fulfilment that we humans are capable of experiencing.
Awakening, then, is not revered as a transcendent insight into ultimate truth, nor the permanent achievement of some suprahuman condition. Rather, it’s a gradual deepening into the realities and enormous potential of the human condition itself.
As Marcel Proust put it, ‘The real voyage of discovery lies not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.’