None of the points of the Noble Path has any real meaning if it is not joined to effort. Even the finest motor-car is useless if there is no petrol in the tank. The petrol is the energy that makes the car run. Another name for Right Effort is Right Energy. If this sixth point is missing, then the other points of the path have no life in them. When Right Effort is missing in anyone’s life, we use an unpleasant word to describe that condition. The word is Laziness. If we do not overcome laziness, we cannot make any real progress on the road to happiness.
Each of us must make real effort to lead a good, moral helpful life. Usually we say there are four main efforts which we must make if we wish our lives to be according to the Buddha’s teaching. These four big efforts are:
The effort to avoid evil not yet existing in our lives.
The effort to overcome evil which already exists in our thoughts and acts.
The effort to preserve the good already developed in our thinking and acting.
The effort to develop good not yet existing in our minds, hearts and actions.
So many of us have good ideas and good intentions, but we do not use effort to put our good ideas into practice. This is somewhat like being a bird with but one wing. Another mistake that is made by many people, boys and girls included, is the bad habit of putting off until tomorrow or next week or next month what we know we ought to do today. The only time we can be sure of is today. Yesterday has gone and tomorrow has not come. The best time to begin to put forth Right Effort is this very day. The sooner we practise all the points of the Eightfold Path, the sooner we shall find real happiness. Boys and girls who start to follow this pathway very early in life will soon find out that it is the only road to true and lasting happiness. But nothing can be done until a start is made. A boy who sits on the beach and looks at the water, wishing he knew how to swim, will never know until he makes an effort to swim. Another way of naming Right Effort is Right Trying. No one can get happiness or any good thing out of life until he really tries. Let us all try to use our best efforts to be happy and actually use Lord Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives.
Once there lived an old farmer, his wife and children. He had land that stretched for many acres but, because of his old age, the vast area was left to grow into a forest. Trees that shot us sky-high could be found everywhere. Even his attap hut was surrounded by trees. One fine day, the old farmer asked his elder son, who had grown up into a strong and healthy man, to clear the land so that it might be farmed once more. His son, being young and active, quickly got hold of an axe and started chopping a huge tree beside the hut. The side of the tree near the hut was chopped and finally the tree gave way, and it fell down on top of the hut killing the old farmer, who was the only one inside at that time. If the son had chopped the tree on the other side of the trunk, then it would not have fallen on the hut.
Thus we see that although the son had the right intention of helping his aged father, yet he did not make the right effort to carry out his will properly. Wrong Effort is usually harmful in its effects. It is only through Right Effort that things can be done as the doer wishes, or as they ought to be done. Right Effort must always be guided by Right Thought.
Constant let thine effort be
From delusion’s slavery,
By the Truth, thy mind to free,
Wisdom to attain.
Break the bonds of sense-desire
Holding thee in error’s mire,
And with all thine heart aspire
Purity to know.
Strive the ego to deny,
Let all selfish cravings die,
To all beings low and high
Love and kindness show.
Never let thine effort cease
Till in ultimate release
And in Buddha’s perfect peace
Thou hast reached thy goal.
-A. R. Zorn.
What meaning does Right Effort have for you?
How many sub-divisions are there to Right Effort? What are they?
What must we use in order that we may put our good ideas and intentions in practice?
When is the best time for us to put forth Right Effort? Yesterday or tomorrow or today?
What is the main cause of wrong efforts?
A motor car cannot run without petrol. We cannot have happy, successful lives if we do not use…?
If a boy wishes to learn to swim, can he learn by sitting on the beach and looking at the water? What must he do?
Is Right Understanding of much value if it is not coupled with Right Effort?
What do we call people who do not like to make effort?
How far can a bird fly with one wing? How much value do the other seven points of the Noble Path have if Right Effort is missing? Is it like trying to fly with one wing?
Typing for Quang Duc Homepage in Melbourne, Australia:
As a child, my mother Enid often said to me, “There is no such thing as a silly question,” and then would add, “unless.” This latter word was left hanging, and I eventually realised that it was up to me to learn the depth of its meaning.
At the same time that Enid was planting seeds for reflection, my first spiritual teacher, Ven. Lama Senge Tashi, encouraged me to cultivate more skilful thoughts, speech and actions. Sometimes I would try to verbally assert “I” or “Me,” and Lama would respond with, “Who is speaking?” or “Who is asking?”
During the Covid-19 pandemic a dharma sister passed from this life. Her name was Robyn. Although she did not call herself a Buddhist, nevertheless, Robyn had a special connection with the deity Medicine Buddha.
Over the six years that I worked with her, in my role as a hospital chaplain, Robyn frequently asked me to chant the mantra of Medicine Buddha and guide her through the visualisation. During her many stays in hospital, this particular practice brought comfort to her while she was experiencing chronic pain, anxiety and fear of the unknown. The medications she took would sometimes cloud her memory, so I would guide her through the details of the visualisation and begin chanting:
Once, as I was about to hold a summer Dharma class on a beach, as the first students began to arrive for the session I picked up two rocks and carefully placed them, one on top of the other, on to a much larger rock base. Observing what I had just done, three students approached: a young married couple and their five year old son.
True Seeing (Ven. Shih Jingang) One day, while Little Pebble and his Master were walking through a garden, the old teacher stopped to look at a white rose in full bloom. He motioned for his young disciple to join him, and they both sat down near where the flower was growing.
‘Little Pebble,’ said the Master, ‘when you look at this object, tell me what you think about it.’
‘The flower is pretty,’ stated the boy. ‘I like it.’
‘’’Flower,” you say. “Pretty, like it,” you say,’ replied the Master, looking to see how his young disciple reacted. Then he added, ‘Mind creates names like flower, and thoughts of like and dislike, pretty and ugly. This mind is small and closed, but if you can see beyond it to the nature of mind, then all is vast like space, completely open to all things. In this state of awareness, there is neither a flower nor a non-flower. Understand?’
But the young disciple did not quite understand, so his Master continued, ‘Little one, come here each day,
One day, Little Pebble went to his teacher, and said, ‘Master, my friend’s dog Tiger died.’
The look on Little Pebble’s face told the old monk that he was troubled. ‘Little one, do you have any questions?’
‘Master, where did Tiger go?’
‘Where did you come from?’ asked the old monk.
‘From my mummy’s tummy.’
‘And where did Mummy come from?’
Little Pebble couldn’t think of an answer.
The Master regarded his young disciple for a moment, then said, ‘Remember, when you made shapes with mud and named them Mummy, Daddy, Master?’
“Calling forth the Great Compassion, we are one with our True Nature; that which is directly Buddha, also indirectly Buddha. Oneness with the Triple Treasure, endless, joyous, perfect being. Morning thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin, evening thought is Kuan-Shih-Yin. All present thoughts arise from Mind, no thought exists apart from Mind.”
These are the words of the Ten Verse Life-Prolonging Kuan-Yin Sutra. Who is reciting them?
A few blocks away, an old man is crying out for help and someone hears. He is a brother, sister, father, mother from a previous life. A phone is picked up and then there are footsteps running towards the sound, “Help me! Help...” Someone sees the old man sitting on the top step, near the front door of his house.
No past, no present, no future. All created things arise and pass away. All names and labels dissolve. You can observe this in meditation practice and, in experiencing impermanence in life and so-called death.
At the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra, it is said that, this is how we should view our conditioned existence: as a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
Today I sit alone in a house. The government of the country in which I live has requested that I stay here in isolation for the health and safety of the community both here and abroad. Countless others are doing the same thing, except that some call it a forced lock down, or an obstacle to their free movement. I see this as an opportunity to practice.
The Buddha taught that the suffering connected with birth, sickness, old age and death is a fact of life for sentient beings in Samsara. But so is the possibility of transcendence from Samsaric suffering.
So, for a practitioner, the question is not just “Why?” but also “How?” Why do I/we suffer and, how do I/we overcome suffering? The answer to the former is found in intuitively recognizing (the 3 Poisons): harmful habits of attachment, anger and ignorance; and the answer to the latter lies in resolving to study and practice the Noble Eightfold Path (the antidote) and, fully realizing Buddhahood for the benefit of a
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has given many millions of people worldwide time to reflect on their lives and habits of thought, speech and action.
I know quite a few who have found a refuge of peace in their gardens. Cultivating, planting seeds, adding water and nutrients all help in maintaining a healthy garden. They are also a necessary part in taking care of our bodies. But what about the mind? Generosity, ethics, loving-kindness, compassion, meditative concentration and wisdom are the food for our inner spiritual garden. Without them there is no harvest, no fruit of Awakening, Buddhahood.
As a child my parents encouraged questions, as did my Heart Lama. However, the latter person gave me two questions to ask before speaking: “will what I am wanting to say, and the way I say it, be helpful or harmful to myself/others? Also, does the question come from ‘I don’t know’ (beginner’s mind), or from a place of judgement and opinions?” The aim was/is to cultivate the mind to be like an empty vessel, not one filled to the brim and overflowing where nothing new can enter.