Fundamental Teachings of Buddhism: Right Action

Last week, we began our eight-part series of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism: the Four Noble Truths. The first being that every human life includes suffering. Distinct from pain, suffering is optional. The second Noble Truth essentially says that we can notice our suffering and how we create our own suffering through our thoughts and actions. The Third Noble Truth reminds us that there is a way out of our suffering, all is not lost. And the Fourth Noble Truth gives us a sort of “prescription” of how to prevent or mitigate our suffering through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. 

As a reminder, when we speak about the Fundamental Teachings of Buddhism and use the word “right,” we are not referring to right and wrong as if there is only one way to go about these practices. Instead, we are using the term “right” as a framework within which to conduct ourselves. There is no endpoint, no “arriving” at a certain destination or any achievement, nothing to aspire to. These are simply practices to incorporate into your life with mindfulness.

 Last week, we explored Right Speech. None of the components of the Noble Eightfold Path are in any sort of linear order. Instead, as you will come to realize as we move forward in these teachings, each one becomes naturally incorporated into the other. 

Second in our series of the Fundamental Teachings of Buddhism, Right Action aims at promoting moral, honorable, and peaceful conduct. It suggests that we abstain from destroying life, from stealing, from dishonest dealings, from illegitimate sexual relationships and that we should help others lead a peaceful and honorable life. 

Right action typically refers to right action of the body. It is the practice of touching love and preventing harm, the practice of nonviolence toward ourselves and others. 

As with all eight, the basis of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism is to do everything with mindfulness.

Here are a few of the ways in which we can practice mindfulness in all of our actions:

  • Reverence for life:  commit to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. Walk the path determined not to kill, let others kill, nor support any act of killing in the world, in your thinking and in your way of life.
  • Commit to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants and minerals.
  • Practice generosity by sharing your time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. 
  • Be determined not to steal or possess anything that should belong to others. 
  • Prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on earth. 
  • Live in ways that bring justice and well-being in society. 
  • Not engage in a sexual relationship without love and a long-term commitment. Protect children from sexual abuse and prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. 
  • Practice Mindful Consumption: Ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society.
  • Be determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicants or ingest foods or other items that contain toxins such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations.
  • Bring into our body and mind only the kinds of food that are safe and healthy. Practice mindful eating, mindful drinking.

As a reminder, these are practices, nothing more. They give us a framework within which to bring mindfulness to our everyday actions and encounters. These are practices you can use throughout your entire life.

This is also why your spiritual journey never ends.