Dhammapada Verse 274

Verse: “This is the Noble Path, which leads to freedom from delusion”



“This is the Noble Path, which leads to freedom from delusion”.

A group of monks were once discussing the state of the paths leading to the monastery. Maybe they were harbouring plans to improve them, hoping such action would add to their comfort. Overhearing them, the Buddha pointed out that these were not the paths they should be concerned about. He reminded them that the only path which freed from suffering was the Noble Eightfold Path. 

“This is the Noble Path…”

It is described as Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Awareness and Right Meditation.  Each step is prefixed with the word ‘Right’ (samma) meaning ‘I-less’. Each step expresses life awakened from the delusion of ‘I’ and all its suffering. Each step is rather like the petal of a painted flower forming a hopscotch on a children’s playground. In order to jump from one petal to another they need to be seen clearly. In the same way the unclouded seeing of Right View is necessary to fulfil each step of the Noble Eightfold Path. 

After the Buddha’s enlightenment, he met a man who was very curious to know why the Buddha appeared to be so different to anyone had ever encountered before. He asked, "Who are you? Are you a god?" The Buddha said "No". "Are you a wizard or magician?" The Buddha assured him he wasn't. "Well, are you a celestial being?” The Buddha denied it. Puzzled, the man asked "What are you then?" The Buddha smiled and answered "I am awake”.

“… which leads to freedom from delusion”.

Usually, we are not awake. We are distracted by the delusion of ‘I’. The Buddha said, "Where there is a perception, there is deception". We are deceived because the delusion of ‘I’ acts as a barrier to reality. We are full of opinions, prejudices, judgements and plans. These, together with the sum total of past intentional actions, make up ‘my view’. All these thoughts are driven by what the Buddha called the ‘fires’ - desire, aversion and delusion. When my plans and desires are thwarted, either anger or anxiety arises. We are unable to see straight. When reality is obscured, disharmony and ill-feeing flourish causing suffering for all.

In Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, such delusion, symbolised by a ‘love juice’, abounds. Oberon, the King of the Fairies, quarrels with Titania, the Queen, over her adopted changeling child. Oberon orders the mischievous sprite Puck to extract ‘love juice’ from a flower. The love juice causes an instant falling in love with the first person encountered after waking. Whilst Titania sleeps, Oberon pours the love juice onto her eyelids. Meanwhile Puck places the head of an ass on a weaver’s head. When Titania wakes, she immediately falls in love with what she perceives as an ass. The love juice continues to wreak havoc. The fidelity of two pairs of courting couples is compromised. Quarrels break out. Oberon decides to take charge. He commands Puck to throw a thick fog over all the characters. They fall into a deep slumber. He applies a magic potion to their eyelids. On awakening they recognise their true loves. Peace is restored.

Undertaking the Zen training is rather like receiving the magic potion. There is really only one instruction which we hear over and over again.

“Give yourself wholeheartedly into whatever is occurring be it emotion, action or situation”. This is following the Noble Eightfold Path. Then the Right View of choiceless awareness opens. Then, similiarily as the characters in the story are reunited, there is at-one-ment with the whole world. There is no separation.

Occasionally when we are estranged from such communion, a helping hand appears. This occurred whilst travelling on a bus in order to visit my husband in hospital. It was during the second wave of covid. Hospital visits were by strict appointment and were only allowed for an hour. The bus was very late. Thoughts sprang up concerning whether I’d be allowed onto the ward and whether my husband would be worrying. I looked out of the window. All thoughts emptied out as the sun suddenly broke through the clouds. The rest of the journey was spent giving myself into just sitting on the bus. On arriving very late at the hospital, I was allowed into the ward. My husband was sleeping peacefully. Sitting, waiting for him to wake up, gratitude arose.

Giving myself wholeheartedly into Kinhin (walking meditation), with an elderly friend in his garden there was at-one-ment with the birds singing, the planes roaring, the smell of the newly mown grass and the hardness of the tiled path. ‘I’ was made up of thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow. Whether sitting on a bus or walking in the garden, when wholeheartedly sitting or walking ‘I’ and ‘time’ disappear. There is just ‘now’. Then Right View flows together with all the steps of the Noble Path.

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