The Eight-Fold Way: Actions

So far I’ve discussed the questions I associate with True Awareness, True Understanding and True Speech.

In this post I want to talk about True Action and True Vocation.

Traditionally, both of these have to do with an ethical foundation for life.

True action (also called right action) is most basically a keeping of the Buddhist “precepts”: not killing, not stealing, not misusing sex, not lying, not abusing intoxicants.

Note that the precepts are not a list of commandments. They are intended to describe how one would live naturally, the actions one would take, if one were sufficiently self-aware (which includes being aware that there’s no boundary between self and universe). In this view, the most basic state of humanity is harmony and compassion.

True vocation (also called right livelihood) is based on the ethical principle of non-exploitation and is considered the basis of an ideal society. To quote the well-known Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, “Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living.”

My questions attempt to zero in on the mundane:

True Action – What am I putting off?

I know. There are days when the better question would be, “What am I not putting off?” Still, on any given occasion there’s going to be something in particular that occurs to you when you ask this question. Note it. Let it go. Act on it or not, as you choose.

You’re reading this blog post because my most recent answer to the question was…this blog post.

True Vocation – What am I not doing well?

This is a tough one, because none of us likes to admit that there’s anything we don’t do well or at least well enough. It’s the latter that is most likely to come up at the moment of asking this question: what we’re not doing well enough. That’s what we don’t like to see and that’s why it will sneak in here when you’re not on guard.

It’s the repetition that puts you off guard, by the way, the reason the questions work. If you ask them every day or on whatever regular schedule you choose, they become—obviously—repetitious. Thus boring. Thus not threatening.

And then here comes an answer.

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