Wisdom: “… Irrigators channel waters; fletchers straighten arrows; carpenters bend wood; the wise master themselves …” ~ Buddha

buddha shukman

Indeed, Buddha is reminding us about what matters the most in our life pursuits … something that is also the essence of perennial wisdom.

Knowing “what matters most” is the first step … but the key question that naturally arises is: how do we integrate it in our everyday life? how do we “practice,” or live by, or embody, this essence of perennial wisdom?

‘Course, Stillness Speaks purpose is to answer these questions 🙂 … and recently, we have been exploring – very briefly – Buddha’s explicit teachings that address this question: Noble Eightfold Path.

Walpola Sri Rahula – a Sri Lankan monk, who was the author of What the Buddha Taught and a professor at Northwestern University, has this to say about this path: “Practically the whole teaching of the Buddha, to which he devoted himself during 45 years, deals in some way or other with this path. He explained it in different ways and in different words to different people, according to the stage of their development and their capacity to understand and follow him. But the essence of those many thousand discourses scattered in the Buddhist scriptures is found in the noble eightfold path.”

He goes on to say that the three essential elements of Buddhist practice are: ethical or moral conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom. And, in undertaking the eight steps of the Noble Path, one is promoting and perfecting these three elements.

We covered ethical conduct in Right Livelihood & Ethical Conduct and Right Action, Right Speech … & Patience … then mental discipline in Right Effort, Mindfulness & Concentration.

Today, we focus on the third, and final, element: wisdom … which is about Right View (also known as Right Understanding) and Right Orientation (also known as Right Thought or Right Intention, Right Aspiration, or Right Motivation) …

And as we’ve done in the past posts of this series, we also consider the unknown sourced quote (“… let us vow to …. not create, and/or add-to, ill-will … be an ongoing source of harmlessness … and live this vow to develop/deepen my humility … which serves me well under all circumstances …” ) to see if it encapsulates the essence of these two paths … and even more importantly, what we’ve been exploring about this quote is this: if it encapsulates the eightfold path then practicing this singular quote means we are practicing the eightfold path!

Note: the above unknown quote is also referred to as a “gem” in this series.

Wisdom: Right View: Embarking on the Noble Eightfold Path

“… Right View is not so far away …” ~ Henry Shukman

beach sunset wisdom right view shukman

In his podcast episode (from Mountain Cloud Zen Center), Henry Shukman starts his exploration of the Noble Eightfold Path with Right View and asserts that “… By developing an awareness of the roots of wholesomeness and unwholesomeness, we may orient ourselves toward proper conduct, skillful practice, and ultimately the cessation of suffering. The modern Zen practitioner may cultivate this sort of understanding by dropping any agenda and engaging in activities purely for the sake of doing them, rather than as a means to an end. …”

Awareness of wholesomeness and unwholesomeness is a natural outcome of “… not creating, and/or adding-to, ill-will …” … plus being “…  an ongoing source of harmlessness …” also, naturally develops such awareness

So, by integrating this gem (i.e., the “ill-will/harmlessness” quote) in our daily life we are naturally practicing Right View!

Right Orientation: Gathering in to a Single Point

“… There isn’t any phenomenon at all that isn’t teaching or preaching the Dharma …” ~ Henry Shukman

lake mountain wisdom right orientation shukman

In his podcast episode (from Mountain Cloud Zen Center), Henry Shukman says “… Buddha taught that in order to cultivate Right Orientation, which is the second step on the Noble Eightfold Path, one must start with an intention toward renunciation, not generating any ill-will, and being a source of harmlessness. By doing so, our sense of humility deepens and we learn to let go of identification with the self. We begin to discover the Dharma in all phenomena through the practice of sitting with single-pointed awareness …”

Turns out this second “fold” is the gem we’ve been exploring in this series. Maybe this is where this unknown quote originally came from? … 🙂 .. so, naturally in practicing the unknown gem we are practicing Right Orientation.

Henry digs deeper, through another episode, and posits that with the Right Orientation, we can expand altruism …

Expanding Altruism

“… I want to devote my life to the wellbeing of the world …” ~ Henry Shukman

world water altruism shukman

In his podcast episode (from Mountain Cloud Zen Center), Henry Shukman says “… Do we have free will to act morally, or is our behavior merely a function of our social conditioning? We find that if we orient our behavior correctly, in accordance with the second step in the Noble Eightfold Path, our practice gets strengthened by the sense of wellbeing that our actions bring about in the world. We discover the great source of generosity that is one of the main principles of the Dharma. …”

Indeed, orienting our behavior correctly is an essential prerequisite to “… neither create nor add to ill-will …” … and the same “orientation” is required to consciously ensure that one is being a “… source of harmlessness”

So, when we integrate this gem in our daily life we are naturally orienting our behavior correctly and consequently Expanding Altruism in the world.

From our brief exploration in this series, it appears that living by this simple and profound quote we are naturally living by Buddha’s key teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path!

So, consciously practice “… let us vow to …. not create, and/or add-to, ill-will … be an ongoing source of harmlessness … and live this vow to develop/deepen my humility … which serves me well under all circumstances …”  … and see what unfolds!

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As we’ve done since the COVID crisis began … we want to honor and highlight the “heroes” that continue to ensure our health and safety in the midst of the pandemic: Go Fund Me has organized various campaigns targeted towards the COVID-19 relief efforts. All of these campaigns are worthy of our attention … but for now we want to highlight TWO critical ones that we are supporting personally and also as Stillness Speaks (through donations):

We are all facing financial challenges but IF your situation allows you to donate and help then …

… please visit  Frontline Responders Fund’s Go Fund Me page … and help deliver crucial supplies to these frontline responders …

… and/or visit  America’s Food Fund Go Fund Me page and help feed the neighbors in need.

And, we again, express our deepest gratitude to a) the COVID-19 Frontline Responders (all the healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, hospital/medical-services staff – firefighters, law enforcement, volunteers, and any/all the people involved in keeping the “system-at-large” functioning for ALL of us) … and b) Go Fund Me for organizing America’s Food Fund to feed the needy.


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May you continue to live a life of neither creating nor adding-to any ill-will … and …

May you be a source of harmlessness in your life’s daily rhythm … and in all your interactions with others … and …

May you remain safe and healthy as you navigate these troubling times.


Opening Buddha quote from Real Buddha Quotes, Dhammapada, Verse 80.
Quote re ill-will and harmlessness: a Zen paraphrased quote – source unknown.
All text re “… three essential elements of Buddhist practice—moral conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom…” 
is based on The Noble Eightfold Path by Walpola Sri Rahula (Tricycle)
Images: (edited and logo added): Featured and 1) Big Buddha by amanalang, 2) Lone man on beach at sunset, Double Six beach, Bali, Indonesia by Komar, 3) Beautiful landscape with lake and mountains by Imaginechina-Tuchong, 4) World ocean water by drizzuti. All purchased from depositphotos, for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post).


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