THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND MARTIAL ART & THE BUDDHIST EIGHTFOLD PATH
True Martial arts is a way of life and a lifelong journey of self-development and discovery. Taekwon is the physical aspect and kicking and punching. “Do” is the spiritual way of life every martial artist should strive to study and improve. Only by combining the two elements together can you enjoy physical, mental and spiritual improvement. If you don't practise Do, the whole process is meaningless.
Studying “Do” without doubt is the most important element of the martial arts. In the Western world “Do” is impossible to translate but central in Asian culture. In basic terms Do is the natural way and harmonious energy of all living things. Eg Day turns to night, seasons change, life and death. As humans we should try and follow the natural way to bring harmony, understanding and contentment to our lives.
Centuries ago Buddhism massively influenced many martial arts. In ancient Japan, Zen had a major impact on Samurai warriors, and it and was widely adopted as their official religion. Essentially Buddhism and martial arts have the same spirit and same essence. To live a simple life, to live in harmony with other and to show compassion and understanding to all.
These teachings are timeless, philosophical yet practical ways of living life correctly. By following the Eightfold Path, one can live a life full of compassion, virtue and thus achieve Enlightenment.
To carry out the 8 fold path it is essential to understand the 3 basic elements of Buddhist practice—moral conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom.
3 BASIC ELEMENTS TO CONSTANTLY WORK ON.
Having a strong moral character, standing up for your beliefs and doing the right thing is key to being a beautiful person. Having compassion and universal love for all living things needs to be practised. According to Buddhism, for a human to be near perfect there are two qualities that he should develop equally: compassion on one side, and wisdom on the other. Here compassion represents love, charity, kindness, tolerance, and such noble qualities on the emotional side, or qualities of the heart, while wisdom would stand for the intellectual side or the qualities of the mind. If one develops only the emotional, neglecting the intellectual, one may become a good-hearted fool; while to develop only the intellectual side [and] neglecting the emotional may turn one into a hard-hearted intellect without feeling for others. Therefore, to be balanced one has to develop both equally.
Explanation of The Eightfold Path
1. Right View
2. Right Intention
3. Right Action
4. Right Speech
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Meditation
The Right View means to see life how it is, not your view of how it is. But how do we attain this type of wisdom? It is to understand that nothing in life is permanent and that you as human beings change every second of every day and your relationships and life around you changes every second of every day. It is to make you question everything and not follow blindly. It is to understand that there are many views to every scenario and problem and that other peoples views should be respected and there is no such thing as a RIGHT view. When you say I'm right, it indicates the other person is wrong. No one is right or wrong they are merely views that will almost certainly change. To take a certain viewpoint means that you close your mind off to other possibilities, it's like being frozen in time. As humans we should we open minded, hear all sides and change our thoughts and views often. This is truly seeing what is in front of us and not just what we want to see.
Once we hold a view or opinion it isn't long before our views clash with other people and people file into their separate camps and harmony and compassion goes out the window. Respect everyone is entitled to a view and an opinion, be willing to listen to all sides and make your own mind up to what action to take, if any. Right view simply means to see reality for what it is. This is the first step.
How do we practise Right View?
By listening to others and acknowledging there are lots of other viewpoints. Hear the other sides of the story before taking action and making decisions.
Respecting everyone's opinion even if you don't agree.
By questioning our own thoughts and actions. Why have we done that or said that?
See everyone regardless of age, gender, ability, how much money they have, as equals.
Being aware of other people's feelings as well as our own. Everything we do has an impact on someone else. We need to be conscious of this.
RIGHT INTENTION/RIGHT THOUGHT
Out thoughts shape our actions. If your thoughts are dark or selfish or of hatred and violence this will most definitely lead to anxiety, pain and inner turmoil. Thoughts of love, others and compassion will lead to positive actions. We need to embody mindfulness and less of greed, delusion and desire.
It's important to remember that you are in control of your thoughts not the other way around. If you find your thoughts are not of positive nature you have to stop them and refocus. We do this by breathing control and meditation. Meditation massively helps mental health and is extremely underrated by the western world.
If dark or bad thoughts persist, it is a sign of strength not weakness to talk to someone you trust and tell them how you are feeling. Sharing problems and talking to someone you trust lifts a huge weight, with that and meditation you will be able to take control of your thoughts. Don't think that this means even Buddhist monks don't get bad thoughts, they do, however they don't hold onto them, they let them come and pass and replace them with positive ones that will help people. This only comes with practise. Right thought leads to wisdom.
How can we practise right thought?
Surround ourselves with positive, inspirational, like minded people. If you surround yourself with people kinder than you, more compassionate than you, wiser than you, this is the correct way. Be careful when picking who your friends are.
Always look for the positive even in the worst times.
Remember there is always someone worse off than you.
Appreciate every second of life and acknowledge you have everything you need right here, right now. You need nothing more.
Be generous. No-one ever became poor by giving. Help as many people as often as you can. Be helping others you will massively help yourself.
Never help people because they pay you. Help because you want to.
Right Action means not engaging in evil acts such as killing and hurting living beings, either physically or emotionally. It means we shouldn't steal, be unfaithful to partners or friends, and should refrain from taking drugs and alcohol. If all of our acts are based on love and kindness we will not regret our actions. We need to show compassion and care towards others.
This element of the path for most people is where they can improve massively as human beings. The basics of right speech are being honest at all times and not telling lies, to speak at the right time and not interrupt without good reason, to speak only if your words help others. This means that we should shun slander, gossip, argumentative speech, false witness to another and words spoken in spite. We should never spread rumours and try to avoid nagging.
You should avoid blunt, rude, impolite and aggressive language and avoid cursing if you don't know your audience. Avoid backbiting, talk that may bring hatred or disharmony among people. When you use only right speech you naturally have to speak the truth and be trustworthy. You are friendly, pleasant, gentle, meaningful and useful.
Careless speech affects relationships and opportunities. Once you say something it can never be taken back so cautious must be observed before your mouth opens.
In this day and age of social media right speech has never been thought of less. People pour their most private moments out in public, they use abusive unnecessary language and can be hurtful and unkind. Remember right speech whether in public or online. It's the same thing. Your speech represents you.
How can you can practise right speech?
- If provoked think before you speak.
Try not to get into arguments, if you do be calm and don't raise your voice. It will calm the situation down a lot faster.
On social media don't use crude or abusive language. Don't change who you are just because you are behind a screen.
Be kind to everyone with your words. If you can't be kind don't speak.
Right Livelihood means you should earn a living respectfully and not do anything that would harm others or animals. You shouldn't lie or cheat to make money. You shouldn't be lavish with spending your money on fancy material things. Living a simple life below your means is important for not getting into debt which can cause stress and anxiety.
There is nothing wrong with making money respectfully as it allows you be more generous with those that need it. Never ever choose money over relationships, friends, family or life. Trying to keep hold of money creates jealousy, power and egos. All of which are destructive in nature and does not fit in with right thought.
Right effort means to acknowledge everything worthwhile in life comes because of hard work and constant effort. If you want to achieve something you must concentrate and not stop until you reach your goal. This goes hand in hand with right thought and your mental state. Never give up whatever comes your way. Show determination, grit and spirit to achieve your goal. If you get knocked down, brush yourself off, get up and try again.
Mindfulness means being aware of the exact moment you are living in, not dwelling in the past or the future. It also means being mindful of others.
Mindfulness teaches us to live in the present. To work when work is needed, to rest when we are tired and to avoid doing so many things at the same time. It means living fully in each moment that is given to us.
How do you do this? Have you ever been on a beach but instead of embracing it’s beauty, you take out your phone and take a picture. Or have you ever had dinner but you scroll on you phone instead of talking to the people around you. This is where mindfulness comes in. It means you have to live life IN THE NOW.
This is one of the most useful teachings of The Buddha in the present day when we are constantly pushed to multitask and the use of technology.
How can we be more mindful?
Stop using technology as much in your spare time, especially before bed.
Engage in conversation with others and ask questions about their life and how they are.
Don't presume people will be here tomorrow. Life is fleeting and every moment is precious. Make happy memories with people you love.
Right Meditation or Concentration is the ability to let the mind focus on one thing, normally your breath. Since the world is full of things that we regard, our minds race all the time. We fail to focus. By learning to meditate, we learn to focus.
It is said that the busier you are the more you should meditate. Why? Because meditation is the cure to stress, suffering, anger, hate and all that is churning in our hearts and mind. When we meditate, we find peace. If the mind is at peace, you will be able to live a life of goodness and virtue.