The Eight Awarenesses: A List for Enlightenment

by Bob Schwartz

Handy lists of ways to think and behave are found in every tradition. Buddhism has plenty, including the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

The Eight Awarenesses, also known as the Eight Realizations or Eight Awakenings, comprise an effective and easy to understand list. The list is notable for being part of the Buddha’s final teaching in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, spoken before his death. It was also the subject of the final writing by Dogen Zenji, founder of the Soto Zen tradition, before his death.

The Eight Awarenesses

1. Having few desires

2. Knowing how to be satisfied

3. Enjoying serenity and tranquility

4. Exerting meticulous effort

5. Not forgetting right thought

6. Practicing samadhi [one-pointed attention]

7. Cultivating wisdom

8. Avoiding idle talk

“The Awarenesses are indeed the awarenesses of the enlightened person. A buddha, finding no separation between herself and other beings, very naturally acts in this way. Feeling no separation from others, a buddha naturally has few desires. Feeling no separation from others, from our surroundings, from what is happening right now, of course we can’t help but be satisfied, enjoying the serenity of life as it is. When we know the oneness of ourselves and others, effort becomes right effort, our activity becomes the embodiment of wisdom, and no talk is idle talk.”
Taizan Maezumi Roshi, The Hazy Moon of Enlightenment

I pay particular attention to avoiding idle talk (more successfully sometimes than others), given how much I talk and write, and given how much of it is easily categorized as idle.

In the Qu’ran, this is one of the descriptions of paradise:

They shall hear no idle talk therein, but only “Peace!” (19:62)

 

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