Sunday, 16 July 2017

Information Vs. Transformation

The modern age is the age of information technology. Obviously, there is no shortage of information on each and every field that we want to look into. For instance, if one is eager to learn about ‘self help techniques’, they can gather information pertaining to the subject of a wide array of sources. Can simply gathering information change one’s life? Of course not. Taking action is more important than collecting information.
These days Facebook has become a great source of information. People post, like, and share statuses, photos, and videos enthusiastically and write beautiful comments too. They can even give nice talks and present their arguments on certain topics if circumstances call for it. The other day, I saw the Buddha’s Eightfold Path on Facebook, which made me wonder, “Do we really understand this path and implement it in our life?”
The Buddha had not wanted people to simply read his Eightfold Path and share it with others. The word ‘path’ itself indicates that we must walk on this if it is useful for us. Gautam Buddha was pretty aware of the danger of ‘blind faith’ so he warned even his most faithful disciples not to believe everything he said. He emphasised the importance for each person to test and examine the authenticity of his teaching through their personal life experiences, not through mere beliefs.
Let’s analyse the Eightfold Path briefly. The term ‘Right understanding’ suggests to us that we must understand the fact that all worldly things are ‘impermanent’ and these impermanent things bring us sufferings. The understanding of the impermanent nature of world should lead one to cultivate ‘Right thought.’ This thought enables him to let go of the things that he has been holding on to unnecessarily. It is important to choose right and positive thoughts like ‘not to hate others’ and ‘not to hurt them’.
Take ‘Right action.’ Right actions always direct to the welfare of oneself as well as others’. Another characteristic of the Eightfold Path is ‘Right speech.’ We should use nice words so that they will never hurt ourselves and others. ‘Right livelihood’ teaches us to respect all living beings equally regardless of whether they are people or animals.
Even if one follows ‘Right livelihood’ in the lack of ‘Right mindfulness’ they can be forgetful and lose their temper easily. Mindfulness practice requires consistent meditation to be fully integrated into daily life. It is not easy to change our conditioned habitual patterns, for example, to turn to the Eightfold Path overnight. For this we must employ ‘Right effort’ continuously. Finally, with ‘Right concentration’ we can sort out the priorities in our lives and will not waste time on trivial things.
To master the Eightfold Path is a lifelong commitment, not an occasional pastime or fashion. With our incessant practice, however, it is possible that we can incorporate it in our life and transform ourselves.  There are a thousand and one pieces of information like the Buddha’s ‘Eightfold Path’ that every one of us knows in words. Until and unless we internalise, practise and make them parts of our lives going into a level deeper down than the level of ‘information’ we will never reach the level of ‘transformation.’ Without transformation our learning will be incomplete no matter how much information we gather.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, June 16, 2017 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

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I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).