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Hey, guys, way before BuzzFeed, the Buddha was all about creating testicles, the seven factors of enlightenment, the three jewels, the eight worldly wins, I could go on.
He created a lot of lists. Obviously, the Buddha was not using lists as click bait. He was using them as teaching tools, ways to understand how the mind works and how we can work with the mind.
The first and many believe most important list promulgated by the Buddha was the four Noble Truths. And today we're going to take a stroll through this list with Philip Murfitt. He's a dude with a very interesting resume. He's a deep Dharma teacher who studied in the Tai Forest tradition for years and then served as the coach guiding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. But he's also a former editor of Esquire magazine who has run workshops and done one on one counseling on the subject of personal life changes and transitions.
As I mentioned on the last episode, we're dedicating this entire week of episodes to the subject of managing change in a chaotic world. On Monday, we spoke with Bruce Feiler, who takes a more journalistic approach to the subject. Today, it's a Buddhist approach. Not only does Philip walk us through the ways in which the four noble truths can help us manage change, but he also layers in another list, a kind of listicle within a listicle. Don't worry, though.
It's not confusing. It's not complicated. It's incredibly interesting. So interesting, in fact, that Philip actually wrote a whole book about the combination of these two lists called Dancing with Life. So here we go with Philip Moffett. Phillip, great to meet you. Thanks for doing this. Thank you for inviting me. So you come at this moment from a variety of really interesting standpoints. One is. You've been doing this one on one coaching, helping people through changes and transitions in their life, and the other is you for several decades been studying and practicing and teaching the Dharma.
So just a general question. What's on your mind as you watch the world's. Endure these various earthquakes in our lives, first of all, like most of us. My heart goes out to the people who are on the edge of the suffering, those who have to carry the largest burden of the suffering. And I think it's important that we all acknowledge that there's a disproportionate allocation as to who who has the most experience, the suffering. And it can give us a perspective for our own disquiet, whatever that may be, that any given person is having during this time.
So really an acknowledgement of that. And then the thing that I guess most I've been dismayed by is the reactive mind states. We would call them, from a Buddhist perspective, reactive mind state around the uncertainty. That is present in so many different aspects right now and live freely across the globe and that reactive mind state is leading to such delusion again from the perspective of their being, that one of the three characteristics of that, that this kind of that can come of the delusion that comes the hundreds of delusion showing up because of the way our minds are put together so that this reactive mind state leads to a lot of unnecessary.
Kind of suffering, both in a practical way of implementing policies and in a internal way of our getting disoriented and losing any sense of a ground where our feelings can be contained and related to with wisdom and compassion. So on an individual level. Your sense is. That many of us and I'm just picking up on your last point, many of us get stuck in our fear. Or aversion or greed or whatever that's coming up in the face of all the tumult around us and as a consequence, make.
Bad decisions that can cascade out in pretty profound ways, right, so we can make bad decisions for ourselves, we can be reactive to others in ways that cause harm. Just think of the mask wars. Who would imagine that in our society, people would literally cause physical harm to one another over whether or not someone is wearing a mask for their own sense of safety? We can cause harm to others in all sorts of ways, and then we can add to the general feeling of unease that exacerbates everything that amps up.
Morris, our producer, in consultation with you and me, had the thought that one way to sort of get at some of these larger issues would be to go through the foundational.
Listicle of the Buddha, the four noble truths and you know, I think we've been doing this show for four years. I don't know that we've ever taken a detailed stroll through the four noble truths, which I now realize is kind of a form of malpractice on my part.
So you have a really interesting way of talking about this list from the Buddha that I wonder before we dive into your dissection of the list, maybe you could just give us some overview on on how and where from a historical standpoint, the Buddha is said to have promulgated this list.
Well, soon after the Buddha's enlightenment, first he spent time just dwelling in the liberated feeling. And then it dawned on him, according to the story, that this is worthy of sharing the four noble truths. These understandings were worthy of sharing. But then he asked what then who would understand it? And he was thinking about that. And he realized there are those people who have little dust in their eyes. It said little dust in their eyes, who would understand.
And so he walked for a few days to where the people he had been practicing with before he went off to practice on his own, these five companions he had. And he walked back and they saw him coming in a distance like, thank you. Who is the stranger that's got this bearing about them? This the bearing of having achieved this kind of liberation. And then they were amazed to discover it was their former practice companion. And so he sat down with them and told them the four noble truths.
And that's referred to as the first turning of the wheel, the beginning of Dharma and all of the different schools, the different yamas in Buddhism all agree that the four noble truths are the fundamentals teaching. They then have different ways of describing it and so forth and putting it in a different context. But that's just the fundamental teaching and that all the other teachings are really an elaboration of the four noble truths teaching. So let's go through the four noble truths and your take on them, especially with the we don't have to restrict ourselves to this, but let's keep in mind the emphasis on how to navigate change and transition, which is sort of a universal issue at this moment in human history.
Really is universal right now, and we're all going to be going through changes of our own making and then changes because the world has changed. Always in my own gratitude, I learned this particular teachings of the four noble truths from the venerable agents, Tomato, who've now lives in Thailand but for many years, was ahead of it. And the largest monastery in England, it was sitting in a Dharma Hall, having many times heard the teachings in the Four Noble Truths.
I've been so impressed with him as a teacher and he announced for these 10 days we're going to be studying the Four Noble Truth. And I go, oh, you know, at least he's a great teacher. But the four noble truths yet again. And I was amazed to hear these 12 insights of the four noble truths, which I never despite having gone through. I mean, at that point I'd probably practiced 15 years or so in the tradition.
I'd never heard them described in this way. And they're from the oldest of the terrible texts, the same in a car. And they take the form of truths as a practice rather than a philosophy or a description of reality alone. Each of the four noble truths is to be practiced, and there's three insights that are cultivated. And this is what brings onward leading in terms of having freedom from greed, hatred and delusion, greed, aversion, if you prefer that word, intuition.
So it's it's kind of a listicle within a listicle and it takes the Florida vultures out of the realm of philosophical and makes it really practical.
Yes. And it brings it into your life because you actually witness your own life. Your own life is teaching you the dharma because you're seeing it with Dharma eyes. Another way I describe that, that has had a big impact in our community as I ask people to cultivate being available to the Dharma or Dharma. Some people pronounce it. You know, you've got the two different pronunciations, Dharma and Dharma. So I ask people to be available to the Dharma.
And it has had a. A kind of startling impact because they had not so many people think of practicing as doing and being available is much more somewhat knowing and even more still being. So you're being available. You're not like figuring it out, but you're being mindful. You're using the mindfulness practice in such a way in your daily life. To see what is suffering and all suffering. It's interesting, huh? So I will say to people on retreats or working with small groups or whatever it may be, that the first thing to do is to be able to say, what is Dufka and what is not Doka?
So what is suffering and what is not suffering? That's the first thing is to recognize, oh, this is suffering because oftentimes, as the Buddha said, we often think that what is happiness is actually suffering and suffering is actually happiness. So to recognize in this moment, I am in some way participating in causing Doka to myself suffering or again, the suffering has a much wider use of that word than we use it in the English. It's unsatisfactory, it's distressful, it is negatively contributing, it's reducing, its flattening all of these different kinds of things.
Big, big implication about our basic attitude and motivation. So the first of these three things I'll tell people to do is to recognize this is suffering. So right now I'm experiencing suffering or the way I've gotten all tied about being right in relation to my spouse. This is suffering. I'm suffering, and I'm causing my spouse suffering here and now. It's not like some philosophy. It's here now and then to say, do I have any choice? That's the second part of this.
As a living, these four noble truths is do I have any choice? Because sometimes we're so determined we're right or we're so mad or we're so whatever that we can see, we don't have choice. And that alone is the beginning of an awakening. I don't want to live in a way that I don't have choice. I don't want to let my mind get into states where I don't have a choice. So that's the second part is I have choice.
And then the third is to say, and I choose, I will apologize. I will stop the argument. I will not continue on with these negative thoughts or confronting someone or speaking in politics in terms of hatred. No, I stop. And if I'm president, when someone else is doing it, I'll leave the room so that we start to have a living relationship with our practice rather than it being something we do over there. And then we live our life over here.
So that's that's the bit that as a backdrop then when you look at the first noble truth, where the first noble truth states that there is doka. And the way that's understood in the three Insight's is the Buddha is giving you a philosophical statement there. This is where you can use the old had the coconut to think about things. Well, is it true that there's suffering in my life or not? Do I know anybody whose life doesn't have suffering?
You think the way we Westerners like to think? So you examine that as a supposition. And that's that's probably true. There is there is stress. And then the second of the insights is that Dokka is to be known, it's to be penetrated, the instructions to fill the out so that you actually feel that, yes, this is Stuka. This attitude I'm carrying is Doka. And so forth, when I speak this way, this is Doka, I'm supporting these people that are doing this thing and this is Doka, the Stuka, and so that we have that recognition.
And then the third inside of the first noble truth is that I really do. Now Doka now I do know it by knowing it means that we know, we know to the degree that we can integrate it in our decision making about life.
So let me just see if I can recap a little bit. Just to set go all the way back, this is a four part list, the four Noble Truths, and under each part there are three insights, and that's the innovation from your teacher, John Sumita. So we've just done the first noble truth, which is life is suffering, which sounds quite. Pessimistic, but what the Buddha meant by that life is suffering is that one way to construe it is if given that everything's changing all the time, you are clinging to things that will not last.
You are going to suffer. And then the Soomro, your teacher is then saying there are three things you can do with this first noble truth. First is to remind me here.
No, it no it recognize it and then you feel it. And then on that basis you respond.
No it feel it respond.
So this again, the teachings come from the same that Kyle, the oldest of the terror and Buddhism texts. So it's so is the one who has built his whole teaching life around this venerable.
Gotcha. So that's not his innovation. I misspoke there.
It's his emphasis in the teaching based on the right access to things to say about the first noble truth is the Buddha was not saying that all of life suffering. He did not say that. In fact, for laypeople, there's places where he gives a long list of happiness, the kinds of happiness suka. It's called the kinds of suka that you can have in life. And one of those that he mentions is being debt free, by the way, which I thought was really funny.
So he is saying that life is bound with suffering, that there is suka and doka and they're bound together and you don't get one without the other. So that's the nature you will hear Buddhist teachers, particularly monastics, talk about the nature, understanding the nature of this realm. So this is the nature of this realm. It's pointing to the dual nature of our life. So being born, we can see is joyous. Then if we see that as joyous, then we can see old age, sickness and death is the doka.
That's why that is the fundamental teaching that's used to describe the nature of doka, because the kind of most easily understood by people. But every moment there's this interplay of Suke and Doka because everything is changing. There's three times and the cemetery in the Caia version describes three kinds of doka, the duke of emotional and physical pain. That's right. And then the doka, because everything is always changing, so you can never get it right and it stays.
You can't wash your hands once. So I've really got clean hands, I'm through with that. How many times right now are we all needing to wash our hands over and over again? You can't brush your teeth. Once my partner and I have the perfect relationship. We're so happy right now. But then there's going to come moments of unhappiness and everything changes. So that's the second kind of. And then the third kind of doka, as described, is a little more subtle, which is that because we are compounded, we're aggregated where bodies are made up of parts, being a human being is made up of parts.
It's perplexing to find a there there where there is a true self that is unchanging in our identity. And that, again, that's much more subtle, but that's unnerving to our ego, our executive functioning systems, because we want they are there. And so that's the third kind of doka. So just taking this to a really practical. Oh, current level here of. Our lives right now, how would we operationalize this first noble truth in the three subsequent insights in a moment where, I don't know, I see some news about the possibility of coronavirus reinfection or I see some news about another police shooting of an unarmed black man, or I'm locked up with my kids and they're driving me bonkers.
How could I really integrate this into my life on a momentary basis?
So the first noble truth is about recognition and then the second noble truth. It's more about responding to what you recognize. But we're going to stick here with the first noble truth you recognize. Oh, this is suffering. And in recognizing that it's the stress of it, the unsatisfactory nature of this, even while you love your kids, they're driving you bonkers, but you love your kids and you love your country and your country is is enabling something being horribly wrong now for hundreds of years to a whole segment of the population, you see and you feel the painfulness of that.
But rather than becoming identified with it as a kind of thing where it leads you to quit on yourself, turn to hatred, you don't take it personally in that way. The idea is that this is the nature of this realm, that this doka, these things that are unsatisfactory occur. It's the nature of the realm is, if I may, it's duality. This is the nature of the manifest world in which we live. This manifest universe, as far as we know, is everywhere made up of opposites.
It's a do around the Buddha called on the eight worldly winds of gain and loss, pain and pleasure, fame and ill repute, praise and blame. This is the nature of our world. And then when we understand that so it's not about us, it's about this is the nature of this and it's how we then get to relate to this. And so that would be the first level of it. And once we accept that it's impersonal, we see how we can in some way respond out of compassion, love, if you will, and out of wisdom so that we in so far as we have choice in our individual lives and in our roles, that we are not adding to the suffering that we realize.
I don't want to contribute more to this. If and so far as I have a choice, so knowing it. I'm going to just see if I can put it into the three inside, as you've just done, just to restate it, just to make sure that I've got it, because it's really interesting. I could see how I could apply it in my own life. So just something is happening that's clearly causing suffering for me and others. Something in the news, something in my family life.
And just to know this as suffering and that suffering is not unnatural. It's natural. It's the reality of this world in which we live. This realm is to use your term. The second is to feel it. And this is where meditation can become useful to sit and actually become familiar with what this feels like in your body and in your mind.
And the third is to once you've taken the beat, to feel the thing, to respond wisely instead of reacting blindly correct.
Based on your values. And again, just to say that part of the world, part of this experience in this realm is the doka. And there's also much suka. I mean, seeing nature and its beauty is suka. Being out here in the fires in California, as I am right now, is Doka. That nature that's so beautiful, where we want to live out in nature, being surrounded by nature, we don't get one without the other.
If you see what I mean, the duality of Duke and Sokar, what's pleasant and unpleasant, it's referred to in the four foundations of mindfulness. This is the second of the four foundations of mindfulness, the existence of pleasant and unpleasant and in a worldly way. There's a second aspect of that foundation of mindfulness which is unworldly, pleasant and unpleasant. So we're seeing this dance that's called the buttocks with life for that reason. See, we're in this dance of life with the ever changing.
It's always changing of pleasant and unpleasant. And so we're not going to stop that change, but we can dance with it in a more wise way. When I say wise, not as we should, but like what actually brings well-being to us. And once once we in that second noble truth then describes why it is that we have an unwise relationship to life without practice, without exploration. Much more of my conversation with Philip Moffit right after this. Staying informed has never been more important, information is coming at us faster than ever.
So how do you make sense of it all? Start here. Hey, I'm Brad Noki from ABC News. And every weekday we will break down the latest headlines in just 20 minutes. Straightforward reporting, dynamic interviews and analysis from experts you can trust. Always credible, always solid. Start here from ABC News 20 minutes every weekday on your smart speaker or your favorite podcast app. Before we get to the second noble truth, I just want to put in the theme of the title of your book, Dancing with Life.
I've heard this sometimes described as you can talk about dancing, you can talk about surfing or you going to get pummeled by the waves or you're going to surf the waves, whatever, pick your analogy. But let me give you an example from my own life and see if because this is what came to mind as I was listening to you speak and see if this strikes you as an appropriate operationalising of what you're trying to teach us here. I've been dealing with my parents and their aging for the last couple of years.
And I mean, that's filled with all of its own sadness and horrors. And especially at the beginning, I was kind of caught up in that part of it. And a friend of mine, a very wise friend of mine, not a drama teacher, but just a very smart guy and also a meditator. He had taken care of his mom in his twenties when she was dying of cancer. And his advice to me when he was listening to me talk about what's going on with my parents was try to find the sweetness in it.
And I notice that that is very doable. That is actually quite doable, this it's really sad and can be horrifying to have a role reversal with your parents in this way. But also there is a lot of sweetness in it, especially since they were great parents and taking care of them doesn't scan for me as a burden, et cetera, et cetera. So anyway, that's a lot of personal stuff that maybe is irrelevant, but it came up in my mind as being relevant.
It really is relevant. And I've actually said those very words to a number of students to find the sweetness in relation to both with parents and with children that are that have major challenges, that they have children that that are dying or have really major challenges they will live with as long as they do live. There is always some place within us where we can have a soft relationship and not a Pollyanna kind of relationship with, you know, the best of all possible worlds kind of interpretation.
That's delusion. But that, oh, in the nature of all of this, there is some place of peace, some place of caring. So like with my mother as she was in a coma for a long period of time. And in some ways I could see how that that coma was a kind of resting, that my interpretation of it because of my attachment to be in, you know, functional, that I was I was ascribing to her experience something that I had no way of knowing was her experience, and that I could celebrate her as a sort of self in that this is the way her life is unfolding.
And if we don't celebrate a person's life as it's unfolding, then we're not really honoring their life. And that's particularly true with kids who have challenges like this is their life. They don't have some other life. So if you actually treat them as though somehow they're less, you can see that that's created a wrong kind of relationship. Likewise, if you were going into a kind of resentment or collapse around your parents and you start suffering because they're suffering, then you're adding to the suffering of the universe.
So now there's more suffering in the universe. But if those parts of you that are carrying parts of you are present and you're finding that sweetness in this and the honoring, the celebrating the life they had made easier, if you've had great parents your instance, then there is less suffering. There's more joy in the universe just in a mathematical way. And again, this isn't some syrupy thing. If the Buddha said that people who were truly happy would not cause suffering to others.
One could make all sorts of references from there, but I don't think we should. I think people will be able to read and read into that pregnant pause. I just say from my own part, I can just think about the times when I've caused suffering to other people. It's generally. Made me unhappy in doing it, but it's also, more to the point, come out of some unhappiness on my end, so.
This is great. Let's go to the second noble truth, the second novel, Truth, states that there is a cause of suffering because of Doka. And what the Buddha means by the cause of suffering is how we're relating to suffering, that our experience of suffering is based on how we're relating to it. So there's physical and emotional pain in life, but it's how we relate to it that constitutes most of our suffering. So and he says that the way we relate in the untrained mind is through what's called Tonja or thirst, that we cling to what we want, that we grasp, that we're trying to stop change.
As you said earlier in our conversation, we try to stop change when change is inevitable. You know, when a child is at the perfect age that you're enjoying the most, they grow up and become bit more challenging or whatever it may be in your life that you love being a runner. And then one day the knees won't support that anymore. And if you're clinging to no, I want to have my niece support me. I don't want to ever have to stop running.
Then that clinging is in the way of your finding a graceful way to relate to what's true now. So the reflection, the first of those insights. Is that true? Does it really matter how I relate? Two things in life that I don't like or even still the things in life that I want that I don't get, you know, how am I relating to that makes a real difference in my interior experience.
Mean that's easily proved by everybody for themselves. Take 10 minutes and watch your mind and you can see that how you're relating makes so much difference. Life is the way it is in this moment, and we can have goals for the future about changing it, but in this moment, are we contracting as our mind turning to a. Are we calling greed? And so often we do. We get caught in small ways and sometimes really, really large ways.
And some us at times that affect many, many, many everywhere. So that's the philosophical except first inside that you again, you think about that. You don't. Is that true or not? I think about this and, you know, you could talk about it with your friends or whatever. And then the second inside of the second noble truth is to release that cause of suffering, release, clinging, release, grasping, release this thirst. You momentarily release it just this very moment.
Can I not be caught in this? I may get caught all over again, but the very next moment. But I am so upset about the way they are doing the going back to school for the kids. People have such strong views about this in every direction around the pandemic. So and there's this kind of there can be a going into hatred around that, like making somebody an awful being because they have a different view than you about whether or not kids, you know, should be going back to schools, reopening and saying, oh, no, that's just suffering in my mind.
And then and it's distorting my view of another person. There can be different views about this use of that as a simple example, because of the time and place we are right now in the pandemic. So the practice is releasing and it's it's momentary because in that momentary moment, only by releasing. Are grasping, you know, I want this, my spouse wants something else, I want to move, my spouse doesn't want to move. My spouse was a terrible person, but I don't want a bit of whatever it may be.
The moment we release it, we can see that our grasping is distorting the totality of our experience and oftentimes in a way that takes out the better part of us, the better parts of us, the more caring parts of us, the wiser parts of us get shut out in that grasping, that clinging. And so the value of that is, you know, it's true because you watch it when you let go. That's why it's a more difficult practice than just recognizing suffering.
It's a whole step up in practice. And, boy, can you do this in everyday life over and over again, that where you in traffic, you know, we don't have that much traffic right now compared to usual. But I often ask people to do traffic practice where they are in traffic and watch their mind states while they're driving in heavy traffic. And what way is that mindstate serving you or is that helping you be a better driver? Isn't making you a safer driver, so on and so forth.
And why do you think everybody else is in your way? You because your traffic to to release this whole set of perceptions that come what I term as reactive mind, we're not getting what we want. Or where we have we have some we don't want and we get really reactive to it, and the second noble truth practice is to let loose of that reactivity, very simple. And you can recognize your reactivity really fast, but you have to train.
You have to care. You have to say it's possible that what the Buddha was saying actually would make a difference in my life. So I'm going to find out. You don't have to believe Buddhism is not a belief system, but you do have to say it's possible. You have to have enough faith to investigate. And what is the faith? And the faith is in your own capacity. If your mind, heart. And did we get to the third insight of the second?
Yeah, second of the releasing, because it's people you have to really commit to releasing. I mean, it's not like you're going to the recognition of the first. Number two, if there is Stuka releasing this, my reactivity to the Doka is like a oh, that's why I spent so much time on it with you. And and then the third insight of the second noble truth is that, oh, I know this is true now. I've experienced it over and over again because I'm momentary released.
And so I know that that's true. And I know that I know this is true. I'm going to live this way. I'm going to shift my way of living. I want to live the Dharma in daily life. Let's drill down on releasing. Clinging, craving thirst in a moment, I've always understood this in my mind, we're talking about the concept of letting go, which for me initially I thought, huh, well, that sounds easier said than done.
But another way to phrase it is letting be so easy. There's not much actually to do. It's just to see clearly. Oh, yeah, yeah. I'm feeling a homicidal urge vis a vis the person in the car in front of me on the highway who's going indefensibly slowly. And just to see it clearly, you don't have to feed it or fight it. That is the releasing. Am I saying this correctly?
Yes. So what the release saying is that. There's ever more subtle levels of that, but that is correct. It's the recognition of that you are grasping that you are clinging your contracting and then as best you're able to put that down. So it's like if you pick up something that's hot, your nervous system will release it immediately, you'll drop it even and then have it break rather than keep burning. You for you to recognize in the same way that certain thoughts, words and actions are burning you.
So you don't the pot that you're that the part that you didn't realize was hot. When you start to touch it, you you release it, you don't throw away the pot, you need the pot for cooking. So you just put it down. You putting it down. It's and so the second noble truth is all about desire, desire of wanting a sense of pleasure, mental thoughts and all to be the way we want it, wanting to become and not wanting to be the again listed in the semih in the car as those three kinds of things.
So the vegetable tomato describes them as natural energy of this realm. That desire is a natural energy of this realm for it to arise, but our relationship to it is what we can change. And so we just put down. Yes, you don't have to get rid of the pot so you can let you have that. You have a sense of what should be if there's nothing wrong with that capacity, because that's your moral compass in the end. But then you realize that my judging other drivers, because they are in my way, is not a wise use of that capacity.
One critique I've heard of this. Mental move is that and I think this is a misunderstanding, but it's nonetheless a compelling critique, is that this idea of dropping our anger or.
Greed or whatever it is that specifically, actually the critique has to do with anger, is that it can lead to a passivity or a quietism in the face of the injustices of the world. Are you just telling me that my anger is invalid? I should just let it go and, you know, let structural racism continue or let you know people and politics I disagree with you have their way, blah, blah, blah.
So that is a misunderstanding. And I just refer to the fact that you don't want to let loose of your moral compass so you can have a very strong feeling this is not right. And I must do what I can to change this. And it is not the passion that's the problem. It's when the passion is distorted by this wanting mind. Martin Luther King is a great example of someone who was anything but passive, but he did not let his anger turn into a kind of hatred, but rather to a larger kind of love.
And we all benefited from it, you know. And just in a very obvious way, and that's what makes him such a remarkable person to have to live. And was he perfect as a human being? No, but this idea that people are supposed to be perfect is, again, kind of robbing a life of of the duality of it, like when we're not going to be perfect beings. And the way he was relating to a real outrage that is still going on was a very effective way of relating to it in his time and space.
And so that would be an example to that.
So let's do the third noble truth.
So the third noble truth is the one I tell people to pay less attention to in terms of practice because one evolves into this. That's the third noble truth, is that there is a state of being and which are relating to the world of Doka and our clinging is transformed. And it's to me it's a gradual path. And I take it as meaning that although you might have a big moment when you are free, but then it all comes back unless you do all the work.
So by the way, in terms of describing that, Jack Kornfeld has this wonderful book called After the Ecstasy, The Laundry, because people have had big spiritual experiences, will think, oh, now I'm beyond this, and now you go back. And so that there is an end for honesty and look like the way I have understood it in my own practice experience and from the teacher's perspective, it's the end of the mind being filled with greed or aversion or delusion that there is a clear relating to our experience with wisdom and compassion, and that the experience, therefore, of what the mind would be and its full form is that you would have the problem of a heart of loving kindness, better koruna, compassion, mydata of happiness for the happiness of others, and then equanimity.
I used to think that was impossible. Still very doubtful about that for me. But I don't consider it impossible that a human being's mind gets so free of conditioned reactivity that that's possible. And so that's the that's the statement. That's the first insight to realize, or at least to some degree that's true. Oh, I can imagine myself being more like that than I am now, which is the motivation to keep you practicing and then and then being inspired by those who clearly have done that more than we have in our society right now around the world.
We use the Dalai Lama as an example of that. I would use Nelson Mandela as an example of that, too. It's not a Buddhist thing, Saddam, I think. And the truth, Dharma, means truth. And so so that's the first insight. The second insight is that it's to be realized. I realized, as I would understand it means that your ego is not going to accomplish it, your ego cannot accomplish it. There's things that the ego can achieve in terms of discipline and practice and so forth.
And after that, it's attainment. It happens because the conditions were right and it happens. We create favorable conditions. The venerable Schmader said. The personality never gets enlightened and people carry this around with them. They put it on their refrigerator door. People would stop me and say thank you, thank you for bringing this out, because people think that our ego, with all of its forks, rightists challenges if we're supposed to do this. But now we practice, we create the conditions and then these insights build and then they take on their own momentum.
So that's the realization and then realization has been understood. The third insight would be that at each level you realize, wow, I am a different person than I was and you know that you know this so that you let the fruits of it come in because you can actually have a capacity to be a better person than you're being and not realize you've got that capacity. I fell into this a lot with people around changes. A lot of times just people don't realize the strengths they have.
They think they're more cop and something than they are. This is we're talking a little small thing. We're not talking about the third noble truth here. And it's largest, but just everyday life about people's capacity. So that's the three insights. And again, that is a more surrender kind of practice, I emphasize. First and second, the fourth novel, truth in terms of how we're going to each dance with whatever life we're given, from genetics to the parents to the conditions in which we were born and raised and so forth, there's not a fair distribution of that.
The Buddha is not saying there's a fair distribution, but that the whole thing is lawful and a manner of speaking that all of this in this manifest world of this whole array of conditions manifest. And it's how we're going to relate to them from wherever we are, and then that's how the inner liberation happens, that then affects how we are to other people or to ourselves. So. I think all of that brings us quite nicely to a noble truth, number four.
So the fourth noble truth is that there is a path of practice that leads to the end of the suffering and it's made up of of wise understanding and wise intention. And it's made up of right speech, right action, right livelihood, so that's one it's like the way we internally organize ourselves second in the world. And third, this practice of right effort and wise effort and wise, wise mindfulness and wise, somebody wise, concentrated, being concentrated and the path is.
So that's the description. The second the the practice part as the second insight is always practiced in each of these four is the practice is to practice Eightfold Path. And then the realization is the third insight is, oh, this path actually works. I know it works and therefore I practice it more and it works even more so that the there's no one, you know, if you don't know, you know, people go on retreat and they are happier than they are in their daily life.
But somehow they don't know. They know in a way that changes their daily life. You don't have to be on retreat to be on retreat. Daily life can be a retreat. It's a practice retreat.
So just to go over that, so first, noble truth. Life is suffering again with all of that's a problematic translation. But let's we've we've already issued the caveats there. So first, noble truth. Life is suffering. Second, noble truth. The cause of that suffering is thirst, craving. The third noble truth. It's possible to end that suffering. And again, the caveat that may not happen for all of us, but you can generate some faith that it is possible for a human and that one can even regular mortals can progress on that spectrum toward decreased suffering.
And then the fourth noble truth is actually a listicle within a listicle, within a listicle, which is the Eightfold Path. There is a path of practice. It's got eight parts and sometimes every word on the part, every part of the eight is preceded either with right or wise. So like right speech or right livelihood. Right mindfulness. There is an external life like speech and livelihood. And then what are the other two.
So one is practice like with mindfulness and concentration. Yes. And think of concentration as have your mind collected and unified in daily life. And then the third is understanding, which is wisdom and intention. Gotcha. So the difference between what's called wise view and wise intention is wise view is your aspiration. Why is intention is this very moment in this very moment? Am I going to manifest my values or not? Am I manifesting my values? Not in this very moment here.
Now, this is the immediacy of practice as wise and. I ask so many different teachers in Thailand about this. But my understanding of this, because I started so strongly, I wanted to know that I was reflecting at least the top forest tradition view of that. And it's the immediacy. This is why in your own life, for everybody here listening to us, why is the intention is here now for you and just as you are, you don't have to have a better version of you right now.
I know what I value in this moment. I wish to value this. I wish to implement in my speech and action my values the best I'm able. And it may not be great, but at least I'm going to do whatever is available to me. Does that make sense to you to the degree that it's available, people lose the thread of their own aspiration because they find themselves unacceptable. But no, we are. We are. So we do as best as we are able as we are.
We start where we are. It's been painful for me to watch people defeat themselves because they have some conceptual idea. And it's not a Buddhism's not a conceptual idea. It's an actual lived experience. It's not a religion in the usual sense of that word, of a beginning and an end, you know, an ontological theological story. It's not that. It's here and now. Here now. It's really changed me, yeah, so. So when you talked about these self limiting stories, let me just see if I can give you a personal example and yet again, see if this is on point.
I have a sometimes a self limiting story around. My motivations are fundamentally rotten and selfish. My wife is sometimes pointing out to me. That can get in the way of my. Seeing any positivity in what I'm doing in the world. Would that be an example of what you were just talking about, that would be an example. Yes. So the Buddha was talking about intention in one of the suitors and this text called the Monument Monarchial, which is the Metrolink's discourses.
And he says there's three kinds of intentions, Houssam intention, which brings wholesome results. There's unwholesome intention, which brings unwholesome results, and there's mixed intentions that bring mixed results. And I was very happy to discover that Sutta, because it is true that we will have mixed motivations. So you can be doing something quite wonderful to help others. And also you're actually locking the people who admire you for it. If you try to deny that you're liking it, then you're giving it more power.
You have a kind attitude towards this. Oh, you're liking this than you're liking doing this. And so you're treating that the dam that likes this is kind of childlike in a certain way. So you're loving him to death. You're not fixing him, but you're understanding and loving him. And gradually through seeing the because of people like can you go put them there? If you do it wrong, they're not going to like you. If you mess it up or some of these people think you did it the right way, then you start to say, oh, it's all about the suka that I was enjoying, about being admired, also has the Duke in it.
So there's the suka, Duke. I am so stay away from it. That doesn't lead anywhere. And then you just stay with the well intention. It might take 10 years in relation to a particular aspect of your life where you are being quite helpful. But gradually the amount of self thing that's involved in that is really reduced and you enjoy it more. That's the irony of this. It actually feels better with less suffering. It's paradoxical. That's one way I can explain it.
You have to experience that for yourself. A Pasko, come see for yourself. The Buddha said you just have to experience the stuff and it's a way of relating. I keep saying this. It's not about you're not being asked to believe something, but to have an experience. And of course, that shows up everywhere in relation to change your in this, as we were saying at the beginning, and we're in a time of great change. And to see how you're responding to change, to see are you focusing on the fact the duke of at the unsatisfactoriness of the stress of it are the physical pain or the emotional pain of it?
Are you relating to that in a way that's making it worse? Do you have any choice? If you do have some choice, be willing to make that choice? Because sometimes in our anger or bitterness, we actually take birth and we're deliberately keeping it going without realizing it, because we've gotten used to it. We think that's us. I am such an angry person about that. Is that really serving you? Start changing what you're angry about. You're being an angry person.
We're not talking about giving up your moral compass here, the moral compass last, and for you to devote your whole life to social justice is a high profession. That's his livelihood. Nobody's going nihilistic or hedonistic or anything like that, or that's the dance. And then when we come to change, to realize that we are capable of change, that we can respond to change without clinging, and that our whole life anyway is based on change. We're always changing from when we were little children all the way through every stage of adult development.
There's all these adult development stages and we're always going to be changing. So the more we develop a wise relationship to change in relation to the four noble truths about the scene, the Duke and the change, somebody is forcing us to change. We don't want to change. Someone says, I don't want to stay married to you. I'm laying you off. That's Dufka. That's Dufka. But then how we respond, how we relate to that, are we being responsive or reactive?
Responsive is coming from our values and that allows wisdom reactive. We beat ourselves up or hate them or something. And so with a change at all. Plus all the way through. And you can count in your life that you're going to have a series of changes as an adult, it's natural, it's biologically built in, and utilizing these insights for this purpose is making your life a practice once life works better. As far as I've been able to determine, having now seen thousands of people's lives, it works better as a practice does.
So, you know, I've got a result.
All of this life works better if you approach it as a moment to moment practice as opposed to something that's etched in stone. That's right.
I tell people you're practicing practice, you're not practicing resulting. You use the results to help you. Fine, tune your practice, but good luck on resulting. We know about set points of happiness. And I could go off into all these psychological things that I don't think is helpful. But we know from psychological study the grasping after happiness and identity of self that's going to go after happiness has turned out so well.
But don't we need to have results? Like I'm writing a book right now, I'm trying to get myself to enjoy the process as much as possible. That's. I only episodically succeed there, but eventually I need to produce a result in the form of a book. Yes, yes. So but if you sit down and write, I don't know if you're taking an hour or day in my old life as editor in chief of Esquire. I actually sat in people's attic or wherever it is where they're writing room was set there and help them outline their thing to write.
I know all about being frozen as writers and so many things like that. But so you ask yourself, if I sit down for an hour and write, I don't let myself do anything else. So it's either I will choose to write or I'll sit there. Then you're creating the conditions that you can't distract yourself. You're more likely to get it done. So you're practicing being available for writing. Your intention in this very moment is to touch those keyboards.
Sometimes you can't. Sometimes you stare off into space, but you know that that's what you're committed to. I'm being available for writing to happen. It's either going to happen or not, but I'm not doing anything else. My practice is showing up and doing this or that. You say, OK, I think I've got to have it all worked out. First of all, I'm just gonna start writing things, whatever it might be for you, whatever adjustment.
But your commitment is, I write. A book will result, but I write. And even after a result which will come and go, I'm still practicing something, you're still practicing, so you're practicing when you get up in the morning, talk about starting today with clarity, your lie there in bed even before you get up and meditate.
And you open to this day with clarity that this is who I wish to be this day. Oh, I'm going to be doing these different tasks during these days. I'm going to put on different hats. I'm going to have different identities during the day. But this is who I wish to be. No matter what identity, I will use different skillfull means to accomplish different goals in my day, but my intentions, my basic values, I'm going to be the same intention of person.
I have an intentional life and that's going to be the same whether I'm with my children, whether I'm at work, whether I'm writing, whatever it is I'm doing, I use different means. But who's there is a person that I practiced cultivating so that I have the choice to choose to live my values. Very empowering. You used a pair of words that rhyme earlier, suka, educa, and then another rhyme came to mind wabi sabi, which is the Japanese term for beauty in imperfection.
Yes. And it seems like if you can. See the truth of and accept the truth of Zuka Doka, then you might get to wabi sabi. Yes, because this is the world we live in and this is our realm. And it's not a mistake that the realm is like this. You know, the Buddha described it as the most precious of all births. Have to take his word for that. But you know that nature is beautiful and nature is cruel sometimes.
I remember one time in The New York Times in an op ed thing, they described that nature being evil. And I was going, what do you mean? Nature can't possibly be evil. It can't be cruel. It's not a personality. It's not got motivation. It just is this realm is we are in a dual realm. Once we accept that, then how are we going to relate to that? And like, it's not personal, but we have a personal relationship in a reactive mind.
You react like a puppet on a string of pleasant and unpleasant. If it's pleasant, you want it. You want to justify why you have it and others don't and you want more of it. If it's unpleasant, you want to get rid of it or you want to avoid it, or you want to blame yourself or someone for having it. That's a reactive mind. It's based on that pleasant and unpleasant step, Pavlovian kind of existence. A responsive mind comes from having a set of values, the same pleasant and unpleasant arises.
But you have a choice as to how you're going to relate to them. You don't relate because they're pleasant and unpleasant. You relate to those same circumstances based on your values and more and more. That gives you a deeper sense of satisfaction than the actual pleasant or unpleasant. Again, you just have to take that as an invitation to look at that. So we're moving from a reactive mind. What you're defined by conditions to a responsive mind where you are not defined, but you're characterized by conditions.
So we're always going to be characterized no matter what, let's be grown up here, but we do not have to be defined and that's freedom. That's the Buddha's happiness. That's the dance, that's the beauty, that's the wabi sabi, that's the dance with love. Yeah. Philip, thank you very much.
Has been, uh, a pleasure.
Well, I appreciate being here with you. And thank you for your good work. Thanks again to Phillip and big thanks as always to the team who work incredibly hard to make the show a reality. Samuel Johns is our senior producer. Marisa Shneiderman is our producer. Our sound designers are Matt Boeing. And on Ashiq from Ultraviolet Audio, Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. We've got a ton of wisdom from our colleagues such as Jim Point, Nate, Toby, Ben Rubin, Liz Levin, and as always, big thank you to my ABC News comrades, Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen.
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