The Trilogy of Harmony

Graceful Harmony
by Sara Goodnough

Those interested in spirituality—what it is and how to become a spiritual person—sooner or later come across the notion of harmony between spirit, mind, and body . What exactly does it mean and how do you get there? To get there one has to cultivate each of its three aspects of being. Achievement of this Trilogy of Harmony leads to sustained peace, joy, and equanimity.

A healthy, physically fit body is one of the pillars of attaining harmony between spirit, mind, and body. As an example, if we don’t feel well, or we’re weak, frail, or sick it is difficult to think clearly. Likely we are concerned about our health which takes a further toll on our mind.

In turn our spirit is also affected. We may be unable to experience lasting joy and happiness. Our worries, guilt, and regret prevent us from finding peace and equanimity.

Mental products such as our attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and actions can either feed and elevate the spirit or damage and debilitate it. This is governed by the Law of Cause and Effect. The health of our spirit is determined in large part by the way we treat other people. One should always strive to live a life characterized by honesty, integrity, compassion, and ethical behavior.

We can cultivate the mind by meditation, striving to be wholly present through mindfulness and working to stop the constant train of useless thoughts so many of us experience. It is also important to allow only wholesome thoughts, and to maintain a positive and virtuous outlook.

A cultivated mind and body naturally leads to a greater expression of our spirit in everyday life. Buddha’s Four Immeasurables well illustrate the essence of spiritual expression and the results of the Trilogy of Harmony. The Immeasurables are: love, compassion, equanimity, and empathetic joy. These four are also known as the four sublime or extraordinary states of mind, which to me, illustrate the affect the spirit can have on the mind.

I hope from this discussion you begin to see the importance of achieving the Trilogy of Harmony for a happy, healthy, rewarding, and productive life, and how the spirit, mind, and body support and interact with each other. If any one of these three pillars of harmony is not in a healthy, positive state, then the trilogy is broken. As we all know, each of the three components can function independently, but without the elevated state of being (especially of the spirit) that the Trilogy of Harmony brings. You cannot give yourself a gift greater than the fulfillment, happiness, joy, and peace that achieving this harmony will create.

You might like to see the following related articles:

A Path from Darkness
How Does One Sustain a Spiritual Outlook?

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Buddhism – Spirituality for Everyone Part 2

Path to Enlightenment Photo credit sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com

Path to Enlightenment
Photo credit sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com

In my first article on Buddhism, we examined the Four Immeasurable Minds. These may be best described as highly elevated spiritual states of mind or ways of being. The Noble Eightfold Path discussed here can be thought of as a practical guide for living a noble and virtuous life.

The two are interrelated and interactive. Progress toward one fosters progress in the other. When both are present in an individual, the person is not only truly enlightened, but they serve as a role model for those wishing to achieve the highest levels of spirituality.

Some may worry that the Four Immeasurables may be too much of a paradigm shift to achieve or consistently sustain in a world culture that seems to be diametrically opposed to them. Such a shift in one’s state of mind is indeed challenging, but it is a goal well worth pursuing.

The Noble Eightfold Path gives us practical goals for how we should strive to live our everyday lives in a manner that leads to spiritual awakening and liberation from a mind-set of greed, hatred, violence, duplicity, and self-aggrandizement. It is a path that can transform us spiritually and prepare us for progression to the divine state of the Four Immeasurable Minds.

The Noble Eightfold Path

The word “right” in this context means “in the right and most beneficial or positive way.”

1. Right View or Understanding.

Right view is seeing and understanding things clearly as they truly are. It is also the ability to distinguish between thoughts and actions that are wholesome or unwholesome. Right view requires a flexible, open mind. It leads to an understanding of the law of cause and effect or moral law of karma; namely, that any action will produce results or effects that have the same nature as the action.

2. Right Thinking, Thought, or Intention.

We need to free our minds from bias, prejudice, wrong perceptions, making assumptions, and judging. Through right thought one makes an effort to rid one’s self from what they know to be wrong or immoral. In so doing, we are making a commitment to follow a spiritual path. Right thinking leads to right speech and right action.

3. Right Speech.

Do not lie, bear false witness, use harsh, hateful, or divisive language, gossip, be rude, engage in useless chatter, etc. Always speak truthfully and lovingly in a manner that brings joy, hope, and understanding to others. Our speech should be guided by right view and right thinking.

4. Right Action or Conduct.

Engage in moral, ethical, honorable, and peaceful action. Practice nonviolence and be committed to protecting all life on earth.

5. Right Livelihood.

Choose a profession that is honorable, ethical, and helps and sustains living things rather than one that supports war, killing, disharmony, or harms, cheats, or exploits them. Five types of livelihoods to be avoided are specifically mentioned:

Trade in any kind of weapons.
Any form of trade in human beings.
Breeding and selling of animals for slaughter.
Manufacture or sale of addictive drugs or intoxicating drinks.
Production or trade of any kind of toxic substance or poison designed to harm living things.

6. Right Effort or Diligence. (Paraphrased from Rahula referenced below)

Right diligence is a concerted effort (1) to prevent evil and unwholesome states of mind from arising, (2) to rid one’s self from such thoughts that have already arisen (3) to produce good and wholesome states of mind that have not yet arisen, and (4) to develop and bring to perfection the good and wholesome states of mind already present.

7. Right Mindfulness.

Right mindfulness is being diligently aware of activities of the body, our sensations and feelings, and our thoughts (and their nature). It is being mindful of and living in the present moment free from all thoughts or concern about the past or the future. In mindfulness we refrain from judgement or interpretation of what we are experiencing in the moment. When we are mindful, right thinking, right speech, right action, etc. will be expressed.

8. Right Concentration.

Buddha said that when we have a singleness of mind supported by the other seven factors of the Noble Eightfold Path we have achieved right concentration. It is an essential component of effective meditation.

Right concentration is described as a one-pointed mind. That is, the ability to focus or concentrate on one thing. Right concentration encompasses and is facilitated and supported by the other seven elements of the Noble Path. The practice of right concentration allows us to cultivate insight and develop wisdom by examination of the true nature of things through meditation.

It is by striving to follow the Noble Eightfold Path in our everyday life that we develop the basic principles of ethical conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom which are central to Buddhist practice. Buddha gave many discourses on each element of the Path to explain their meaning in great depth. Consequently, my brief explanations are sorely incomplete and do not give a full appreciation of the scope and quality of each element of the Path.

While many components of the Eightfold Path are things for which most people seeking a spiritual way of life would strive, the Path codifies a stepwise process to achieve them. The Noble Eightfold Path encompasses universal elements of a spiritual way of life. Many of them resonate with the teachings of Christianity and other religions.

I would place persons who engage in spiritual practices and thought akin to those of Buddhists among the exalted meek who are said to one day inherit the earth. In a world seemingly filled with murky shadows and darkness, they are a beacon of light and hope.

References

Hanh, Thich Nhat, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation. New York: Harmony Books. 2010. First published 1999.

Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught. 2nd ed. enlarg. New York: Grove Press. 1974. First published 1959.

You might like to see the following related articles:

Buddhism – Spirituality for Everyone Part 1

The Law of Cause and Effect

Witnessing the Spirit-Self

For a long time I have wanted to learn how to meditate. Initially, the main reason for my wanting to do so was to slow down my mind. I wanted to free myself from the incessant flow of thought. My hope was that by doing so, I would become more present in every moment throughout the day.

Now my hope is that meditation will help me come closer to my spirit-self, and, as a result, facilitate its expression in my everyday life. These things may be referred to as enlightenment by some. I call it witnessing the spirit-self.

I was superficially aware of a number of different meditation methods and their benefits, and tried to meditate on a number of occasions in the past without success. A big part of the methods I attempted was proper sitting posture. In fact, seemingly volumes are discussed about the nuances of posture, while the actual meditation method is covered in a paragraph or two.

Trying to achieve and maintain correct posture for meditation was a problem for me as I am not at all flexible. My experience sitting in the manor required ranged from extremely uncomfortable to painful. It was a major barrier to meditation for me.

Recently, I decided to look into transcendental meditation (TM). The general description of the technique sounded remarkably easy and required only two 20 minute sessions per day.

I went to TM.org , a national organization that presides over TM training through a network of certified instructors. There is a video on the web site that gives a very good overview of TM and its health benefits. The method used for meditation is extremely simple. Anyone can do it without difficulty. For one thing it does not require a specific sitting posture. I encourage those interested in meditation to take a look at the video.

As I dug into the web site, I eventually came across the cost of instruction—on sale from $1,500 to $960! This to learn a method that is so simple and easy to do as to be almost trivial! Furthermore, this simple method puts us in touch with our natural ability to find our inner quiet. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to pay exorbitant fees to be shown how to access the God-given stillness that is already present inside me any more than I would for someone to show me where the fuse box is in my house so I can turn on the lights.

I ran across a book titled Deep Meditation by Yogani that appeared to provide instruction in TM. I got the book and indeed it did describe the TM method along with what to expect, the spiritual benefits, and various phenomena that may arise during practice and how to deal with them. The book was exactly what I had been looking for! Total cost for learning TM: $3.82 for the Kindle book. If you have been wanting to get into meditation, this book will give you a remarkably easy and effective way to do so.

After reading the book, I realize that I have already experienced, by other means, some of the personal and spiritual benefits that can arise from regular TM practice. Examples include positive changes in disposition, becoming more tolerant and accepting of others, becoming more grounded, centered, and relaxed even in stressful situations, and eventually witnessing the spirit-self.

I achieved the above benefits through many years of qigong and tai chi practice. Nevertheless, I feel I can progress much further and faster by adding meditation to my daily practices. There are health benefits from all of these practices, but for me the changes in my outlook on the world around me, and the leap forward in my spiritual awareness were the most rewarding.

Tai chi and qigong are technical practices to cultivate and increase one’s internal energy that require instruction and study to learn. Whereas, TM is not technical and easily accesses our inner stillness. Consequently, in my view, TM is the best and easiest practice for the general public to transform themselves by transcending the outer noise and confusion and cultivating the inner silence that is the spirit-self. I encourage everyone to give TM a try.