“Traditionally the Eightfold Path is taught with eight steps such as Right Understanding, Right Speech, Right Concentration, and so forth. But the true Eightfold Path is within us – two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, a tongue, and a body. These eight doors are our entire Path and the mind is the one that walks on the Path. Know these doors, examine them, and all the dharmas will be revealed.”
(Ajahn Chah, taken from ‘A
According to Ajahn Chah, we can cultivate wisdom through observation of our own body, which will show us the various conditions (dharmas) of our psychophysical existence. Correct Understanding - the first of the eight aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path - arises out of noticing the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and impersonal nature of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects. When all these phenomena are realized to be not self, the mind will turn inwards, seeking out what it might cling to as ‘me’. But if it looks with absolute clarity it will find emptiness. Behind sensations, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness, there lies clear, endless space. I sometimes call it ‘Buddha Space’.
This experience of ‘Buddha Space’ via the sense doors is not a replacement for the traditional Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism, however. Rather, it is the foundation on which the Noble Path is built. Ajahn Chah himself regularly taught about the eight aspects of the Way, emphasizing that this was a well-tested and proven method of awakening to the Dharma (the-way-things-are). We can use our senses to indulge in worldly pleasures; we can also punish ourselves through rigorous asceticism, but neither of these is the
Sights come and go; they are impermanent. Sights do not totally satisfy us; they are unsatisfactory. Sights to not make a self; they are not self. This is so with the other physical senses…and the psychological ones, too. All phenomena can be observed to arise in this spaciousness which is without characteristics or limits. Therefore, it has been dubbed the Deathless. The true Eightfold Path, as Ajahn Chah describes it, is the opening up of the mind to the reality of created things, and the beginning of a wisdom born in emptiness. Dear reader, what are your views and experiences of the Path? And what do you make of Ajahn Chah’s view of the body as the doorway to enlightenment?