(Thây’s commentary with the eleven guidelines on daily life follows below.)
The Discourse on the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings is an ancient Buddhist text recited regularly in Plum Village practice centers all over the world.
This translation has been prepared by Thich Nhat Hanh from the Chinese Taisho Revised Tripitaka, No. 779. It appears in Thich Nhat Hanh, Chanting From The Heart (2006).
Wholeheartedly, day and night, disciples of the Awakened One should recite and meditate on the Eight Realizations discovered by the Great Beings.
The First Realization is the awareness that the world is impermanent.
Political regimes are subject to fall. Things composed of the four elements are empty, containing within them the seeds of suffering. Human beings are composed of Five Aggregates and are without a separate self. They are always in the process of change – constantly being born and constantly dying. They are empty of self and without a separate existence. The mind is the source of all confusion, and the body the forest of all unwholesome actions. Meditating on this, you can be released from the round of birth and death.
The Second Realization is the awareness that more desire brings more suffering.
All hardships in daily life arise from greed and desire. Those with little desire and ambition are able to relax, their body and mind free from entanglement.
The Third Realization is the awareness that the human mind is always searching outside itself and never feels fulfilled.
This brings about unwholesome activity. Bodhisattvas, on the other hand, know the value of having few desires. They live simply and peacefully, so they can devote themselves to practicing the Way. They regard the realization of perfect understanding to be their only career.
The Fourth Realization is the awareness that indolence is an obstacle to practice.
You must practice diligently to transform unwholesome mental states that bind you, and you must conquer the four kinds of Mara in order to free yourself from the prisons of the Five Aggregates and the Three Worlds.
The Fifth Realization is the awareness that ignorance is the cause of the endless round of birth and death.
Bodhisattvas always listen to and learn from others so their understanding and skillful means can develop, and so they can teach living beings and bring them great joy.
The Sixth Realization is the awareness that poverty creates hatred and anger, which creates a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and actions. When practicing generosity, bodhisattvas consider everyone – friends and enemies alike – to be equal. They do not condemn anyone’s past wrongdoings or hate even those presently causing harm.
The Seventh Realization is the awareness that the five categories of sensual desire – money, sex, fame, overeating and oversleeping – lead to problems.
Although you are in the world, try not to be caught in worldly matters. A monk, for example, has in his possession only three robes and one bowl. He lives simply in order to practice the Way. His precepts keep him free from attachment to worldly things, and he treats everyone equally and with compassion.
The Eighth Realization is the awareness that the fire of birth and death is raging, causing endless suffering everywhere.
Take the Great Vow to help all beings, to suffer with all beings, and to guide all beings to the Realm of Great Joy.
These Eight Realizations are the discoveries of great beings, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who have practiced diligently the way of understanding and love. They have sailed the Dharmakaya boat to the shore of nirvana, and have then returned to the ordinary world, free of the five sensual desires, their minds and hearts directed toward the Noble Way.
Using these Eight Realizations, they help all beings recognize the suffering in the world.
If disciples of the Buddha recite and meditate on these Eight Realizations, they will put an end to countless misunderstandings and difficulties and progress toward enlightenment, leaving behind the world of birth and death, dwelling forever in peace.
Found in either of these books:
Thich Nhat Hanh, Two Treasures: Buddhist Teachings on Awakening and True Happiness (Parallax Press, 2006)
Thich Nhat Hanh, Awakening of the Heart (Parallax Press, 2012)
Eleven Guidelines for Daily Life
- While Meditating on the body, do not hope or pray to be exempt from sickness. Without sickness, desires and passion can easily arise.
- While acting in society, do not hope or pray not to have any difficulties.
Without difficulties, arrogance can easily arise.
- While meditation on the mind, do not hope or pray not to encounter hindrances.
Without hindrances, present knowledge will not be challenged or broadened.
- While working, do not hope or pray not to encounter obstacles.
Without obstacles, the vow to help others will not deepen.
- While developing a plan, do not hope or pray to achieve success easily.
With easy success, arrogance can easily arise.
- While interacting with others, do not hope or pray to gain personal profit.
With the hope for personal gain, the spiritual nature of the encounter is diminished.
- While speaking with others, do not hope or pray not to be disagreed with.
Without disagreement, self-righteousness can flourish.
- While helping others, do not hope or pray to be paid.
With the hope of remuneration, the act of helping others will not be pure.
- If you see personal profit in an action, do not participate in it.
Even minimal participation will stir up desires and passions.
- When wrongly accused, do not attempt to exonerate yourself.
Attempting to defend yourself will create needless anger and animosity.
- The Buddha spoke of sickness and suffering as effective medicines. Times of difficulties and accidents are also times of freedom and realization. Obstacles can be a form of liberation. The Buddha reminded us that the army of evil can be the guards of the Dharma. Difficulties are required for success. The person who mistreats one can be one’s good friend. One’s enemies are as an orchard or garden. The act of doing someone a favor can be as base as the act of casting away a pair of old shoes. The abandonment of material possessions can be wealth, and being wrongly accused can be the source of strength to work for justice.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Two Treasures: Buddhist Teachings on Awakening and True Happiness (Parallax Press, 2006). Pp. 490-491.