The Four Tasks

The Four Tasks and the Eightfold Path as Perspective

The foundation of this process started when several Dharma friends formed a group and did an inquiry into the connection between the Four Ennobling Truths, Dharma, and Meditation. During inquiry we used alternate interpretations from the Pali and Sanskrit based canons. Although that inquiry isn’t over, we did find a process we found helpful and need to share.

The Four Truths all have an accompanying task. The crucial point is the task leads to the process, so it was important that each task reflected how I was in these moments if it was to be a direct application.

The First Truth, “Life is Suffering.” Or a variant.

The task: Comprehend suffering.

And although all six of us had trained in the tasks or read about them, no one could identify with what it meant to comprehend. We intellectually understood, had all experienced suffering, but still, what was this comprehension that was applicable? How to enact comprehension?

This dropped in as a self-reflection: Am I Suffering? To give ourselves the gift of asking, how am I in these moments? Most of the time I find myself struggling with resistance and a reactive state, when what I could chose to do is simply ask “Am I suffering?” and engage in the comprehension of body/mind/emotive status in these moments.  

Updated Task: Am I suffering?

The Second Truth, we suffer because we resist or cling to what exists. An underlying unease as an old friend used to say. I react, clinging upon or rejecting experiences, things, people, moods, and emotions.

Task: Let go of the Arising.

After lengthy inquiry we could not define “letting go” Weaving this with the first task became: How am I enabling my own suffering?

Well, that struck a chord. Two solid questions that were critical but also connected the opportunity to comprehend how the state was impacted experience. Offering opportunity to seek options.

Updated Task: How am I enabling my own suffering?

The Third Truth: There is a process. One that can be engaged to reduce current suffering.

Task: Experience the Ceasing, in classic studies that is the cultivation of the Eightfold Path.

But cultivate is leaning towards a future state to be enhanced in some way and we were seeking something more immediate. The next step evolved quicky, using the Eightfold path as perspectives in the moment. Using them I can see and feel how I’m experiencing each dynamic.

Updated Task

Am I suffering?

If yes,

How can I be enabling my suffering?

Applied to these perspectives.

View: How am I seeing in these moments? Am I here in presence or viewing from the stream of thought? Am I seeing from conclusion or attitude? Opinion?  

Intent: What is my current intention and what else constitutes a “reason” for my thoughts and actions?

Speech/Hearing: How am I speaking right now? In anger? Out of sadness? Fear? What is enabling this feeling called suffering? If I have inner dialogues, and most of us seem to, what kind of voice is speaking at “me?” Am I hearing through a filter? Am I present and attending?  

Actions/Inactions: How might my current action/inaction be harming me? Lots of time being uncomfortable is about what I haven’t done as well as my actions.

Purpose, referred to as Livelihood. Livelihood had the flavor of occupation, and it was pointed out there’s 21 interpretations of the Pali word, interpreted as livelihood. One of them was presence. Presence led us to Purpose. When I’m here, is what I’m doing in these moments enabling suffering?

Effort/Non-Effort: How may this effort be enabling my suffering? Is my effort too much or little or am I going through the motions in these moments?

Streaming Thoughts referred to as Mindfulness: Streaming thoughts paints a picture of motion and a flow; the action instead being in attention “of something.” Am I stuck in a loop as thoughts keep flowing along, attention drawn into reoccurring thoughts? Am I out of balance and swimming in thought? Feeling trapped and enabling past emotions to resurface?

Attention, referred to as concentration. All of us, despite various disciplines, had been trained that attention is prime and concentration refers to areas of focus within the general attention. This hinges on the phrase, “The quality of your life will hinge on the focus of your attention.” Or concentrated attention when narrowed. That seems so truthful no matter what perspective one uses to see it.

In practice we noticed two perspectives in attention, one is in streaming thoughts, where I can play and explore, plan, hope, dream and where beliefs dwell.

The other is when attention is focused on direct sensing, no words, no language, direct contact.

It takes both, in balance to create the process of a Human, Being. Gautama called that the middle path, right?

We find this is just the beginning, we see so many variations and ways to apply this process. I sincerely hope this introduction gives some grounding for your experience in life.

It’s so vital to realize this process belongs to you if you chose to engage. There’s no way or path or dogma, just you in these moments inquiring into your state in whatever language will be relevant and appropriate within these moments. After several months of practice, I’m seeing there’s a clearer way to reduce my suffering in these moments.

Part Two

Ask

Are you suffering?

How may I be enabling your suffering? Compassion again rises as I engage with my experience of your suffering.

When we started asking this, we began to see the further implications for study. We can use either system of query or both. This appears more as a doorway to practice right now, but time will tell, it sings from deep ground.

A few thoughts: This process, as inquiry, has no boundaries, although it grew from Gautama’s work it works for anyone who is seeking to see how they process life. It’s being explored by people of several faiths and disciplines, and it appears useful.

The problem? If any? It is simply whether you will do this process, or perhaps save it for later. Like all the other processes stuck away, from various teachings, sitting in folders and bookcases.

When you embrace this make it yours, in your voice, your understanding, a process that evolves, and grows like you, and the entire universe. This is new to me. But as I apply, I can see how the perspectives as application can become another part of how I experience life.

This sings to me and has become a primary dharma practice of sharing. If your attention is drawn and you seek more information or have questions as the process continues or would like assistance in building a group inquiry I am offering to assist. (Just to let you know, I don’t have any answers, only momentary resolutions until the next question!) This is a flowing living document and subject to change, as it should. Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes are mine.

You can email me at Changingspiritbw@gmail.com

Visit the web peoplesdharma.com for updates.

Bryan Wagner   1/23/2003

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