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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Aug 21, 2021

This episode begins a series in which we take a deep dive into the practice of each part of the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path is Buddha’s guide to a gradual path to happiness and, if one chose to take it all the way, to enlightenment. In this episode we look at Right Intention. Right intention has three parts: Loving-kindness, Harmlessness, and Renunciation. We begin with the practice of renunciation. 


What is renunciation?

Renunciation is not giving up pleasures, shaving our head, or giving away all our material possessions. Lama Yeshe explained, “If a situation is difficult, we can renounce it by giving it up or avoiding it; this may be called renunciation but it is not the renunciation of samsara. Or perhaps our heart is broken because we fought with our friend, so we move to another city to escape further pain. Again, this is not renunciation.” 


Renunciation is abandoning the unreal expectation that lasting happiness can be found in anything other than the development of inner causes of haplessness, such as mental peace, universal love, and wisdom. Renunciation is not giving up anything external, not giving up pleasures. It is a deep knowing that the ordinary happiness that relies on impermanent things will only lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction and a wish to be free of this cycle of pain. 


In Tibetan, renunciation is called the mind of definite emergence, implying that it is the mind that will definitely emerge from dissatisfaction and suffering. To practice renunciation means that, as our experience of renunciation deepens, we begin to turn toward the inner causes of happiness. The deeper our renunciation, the more we solve our problems inwardly and create a stable inner source of happiness and contentment. 


“We can always find some external cause to blame for our dissatisfaction — “There is not enough of this, not enough of that” — but this is never the real reason for our restlessness and disappointment. What is missing is inside and this is what we all have to recognize. Satisfaction is not dependent on material objects; it is something that comes from simplicity, inner simplicity.” —Lama Yeshe 


The eight practices of the Eightfold Path are Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. The Eightfold Path contains three basic parts: ethical discipline, mental discipline, and wisdom.    


Is there this itch of dissatisfaction that follows you?

Or think of what causes you the greatest suffering in life…

Could following the spiritual path help you solve this?

Could following the spiritual path help you find satisfaction and happiness? 

Do you have the wish to follow the spiritual path? 


It is up to you to make strong effort; 

Tathāgatas merely tell you how. 

Following the path, those absorbed in meditation 

Will be freed from Māra’s bonds. (276)* 


“All created things are impermanent.”

 Seeing this with insight, 

One becomes disenchanted with suffering.

This is the path to purity.

—Buddha, The Dhammapada 


References and Links


Bodhi, Bhikku. The Noble Eightfold Path. Buddhist Publication Society, 1999, pp.   BuddhaNet.


Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. (Kindle). Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp. 72 (Link)


Yeshe, Thubten. Introduction to Tantra. Wisdom Publications; Revised ed. edition (June 10, 2005). (Kindle) pp. 39-41. Link