open systems

The third turning of the Fourth Noble Truth is to make the Eightfold Path real (Realize it).

Not there yet.

Or more accurately, it requires digging deep into practice.  A few days back, I presented the Fourth Noble Truth as a network of practices that interconnected with the First, Second and third Noble Truths.  In the comments to that post, Barry noted that the Buddha had a good reason for making the Eightfold Path a systematic process.  We can never know why the Buddha chose this pattern of steps but they appear to proceed one after the other in a firmly set direction towards deep clarity.

I hadn’t thought the network version was in opposition to this although it may seem that way.  Perhaps it’s all just chaos ordering itself.  Or it may be order letting loose and having fun. In fact, as I dug into the three turning of each Noble Truth it was hard to see where one left off and the other began.  At one level, each can be “worked on” as a single unit – and it would follow that the Eightfold Path would be a systematic practice of well-being.  At another, the Four Noble Truths can be an open system that feeds itself and the world through a wide and deep circulation of insight, awareness, and compassion.

Regardless, realizing the Fourth Noble Truth, for me, means making a conscious commitment to practice.  At the same time there has to be an intention to not get distracted by the “stuff” of Buddhism.  As a religion, it has the same content and capability to disappoint me.  It’s priests and warriors are made of the same stuff as found in all religions.  Flies in the zendo.

All that matters is practice.  All that can be made real is practice as “an open system …in which material continually enters from, and leaves into, the outside environment.”*  I’m not sure of this (or of anything for that matter) but I think it is in that space between entry and leaving that the eight practices of the Fourth Noble Truth manifest.

Thank you for your practice,


*Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory, 1968

6 thoughts on “open systems

  1. Lot’s of ideas there. Those are the flies. Many of us are eager, at some point in our training, to know a lot about process and system, but are unwilling to advance into not knowing about process and system. We would at that point be happy to lead a group of retreatants around, like a hen followed by chicks, even though we don’t know where we are going or why.
    The root of the word “religion” means to
    reconnect, to tie back on to. What it is we feel disconnected from is the Mystery. Psychobabble and systems analysis won’t open those doors, indeed seasl them tighter because they are based on all things being in relation to our selves, and that is a mistaken View.
    Just one persons opinion and

    • Psychobabble definitely won’t open any doors because the term in itself is a slamming of doors. The courage and willingness to enter into suffering and to face how we create our own shit begins with looking at the impact it has on everyone else including ourselves. That’s the open system. Like it or not it exists. It’s not a matter of belief because the way micro to macro systems work just is.

      And while I greatly appreciate your strong opinion, I believe it deserves more than being diminished by hiding it in the “just one persons (sic) opinion”. I value your opinion and you are not “just one person.”

  2. As I read your phrase, “making a conscious commitment to practice,” it occurred to me that this means making a conscious commitment to each moment.

    In my experience, all practice comes down to one thing: How is it, just now?

    And, in that, there is no Buddhism, no Eightfold Path, no enlightenment – just *this.*

    (Which is a place/time I rarely am wiling to be.)

    • No argument on this. At the ultimate level. 😉 Where I am, it doesn’t help to raise the “no Buddhism, no Eightfold Path” flag. (No enlightenment I can go with.) And yes, when it all boils down to practice, now, now, just now, there is “Buddhism.” And there is Buddhism. And there is a systematic (if open) process of practice which is on the framework of Buddhist thought, philosophy and logic.

      I’m being picky. I do appreciate the “Kill the Buddha” koan but for beginning practitioners, it’s confusing – and in my experience is license to create a mish-mash and preferential practice.

  3. Thanks! Good response. I live and I learn. I like the “It’s not a matter of belief because the way micro to macro systems work just is.” Not to quibble, but; that sounds like a lot like faith. 🙂

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