A Comprehensive Approach to Spiritual Development

Living in this very complex world we often feel out of control and driven in directions that are not meaningful.  Our society has enormous wealth, yet acquiring the next material thing never seems to satisfy.  There is a gnawing feeling that there has to be more of ‘something’ that leads to satisfaction, joy, beauty and peace.  Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddha had the same feelings.  Born into great wealth, he began to wonder what his life – this human condition – was all about.  Do we just live until sickness, old age and death overtake us or is there a state of living which brings lasting satisfaction in this lifetime?

The Buddha went on a six-year quest for the truth.  What he discovered was revolutionary.  He saw with great clarity that people believed that they are physically and mentally fixed in nature: solid and unchanging.  But the Buddha discovered that this was not true.  We humans are constantly changing based on conditions that affect our body, mind and circumstances.  What a wonderful discovery!  Because we can change, we can work with our body, speech and mind to address our fears and habitual tendencies. This enables us to move to a more stable state which leads to peace, joy and beauty.  Based on his insight, the Buddha developed tools for change.  He developed precepts to live by, mindfulness techniques to contemplate, meditations to work with, and suttas or teachings to study and live by.  His goal for us was to see what he saw – the actual state of things as they are, which is called the enlightened view. These spiritual tools, employed in a logical and heartfelt fashion, develop the path that leads to meaningful change.

The Triratna Path of Practice consists of five interrelating stages or aspects: Peace, Happiness, Wisdom, Freedom of Heart and Mind, and Spontaneous Compassionate Activity.




This path is not necessarily meant to be linear but we usually start by working on the development of mindfulness because most of us are novices in this area.  In truth we could start anywhere on our Path of Practice but let’s start by first working to achieve a level of peace and integration by learning how to meditate on mindfulness and by studying the teachings on which it is based (such as the Satipatthana Sutta).  We’ll learn about the precepts for daily living that the Buddha prescribed to support our efforts, and we’ll begin to understand conditionality through study of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.  All of this provides a firm basis on which to approach the other four aspects of the Path of Practice.

After the development of peace and integration, we’ll also start working on happiness and positive emotion by learning to meditate on loving kindness and build up positive emotions to work with the varied life situations we encounter. We’ll learn what the Buddha taught about these topics and learn about the high priority he placed on friendship.  Likewise, as we become more integrated and more positive, we’ll start to understand our mind and the concept of wisdom.  We are now developing the capability to know our minds and more importantly to start controlling our actions in a positive way.  Our mediation will move further into working with the mind itself to understand its great capacity to heal and to achieve great joy.  Again, we’ll rely on and study the teachings of the Buddha in this effort.

Finally, when we are comfortable, integrated, positive and able to control our minds to some degree, we’ll work with practices to help us develop freedom for our hearts and minds as well as building compassion toward all beings.  The Buddha found that utilizing different meditation techniques in these five areas and living a spiritual life through following the precepts would eventually lead to knowing the truth about humanity and bring freedom, joy, beauty, and peace to our lives.