Spiritual Care Program

Three Noble Principles

By Christine Longaker

Three Noble Principles
Guided reflection
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Reflecting each day on the Three Noble Principles can bring all our fragmented selves into one whole, and give a sense of meaning and direction in our life. The Three Noble Principles are

Reflecting on these can help us:

Ordinary and profound compassion

Our ordinary sense of compassion is often moody, offered with conditions, and directed toward those we feel deserve it. "Profound compassion" is what radiates from the innermost essence of our being. Profound compassion is based on the recognition that from the viewpoint of their true nature, all beings are in their essence, the same. Our spiritual essence might be temporarily clouded with negative mind states of fear, grasping and aggression. These painful emotions result in actions which bring suffering to others and ourselves. Profound compassion is the sincere wish that all beings everywhere be free of suffering and even its causes.

Since we are all connected, all beings are worthy of respect and love, like our own family or cherished friends. Like the love of the Buddhas, or the love of God, this profound compassion radiates equally to all--enemies and friends, those happy or suffering, the strong and the frail--without any conditions or bias.

Like warm rays of sunlight, compassion is the natural radiance of our true nature--which is skylike, clear, and fundamentally good. Spiritual practice helps us re-connect with our true nature so that it becomes our way of being, perceiving and connecting in every moment of the day. Instead of judging others or reacting to their superficial layer of suffering or negativity, the stability of our spiritual practice enables us to recognize the fundamental "good heart" within each person. Through regularly inspiring ourselves with this pure perception, we will gradually come to embody the deepest truth of our own spiritual path.

Guided reflection on the Three Noble Principles

Good in the beginning

At the start of each session of spiritual practice (and as we begin each day) we can arouse a motivation of "profound compassion." Begin by reflecting quietly for a few moments on the many direct and subtle ways that you experience suffering, and recognize how much you yearn to be free of suffering.

Acknowledge as well that at the very core of your being is your innermost essence--an openness, radiant clarity and boundless compassion that is entirely free of suffering. Reflect next on how many others are suffering at this very moment, thousands with the same problems you have, and many in circumstances far more painful or desperate than your own. As you think of those who are in great distress, allow their suffering to touch your heart, so that you generate a deep desire to truly help them.

Reflect as well that even though so many people appear to be strangers, you are actually related to them as members of the human family. In different circumstances, any stranger could become your most cherished friend, or could save someone you love from a fatal accident. In the same way you would want to help your closest friends when they're in distress, allow your compassion to become more limitless and unbiased, so that you embrace everyone with the same profound compassion and love.

These reflections may awaken in you the heartfelt wish to do everything possible to benefit others, sharing all the positive power and merit of your spiritual practice with them, and committing to relieve their suffering and bring them happiness in whatever ways you can, through your actions, words, prayers or thoughts.

Good in the middle

The second of the Three Noble Principles refers to the fact that while in the midst of our spiritual practice, and our daily life, we learn to embody the presence of our true nature. We resolve to integrate the inspiration of our practice throughout the day, maintaining an open, peaceful, and non-grasping attitude toward ourselves and everything we encounter, remembering all the while our compassionate motivation.

Good in the end

At the conclusion of our meditation and at the end of each day we dedicate the merit--the spiritual benefit and power our positive actions generate--toward relieving the suffering of others, bringing them happiness and peace, and ultimately, toward their enlightenment. Dedicating our merit reaffirms our compassionate motivation and seals our practice, so that the benefit of it is never lost.

Dedicating our merit to others unites our activity with the enlightened activity of all saints and enlightened beings, making our merit more vast and inexhaustible. If you like, you can pray and dedicate with words like these:

By the power and the truth of this practice,
May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness,
Be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be separated from the sacred happiness which is free of suffering.
And may they dwell in the great equanimity that is free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.

When our positive actions are motivated by compassion, when we keep our heart and mind pure in the midst of our work or spiritual practice, and when we dedicate the merit to others at the end, then whatever we have done becomes a meaningful part of our spiritual path, our evolution toward our highest potential. Through employing these Three Noble Principles every day, and keeping them in mind during our every action, we will gradually begin to see the sacred in everything we do and in everyone we meet.

Copyright 1997 C. Longaker and Rigpa Fellowship: "Facing Death and Finding Hope"