Perhaps it is this focus on mindfulness or meditation, and nothing else on the Eightfold Path, that leads many to misconstrue the path as a personal journey and not a collective path of interrelating, or a collective way toward the cessation of suffering. We emphasize mindfulness and meditation so much that perhaps our wheel of dharma has gone flat. Or perhaps we have rode upon this wheel with such a singular approach like, “I meditate,” that we lack the full understanding that we need others and other aspects of the path to turn the wheel of dharma.

As I write, I am thinking back on being in the hospital emergency room two nights ago. There was so much pain I literally moaned for hours until the doctor administered morphine. The medicine ceased the pain, but the systemic hypertension of life at the root of the pain could not be alleviated with morphine.

When I entered the path of Buddha’s teachings there was the great human experience of heartache from the experience of being discriminated against most of my life. I could seek spiritual or other professional guidance around my personal heartache. However, I felt the healing could not be complete without a collective attention to systemic suffering that is at the root of that heartache. This notion of healing brings me to the Fourth Noble Truth which is: there is a way leading to the cessation of suffering. That way is called the Eightfold Path.

Many see this path as a personal improvement or as an achievement ladder in becoming (and appearing) Buddhist. However, among all the Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path in particular cannot be practiced out of relationship with others. It cannot be practiced without understanding suffering as systemic and as a collective human experience. Therefore, it cannot be practiced without attending to the suffering of classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. SEE MORE