Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour –Ep. 35 – The Eightfold Path: Right Thought and Renunciation


Continuing his series on the Four Noble Truths, Joseph begins a discussion of the second step on the noble Eightfold Path, Right Thought, and offers a fresh look at the practice of renunciation.

Joseph discusses the role of Right Thought in our practice. He looks at the how freedom from attachment is integral to Right Thought and the power of renunciation in doing so.

Click here to catch up with part one.


Show Notes

Habits of Thought (Opening) – In the original Pali language, the second step of Right Thought is known as sammà samkappa. This term can also be translated as right intention, right resolve, or right aspiration. The importance of this step is highlighted by the understanding of the great power that habit has over our lives.

“The more we repeat certain patterns of thought, the more probable it is that they will arise again.”

Into Practice (4:00) – How do we come to practice Right Thought? All of the elements that make up the first step of the Eightfold Path, Right View, that lead to the cultivation of thoughts and intentions that result in worldly happiness and ultimate freedom.

Joseph explains how each step along the Eightfold Path builds upon each other, how we put this step into practice and what the Buddha had to say about the role of renunciation.

“Following in the Buddha’s footsteps, we can cultivate in ourselves an increasingly clear discernment of the kinds of thoughts that are arising in our mind.”

Renouncing Addiction (11:00) – Renunciation is a very loaded term in the West, often associated with repression of desires with an austere lifestyle. Joseph offers a fresh perspective; instead of austerity, renunciation is the experience of non-addiction. We have become addicted not only to the gratification of our wants but also addicted to the mental habit of wanting itself.

“What is so beguiling about addictions is that in the moment they do give us pleasure. But then we grasp at them, feel the lack when they inevitably change and we reach again. This becomes a cycle until we are totally immersed in the wanting mind.”

Finding Ease in Non-Attachment (23:00) – Addiction is powerful, but it is possible to relate to desire in an altogether different way; with much greater freedom. Joseph discusses how through practice we develop a wise restraint. This allows us to settle back and allow desires to arise and pass without feeling the compulsion to act upon them. This gives us a glimpse of the Third Noble Truth, the ending of craving.

“There is greater ease in not wanting, than in wanting.”

The Value of Renunciation (36:00) – The Buddha often referred to the blessing of renunciation as the cleansing of the mind and heart. Joseph discusses just how apt the term cleansing is and how that is reflected in the lives of practicing monks. He teaches ways that laypeople can still find ways to practice renunciation in our lives and experience the contentment it brings.


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