Hello Bhante, I have read a lot about using the Eightfold Path for the cessation of suffering. I am currently reading The Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and it says the Path can be used for the total cessation of suffering. But I have had trouble when trying to find out if this is really possible because I\’m having trouble finding examples of people living today who have followed the path and do not suffer. Do you know if any such people exist? I would like to believe this is viable, and if so, there should be living evidence. Much love! -Matthew
I am glad that you are reading this book and are keen on this spiritual path. The complete cessation of suffering requires a complete transformation of ourselves. Both craving and ignorance (blindness to how our experience of the world occurs) have to be uprooted to completely be from suffering. Such sages are very rare. Advanced meditation masters like Ajahn Cha, Mahasi Sayadaw, Bhikkhu Nanananda are some of those sages. They have transcended suffering. This does not mean that they will not physically suffer at all. Their bodies will go through the same process as others’. They will experience difficulties and pains. But they do not identify themselves with them. Those changes and vicissitudes will not affect their minds since no craving and ignorance are present in them.
However this transformation is presented in Buddhism as gradual. The Noble Eightfold Path is a gradual path. What we should focus at the beginning is to use these practices and reduce our suffering. If we can live a life with less conflicts and suffering, it is already a big relief. The more we practice the less we suffer. You can put this Noble Eightfold path into test in your life. Try to learn mindfulness and then apply it practice right speech. Develop empathy (right intention) with people and other beings who are vulnerable to suffering and practice compassion towards them. Then check whether this way of living and those skills of mindfulness and compassion reduce tensions, conflicts and suffering in your life.
Rather than focusing on being 100% free from suffering, let us focus on becoming 5% or 10% free from suffering first. If these techniques work to reduce suffering, we can continue. Being hurry to bring about changes and to attain spiritual goals is a symptom of contemporary quick fix-culture. A true transformation is only possible through a gradual practice. Any quick change will not last long. I wish you all the best in your spiritual journey.