I happen to believe that one of the great teachings of all time comes from Buddha and is called The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which forms the basic beliefs and is the foundation of what we know today as Buddhism. Now, don’t worry, I’m not getting all religious here; I just happen to think that The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path provide a really good foundation to living a good and happy life, as well as a powerful and rewarding set of guiding principles for my work in Social Documentary and Street Photography
My initial idea was to ‘translate’ the whole of the teachings into street photography terms, jargon and make it a bit 'clever'. but then I thought that would be trivializing something too important. What I would rather do is present a brief commentary on the teachings here so we can reflect on how they might apply to our life and our work.
We often read about the ‘Zen of Street Photography’, and ‘getting into a Zen like state’ when photographing on the street. I guess all I want to do here is lay a foundation on which we might be able to build an approach to the work, and to our lives.
The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path was taught by the Buddha about 2500 years ago and as I mentioned is really the core or essence of Buddhist teachings. And the great thing about this teaching is that there is nothing in it that anyone on a sincere spiritual quest would object to. I should say at this point I am not a Buddhist; I am a Humanist. But as a Humanist, I am at liberty to ‘borrow’ teachings that resonate and help me in some way.
Anyway, here are The Four Noble Truths:
And that’s it. It all seems pretty simple and straightforward when you see it written like this. But, it is the work of a lifetime (or the Buddhists would say, many lifetimes) to even come close to achieving that elusive end to suffering. The key is to aspire, to try. And to follow the Eightfold Path as closely as we can. And importantly, to not worry if we don’t quite live up to them all. After all, if you think about it, that’s an attachment to an outcome and is of course the cause of the suffering in the first place.
I’ve presented this short commentary because I find The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path are great guidelines to think about and act upon when I am able. I try to always have them in mind.
As for their role in my work, well, here I can mention Right Aspiration. I aspire to apply all the guidelines of The Eightfold Path when I am photographing on the street—and afterwards too as I edit and post my photos and when I write about them. On the street and at the computer I always try to be in the moment, with an open mind and heart. I try to not have expectations and to just be available to receive. Knowledge of The Four Noble Truths and following The Eightfold Path is really about the effort to achieve precisely that I think.
Does it work? Yes. Well, sometimes it’s possible to get a glimmer of that ‘Zen like state’ we read about; just sometimes I reach that state of being fully present in the moment and in exactly the place I’m in. But, of course it quite often doesn’t work. But, hey, I’m only human and not quite a Buddha just yet!
I am a Social Documentary and Street Photographer. Love, Compassion and Empathy are my guides.
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