The Noble Eightfold Path
In Buddhism, the Noble Eightfold Path is the way to the end of suffering. “It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things.” (Knierim). These are not to be seen as steps, but as individual principles that have relationships with each other. What are these principles? They are: right understanding, right thinking, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. They are broken into three separate groups: Wisdom (Panna) for the first two; Ethical Conduct (Sila) for the next three; and Mental Development (Samadhi) for the last three.
- Right Understanding (samma ditthi): This means to see things as they really are. It also means to recognize and understand the Four Noble Truths (Robinson). One must understand: impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas; and the law of karma. “Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.” (Knierim).
- Right Thinking/Intention (samma sankappa): This refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It can be described as “following the right path in life” (Robinson). It can be described as a commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. “Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: (1) the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, (2) the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and (3) the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.” (Knierim).
- Right Speech (samma vaca): Do not lie. Do not criticize. Do not condemn. Do not gossip. Do not use harsh language. To put it in a more positive text: “this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.” (Knierim).
- Right Conduct (samma kammanta): This involves the body as a natural means of expression, as it refers to the deeds that involve bodily actions. “Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind.” (Knierim). This also says that we must follow the Five Precepts (Robinson).
- Right Livelihood (samma ajiva): One should make their living in a legal and peaceful way. One should not harm others to gain their wealth.
- Right Effort (samma vayama): Promote good thoughts and conquer evil thoughts. “Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence.” (Knierim).
- Right Mindfulness (samma sati): “Become aware of your body, mind and feelings.” (Robinson). Right mindfulness is rooted in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away.
- Right Concentration (samma samadhi): One must meditate to achieve a higher consciousness, which develops right concentration.
As you can see, the Noble Eightfold Path has so much Truth in it. These are great principles to apply to your life. Hopefully it will help lead us away from the path of suffering, into the path that leads to Nirvana.
- Knierim, Thomas, ed. “The Eightfold Path.” The Eightfold Path. Thebigview.com, 01 Oct. 1999. Web. 27 July 2012. http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/eightfoldpath.html.
- Robinson, B.A. “Buddhism’s Core Beliefs.” Buddhism’s Core Beliefs. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 16 Aug. 2009. Web. 27 July 2012. http://www.religioustolerance.org/buddhism1.htm.