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THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH

 

The noble eightfold path is the only straight route that leads to Nibbana. It avoids the extreme of self-mortification that weakens one’s intellect and the extreme of self–indulgence that retards one’s moral progress.

When the Buddha gave his first sermon in the Deer Park, he began the 'Turning of the Dhamma Wheel'. He chose the beautiful symbol of the wheel with its eight spokes to represent the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha's teaching goes round and round like a great wheel that never stops, leading to the central point of the wheel, the only point which is fixed, Nirvana / Nibbana. The eight spokes on the wheel represent the eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path. Just as every spoke is needed for the wheel to keep turning, we need to follow each step of the path. Our website’s logo is also denotes the Great Dhamma Wheel set in motion by Buddha.

The eight noble path taught by Lord Buddha are as follows :-

            i.          Right Understanding / View     (Samma Dirshti)

Right understanding is explained as the knowledge of the four Noble Truths. In other words it is the understanding of oneself as one really is, because these truths are concerned with the one-fathom long body of man. The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha-with wisdom and compassion.

ii.         Right Thought                          (Samma Samkappa)

Clear vision or right understanding leads to clear thinking. The second factor of the noble eightfold path is therefore right thought. We are what we think. Clear and kind thoughts build good, strong characters. Right thoughts are three fold. They consists of :-

a.       Nekkhamma - Renunciation of worldly pleasure or selflessness which is opposed to attachment selfishness and self-possessiveness.

b.      Avyapada      - Loving-kindness, goodwill, or benevolence, which is opposed to hatred, ill-will or aversion and

c.      Avihimsa or Karuna – Harmlessness or compassion, which is opposed to cruelty and callousness. Karuna or compassion is that sweet virtue which makes tender hearts of boble quiver at the sufferings of others. A compassionate one is as soft as a flower. He cannot bear the suffering of others. He whose mind is free from selfish desires, hatred and cruelty, and is saturated with the spirit of selflessness, loving-kindness and harmlessness, lives in perfect peace. He is indeed a blessing to himself and others.

iii.        Right Speech                           (Samma Vacha)

By speaking kind and helpful words, we are respected and trusted by everyone. The right thoughts lead to right speech.  It deals with falsehood, slandering, hatch words and frivolous talk. He who tries to eradicate selfish desires cannot indulge in uttering falsehood or in slandering for any selfish end or purpose. He is truthful and trustworthy and ever seeks the good and beautiful in others instead of deceiving, defaming, denouncing or disuniting his own fellow beings. A harmless mind that generates loving-kindness cannot give vent to harsh speech which first debases the speaker and then hurts another. What he utters is not only true, sweet and pleasant but also useful, fruitful and beneficial.

iv.        Right Conduct / Action (Samma Kammanta)                           

The right speech follows right action which deals with abstinence from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. These three evil deeds are caused by carving and anger, coupled with ignorance. With the gradual elimination of these causes from the mind of spiritual pilgrim, blameworthy tendencies arising there from will find no expression. Under no pretence would he kill or steal. Being pure in mind, he would lead a pure life. No matter what we say, others know us from the way we behave. Before we criticize others, we should first see what we do ourselves.

v.         Right Livelihood.                     (Samma Ajiva)

The purifying thoughts, words and deeds at the outset, the spiritual pilgrim tries to purify his livelihood by refraining from the five kinds of trade which are forbidden to a lay-disciple. They are trading in arms, human beings, flesh (i.e. breeding animals for slaughter), intoxicating drinks and poison. This means choosing a job that does not hurt others. The Buddha said, "Do not earn your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy."

vi.        Right Effort                               (Samma Vayama)

The right efforts is fourfold viz.

a.         The endeavour to discard evil that has already arisen,

b.         The endeavour to prevent the arising of un-arisen evil,

c.         The endeavour to develop un-arisen good, and,

d.         The endeavour to promote the good which has already arisen.

The right efforts play a very important part in the Noble Eightfold Path. It is by one’s own effort that one’s deliverance is obtained and not by merely seeking refuge in others or by offering prayers. A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will toward others. This also means not wasting effort on things that harm us and others.

vii        Right Mindfulness                    (Samma Sati)

The right effort is closely associated with right mindfulness. It is the constant mindfulness with regard to body, feelings, thoughts and mind objects. Mindfulness on these four objects tend to eradicate the misconceptions with regard to desirability, so-called happiness, permanence and an immortal soul respectively. This means being aware of our thoughts, words, and deeds.

viii       Right Concentration                 (Samma Samadhi)

Right efforts and right mindfulness lead to right concentration. It is the one pointedness of mind. A concentrated mind acts as a powerful aid to see things as they truly are by means of penetrative insight. Focus on one thought or object at a time. By doing this, we can be quiet and attain true peace of mind.

Following the Noble Eightfold Path can be compared to cultivating a garden, but in Buddhism one cultivates one's wisdom. The mind is the ground and thoughts are seeds. Deeds are ways one cares for the garden. Our faults are weeds. Pulling them out is like weeding a garden. The harvest is real and lasting happiness. Sometimes the Eightfold Path is spoken of as being a progressive series of stages which the practitioner moves through, the culmination of one leading to the beginning of another, but it is more usual to view the stages of the 'Path' as requiring simultaneous development.

Of these eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path the first two are grouped in wisdom (pradhyna or panna) , the second three in morality (Sila) and the last three in concentrations (Samadhi) :-

Sila

Samadhi

Panna

  • Right Speech

  • Right Action

  • Right Livelihood

  • Right Effort

  • Right Mindfulness

  • Right Concentration

  • Right Understanding

  • Right Thoughts

 

According to the order of development Sila, Samadhi and Panna are the three stages of the path. In other words the Eightfold Path essentially consists of meditation, following the precepts, and cultivating the positive converse of the precepts (e.g. benefiting living beings is the converse of the first precept of harmlessness). The Path may also be thought of as a way of developing śila, meaning mental and moral discipline.

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