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The Eightfold Path

The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths in his first sermon after his enlightenment. He spent the remaining 45 years of his life elaborating on them, especially on the Fourth Noble Truth—the truth of magga, the path.


It is said that when the Buddha first realized enlightenment, he had no intention of teaching. But upon reflection—in the myths, he was asked to teach by gods—he decided to teach to relieve the suffering of others.


However, what could he teach? What he had realized was so outside of ordinary experience that there was no way to explain it. He didn't think anyone would understand him. So, instead, he taught people how to realize enlightenment themselves.


The Eightfold Path or eight areas of practice that touch all aspects of life. Although they are numbered from one to eight, they are not to be "mastered" one at a time but practiced all at once. Every aspect of the path supports and reinforces every other aspect.


The symbol of the Path is the eight-spoke dharma wheel, with each spoke representing an area of practice. As the wheel turns, who can say which spoke is the first and which the last?


He explained it in different ways and in different words to different people, according to the stage of their development and their capacity to understand and follow him. The noble eightfold path, as laid down by Buddha, helps an individual attain the state of Nirvana by freeing him from attachments and delusions and thereby helping him understand the innate truth of all things. This path, therefore, helps a person with his ethical and mental growth and development.


The Buddha taught the eightfold path in virtually all his discourses, and his directions are as clear and practical to his followers today as they were when he first gave them


THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH

  • Right understanding/Right View (Samma ditthi)

  • Right thought (Samma sankappa)

  • Right speech (Samma vaca)

  • Right action (Samma kammanta)

  • Right livelihood (Samma ajiva)

  • Right effort/action (Samma vayama)

  • Right mindfulness (Samma sati)

  • Right concentration (Samma samadhi)

In Buddhism, the eightfold path is meant as a guideline, to be considered, to be contemplated, and to be taken on when, and only when each step is fully accepted as part of the life you seek. Buddhism never asks for blind faith, it seeks to promote learning and a process of self-discovery.

The eight parts of the path to liberation are grouped into three essential elements of Buddhist practice—moral conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom.

Moral Conduct

Moral conduct (sila) is built on the vast conception of universal love and compassion for all living beings, on which the Buddha’s teaching is based. In ethical conduct (sila), based on love and compassion, are included three factors of the noble eightfold path: namely, right speech, right action, and right livelihood.


MENTAL DISCIPLINE


Next comes mental discipline, in which are included three other factors of the eightfold path: namely, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.


WISDOM

The remaining two factors, namely right thought and right understanding, constitute wisdom in the noble eightfold path.

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