(Last Updated on : 18/03/2015)
The noble eightfold path is, in the teachings of the Buddha, adjudged the way that leads to the cessation of suffering (dukkha
) and the accomplishment of self-awakening. The noble eightfold path is used as an implement of discovery to slowly yield insights revealing the ultimate truth of things. It is a technique used to eradicate greed, hatred and illusion. The last of the four noble truths is the noble eightfold path, whereas the first factor of the noble eightfold path is the understanding of the four noble truths
. In all, of the elements of the noble eightfold path, the word "Right" is a translation of the word samyanc (Sanskrit) or samm? (Pali), which connotes completion, togetherness, and coherence, and which can also convey the sense of "perfect" or "ideal". In Buddhist symbolism, the noble eightfold path is often represented by means of the dharma wheel (the Dharmachakra, this is a symbol representing dharma (law) in Hinduism and the Buddha's teaching of the path to enlightenment), whose eight spokes represent the eight elements of the path.
The threefold division of the Path
The noble eightfold path is sometimes divided into three basic divisions. The three basic divisions are as follows:
The eightfold path is stated as follows:
1. Right view
|Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajna, Pali: panna)
||Right view, Right view
|Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: sila, Pali: sila)
||Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood
|Concentration (Sanskrit and Pali: samadhi)
||Right effort, Right mindfulness, Right concentration
Right view (samyag-drsti o samm-ditthi) can also be interpreted as "right perspective", "right vision" or "right understanding". It is the right way of viewing life, nature and the world as they actually are. It is to grasp how reality works. It acts as the reckoning for the practictioner to begin practicing the path. It explains the causes for human existence, suffering, sickness, aging, death, the existence of greed, abhorrence and illusion. It lends direction and effectiveness to the other seven path factors. Right view starts with concepts and propositional knowledge, but through the practice of right concentration it gradually becomes metamorphosed into wisdom which can eliminate the shackles of the mind. Comprehending of right view will invigorate the person to lead a virtuous life in line with right view.
There are two kinds of right view:
View with taints - this view is quite commonplace. Bearing this type of view will bring about virtue and will support the prosperous existence of the sentient being in the sphere of samsara.
View without taints - this view is supra-mundane. It is a factor of the path and will lead the bearer of this view towards self-awakening and liberation from the sphere of samsara.
Right view has numerous features; its simple form is suitable for common followers, whereas the other which involves deeper apprehension, is suitable for monastics. Normally it necessitates grasping the following reality:
Moral law of karma- Every action (by way of body, speech and mind) is bound to have karmic results. Wholesome and unwholesome actions will give rise to results and effects that are similar with the nature of that action. It is the right view about the moral process of the world.
The three characteristics- everything that arises is bound to come to an end (impermanence). Mental and body phenomena are impermanent, a source of suffering and non-self.
Suffering - Birth, aging, sickness, death, sadness, bereavement, pain, grief, distress and despair are suffering. Suffering also stands for an unsuccesful attempt to obtain what one desires. The arising of hankering is the root cause of the originating of suffering and the cessation of hankering is the root cause of the cessation of the suffering. The way leading to the cessation of suffering is the noble eightfold path. This type of right view is explained in term of Four Noble Truths.
Right view for monastics is explained in detail in the Sammaditthi Sutta ("Right View Discourse"), in which venerable Sariputta (one of the two principal disciples of Buddha) instructs that right view can be attained otherwise by the in-depth apprehension of the unwholesome and the wholesome, the four nutriments, the twelve nidanas or the three taints. "Wrong view" arising from ignorance (avijja), is the precondition for wrong intention, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness and wrong concentration. The practitioner should apply right effort to give up the wrong view and to enter into right view. Right mindfulness is utilised in order to constantly remain in right view.
The aim of right view is to illuminate one's path from the majority of confusion, misunderstanding and deluded thinking. It is a way to earn right understanding of reality. According to the Pali Canon commentary, right view should be deemed with a flexible, open mind, without clinging to that view as a rigid position. In this manner, right view becomes a path to liberation rather than an obstacle. Direct realisation of the Four Noble Truths may arrive at the prime level of self-development during the practice of right concentration.
2. Right intention
Right intention (samyak-samkalpa o samm-sankappa) can also be translated as "right thought", "right resolve", "right aspiration" or "the toil of our own will to change". In this factor, the practitioner should incessantly seek to free themselves of whatever qualities that they know are wrong and unethical. Right understanding of right view will help the practitioner to distinguish the differences between right intention and wrong intention. In the Pali Canon, it is explained as:
"And what is right resolve Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve."
It means the forgoing of the worldly things and an agreeable keener commitment to the spiritual path, good will, and a commitment to non-violence, or harmlessness towards other living beings.
3. Right speech
Right speech (samyag-vc o samm-vc) deals with the manner in which a Buddhist practitioner would best make utilisation of their words. Right speech is the first principle of the ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is the guideline for moral discipline that supports the other principals of the path. The aspect is not self-sufficient but it is essential because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of the ethical conduct. The importance of right speech is very significant in Buddhist ethics as words can save or destroy lives, make enemies or friends, cause a war or restore peace. According to Buddha, the right speeches are as follows: 1.to abstain from the false speech, especially not to utter deliberate lies or speak deceitfully, 2. To abstain from slanderous speech and not to use malicious words against others, 3. To refrain from using harsh words that offends or hurt other people, and, 4. To abstain from idle chatter that is without meaning or depth. The teachings of Buddha can be summarised as to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warmly and gently to others only whenever talk is necessary.
4. Right action
Right action (samyak-karmnta o samm-kammanta) can also be interpreted into "right conduct". In this factor, the practitioner should condition themselves to be ethically upright in their activities, not behaving in ways that would be profane or bring harm to themselves or others. In the Pali Canon, it is explained as:
"And what is right action Abstaining from taking life, from stealing, & from illicit sex (or sexual misconduct). This is called right action."
"And what, monks, is right action Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, monks, is called right action."
Right action also involves the body as the natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involved bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound state of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence. Right action means - 1. To refrain from harming any living creature, especially abstaining from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally, 2. To abstain from taking what is not given, which includes robbery, stealing, fraud, deceitfulness and dishonesty, and, to 3. Abstain from sexual misconduct. Thus, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest and to respect the belongings of others and to maintain a sexual relationship that is harmless to others.
5. Right livelihood
Right livelihood is also referred to as samyag-jva o samm-jva). In this factor, the practitioners had better not engage in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in damage for other living beings. In the Pali Canon, it is explained as:
"And what is right livelihood There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This is called right livelihood."
The five types of businesses that are unsafe to anyone are:
Business in weapons - trading in all sorts of weapons and instruments for killing.
Business in human beings - slave trading, or prostitution, or the buying and selling of children or adults.
Business in meat - "meat" denotes the bodies of beings after they are slain, and also the breeding of animals for butchery.
Business in intoxicants - manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks, or addictive drugs.
Business in poison - all kinds of toxic products contrived to kill.
6. Right effort
Right effort (samyag-vyayama o samma-vayama) can also be interpreted as "right endeavour". In this factor, the practitioners should make a persevering effort to give up all the wrong and injurious thoughts, words, and deeds. The practitioner should instead be persevering in giving rise to what would be beneficial and useful to themselves and others in their thoughts, words and deeds, without a thought for the trouble or fatigue involved. Right effort can be looked at as the prerequisite for other principles of the path. Without the effort, which is the act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task and leads to confusion. Mental energy is the force behind right effort. It can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy fuels desire, envy, aggression and violence can on the other side of the self-discipline, honesty, benevolence and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. To prevent the arising of unwholesome states, 2. To abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. To arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, 4. To maintain the perfect wholesome states that has already arisen.
7. Right mindfulness
Right mindfulness (samyak-smrti o samm-sati) can also interpreted as "right memory", "right awareness" or "right attention". In this factor, the practitioner should constantly keep their mind alert to phenomena, because they are impressing upon the body and mind. They should be wary and measured, making sure not to act or speak through the power of carelessness or forgetfulness. Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfect expression of cognition. It is the ability of mind to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. The cognitive process is related to impression induced by perception or by thought, but it does not stay with mere impression. One can always conceptualise sense impressions and thoughts immediately. These are interpreted and set in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which is naturally beyond the original impression. The mind then generates concepts, join concepts into complex interpretative schemes. All this takes place only half consciously and as a result the things are seen as obscured. Right mindfulness is associated with clear perceptions and it penetrates impression without being carried away. Buddha accounted for four types of right mindfulness: 1. Contemplation of the body, 2. Contemplation of feeling that is repulsive, attractive or neutral, 3. Contemplation of the state of mind, and, 4. Contemplation of the phenomena.
8. Right concentration
Right concentration (samyak-samdhi o samm-samdhi), as its Pali and Sanskrit name suggests, is the practice of concentration (samadhi). The practitioner will have to focuss on an object of attention until it reaches total concentration and then into the state of meditative absorption (jhana). Traditionally, the practice of samadhi can be developed from mindfulness of breathing, from visual objects (kasina), and repetition of phrases. Samadhi is used to repress the five hindrances in order to enter into jhana. Jhana is an implement used for inculcating wisdom by cultivating insight and use it to fathom the true nature of phenomena by direct cognition, which will then lead to breaking up the ruinations, realise the dhamma and self-awakening. During the practice of right concentration, the practitioner will need to look into and verify their right view; in the process right knowledge will arise, followed by right liberation.