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Noble Eightfold Path
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The Noble Eightfold Path (Pali: Ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, Sanskrit: āryāṣṭāṅgamārga) is one of the principal teachings of The Buddha, who described it as the way leading to the cessation of Suffering (Dukkha) and the achievement of self-awakening.
According to discourses found in both the Theravada school's Pali canon, and some of the Āgamas in the Chinese Buddhist canon, the Noble Eightfold Path was rediscovered by Gautama Buddha during his quest for Enlightenment.
- In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times.
I followed that path. Following it, I came to;
Depending on the school, it may be practiced as a whole, only in part, or it may have been modified. Each Buddhist lineage implements the path in the manner most conducive to the development of the students drawn to that lineage.
Additionally, some sources give alternate definitions for the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path is sometimes divided into three basic divisions, as follows:
|Division||Eightfold Path factors||Acquired factors|
|Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā)||1. Right view||9. Superior right knowledge|
|2. Right intention||10. Superior right liberation|
|Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: śīla, Pāli: Sīla)||3. Right speech|
|4. Right action|
|5. Right livelihood|
|Concentration (Sanskrit and Pāli: Samādhi)||6. Right effort|
|7. Right Mindfulness|
|8. Right concentration|
According to the Bhikkhu (Monk) and scholar Walpola Rahula, the divisions of the noble Eightfold Path "are to be developed more or less simultaneously, as far as possible according to the capacity of each individual.
They are all linked together and each helps the cultivation of the others."
However, until that point is reached, some sequence in the unfolding of the path is inevitable."
right effort, and
The last and final factor to arise is right liberation.
At a later stage, when the mind has been refined by training in moral discipline and concentration, and with the gradual arising of right knowledge, it will arrive at a superior right view and right intention.
It is to understand how reality works.
- And what is right view?
This is called right view.
There are two types of right view:
- Moral law of karma: Every action (by way of body, speech, and mind) will have karmic results (a.k.a. reaction).
- Suffering: Birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, and despair are Suffering. Not being able to obtain what one wants is also Suffering.
The way leading to the cessation of Suffering is the noble Eightfold Path.
Right view for monastics is explained in detail in the Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta ("Right View Discourse"), in which Ven. Sariputta instructs that right view can alternately be attained by the thorough understanding of the unwholesome and the wholesome, the four nutriments, the Twelve Nidanas or the three taints.
- And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.
- See also:Buddhist ethics
For the mind to be unified in concentration, it is necessary to refrain from unwholesome deeds of body and speech to prevent the faculties of bodily action and speech from becoming tools of the defilements.
In the Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
- And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
- Abandoning false speech... He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world...
- Abandoning divisive speech... What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here...
- Abandoning abusive speech... He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large...
- Abandoning idle chatter... He speaks in season, speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, and the Vinaya.
He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, connected with the goal...
The Abhaya Sutta elaborates:
- In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
- In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, yet unbeneficial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
- In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, yet unendearing and disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.
- In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, yet endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say them.
- In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, but unbeneficial, yet endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say them.
- In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing and agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings.
In every case, if it is not true, beneficial nor timely, one is not to say it.
- And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, from stealing, and 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: T
For the lay follower, the Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta elaborates:
Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given.
He does not take, in the manner of a thief, things in a village or a wilderness that belong to others and have not been given by them.
He does not get sexually involved with those who are protected by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their relatives, or their Dhamma; those with husbands, those who entail punishments, or even those crowned with flowers by another man.
- Abandoning uncelibacy, he lives a celibate life, aloof, refraining from the sexual act that is the villager's way.
This means that practitioners ought not to engage in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm for other living beings.
- 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.
More concretely today interpretations include "work and career need to be integrated into life as a Buddhist," it is also an ethical livelihood, "wealth obtained through rightful means" (Bhikku Basnagoda Rahula) - that means being honest and ethical in business dealings, not to cheat, lie or steal.
The five types of businesses that should not be undertaken:
- Business in weapons: trading in all kinds of weapons and instruments for killing.
- Business in human beings: slave trading, prostitution, or the buying and selling of children or adults.
- Business in meat: "meat" refers to the bodies of beings after they are killed. This includes breeding animals for slaughter.
- Business in intoxicants: manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks or addictive drugs.
- Business in poison: producing or trading in any kind of poison or a toxic product designed to kill.
Samadhi is literally translated as "concentration", it is achieved through training in the higher consciousness, which brings the calm and collectedness needed to develop true Wisdom by direct experience.
Right effort (samyag-vyāyāma / sammā-vāyāma) can also be translated as "right endeavor" or "right diligence". In this factor, the practitioners should make a persisting effort to abandon all the wrong and harmful thoughts, words, and deeds.
The practitioner should instead be persisting in giving rise to what would be good and useful to themselves and others in their thoughts, words, and deeds, without a thought for the difficulty or weariness involved.
- There is the case where a Monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
- He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.
- He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
- He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, and culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen:
The above four phases of right effort mean to:
- Prevent the unwholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
- Let go of the unwholesome that has arisen in oneself.
- Bring up the wholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
- Maintain the wholesome that has arisen in oneself.
- See also:Mindfulness
In the Pali Canon, it is explained thus:
- There is the case where a Monk remains focused on the body in and of itself—ardent, aware, and mindful—putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
- He remains focused on feelings in and of themselves—ardent, aware, and mindful—putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
- He remains focused on the mind in and of itself—ardent, aware, and mindful—putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
- He remains focused on mental qualities in and of themselves—ardent, aware, and mindful—putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
- The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment.
All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.
The Maha Satipatthana Sutta also teaches that by mindfully observing these phenomena, we begin to discern its arising and subsiding and the Three Characteristics of Dharma in direct experience, which leads to the arising of insight and the qualities of dispassion, non-clinging, and release.
It is also known as right meditation.
- And what is right concentration?
- Herein a Monk aloof from sense desires, aloof from unwholesome thoughts, attains to and abides in the first meditative absorption jhana, which is detachment-born and accompanied by applied thought, sustained thought, joy, and bliss.
- By allaying applied and sustained thought he attains to, and abides in the second Jhana, which is inner tranquillity, which is unification of the mind), devoid of applied and sustained thought, and which has joy and bliss.
- By detachment from joy he dwells in equanimity, mindful, and with clear comprehension and enjoys bliss in body, and attains to and abides in the third Jhana, which the noble ones (ariyas) call "dwelling in equanimity, Mindfulness, and bliss".
- By giving up of bliss and Suffering, by the disappearance already of joy and sorrow, he attains to, and abides in the fourth Jhana, which is neither Suffering nor bliss, and which is the purity of equanimity — Mindfulness.
- This is called right concentration.
- The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions?
right effort, and
In the Mahācattārīsaka Sutta which appears in the Chinese and Pali canon's, The Buddha explains that cultivation of the noble Eightfold Path leads to the development of two further factors, which are;
Right knowledge is seeing things as they really are by direct experience, not as they appear to be, nor as the practitioner wants them to be, but as they truly are. A result of Right Knowledge is the tenth factor - Right liberation.
Under the Wisdom (paññā) subdivision of the noble Eightfold Path, this worldview is intimately connected with the second element, right thought (sammā-saṅkappa), which concerns the patterns of thought and intention that controls one's actions.
The noble Eightfold Path is also the fourth noble truth.
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And Suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows
Like a never-departing shadow.
Watson points this out from a psychological standpoint:
- Research has shown that repeated action, learning, and memory can actually change the nervous system physically, altering both synaptic strength and connections. Such changes may be brought about by cultivated change in emotion and action; they will, in turn, change subsequent experience.
The noble eightfold path (Skt. āryāṣṭāṅgamārga; Tib. འཕགས་པའི་ལམ་ཡན་ལག་བརྒྱད་པ་, Wyl. ‘phags pa’i lam yan lag brgyad pa), belonging to the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment, is practiced on the path of meditation.
It consists of:
- correct intention (or thought) (Skt. samyaksaṅkalpa; Tib. ཡང་དག་པའི་རྟོག་པ་, Wyl. yang dag pa'i rtog pa)
- correct action (or conduct) (Skt. samyakkarmānta; Tib. ཡང་དག་པའི་ལས་ཀྱི་མཐའ་, Wyl. yang dag pa'i las kyi mtha')
- correct concentration (Skt. samyaksamādhi; Tib. ཡང་དག་པའི་ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་, Wyl. yang dag pa'i ting nge 'dzin)
The Sutra of the Ten Bhumis says:
- "One trains in correct view, remaining in isolation, remaining free from attachment, remaining in cessation and meditating on complete transformation through abandonment.
Khenpo Namdrol explains:
- "Correct view is the fully eliminating branch because it eliminates all the opposing factors.
Correct livelihood means inspiring others through having few desires.
When related to the three trainings, correct view and thinking correspond to the training in wisdom, correct speech, action and livelihood to the training in discipline, and effort, mindfulness and concentration to the training in meditation.
The eight are often translated as 'right view', 'right intention' and so on. B. Alan Wallace and Robert Thurman have suggested that a more accurate translation would be 'realistic view', 'realistic intention', etc.
It consists of the following eight factors:
- 1. Right Understanding
- 2. Right Thoughts
- 3. Right Speech
- 4. Right Action
- 5. Right Livelihood
- 6. Right Effort
- 7. Right Mindfulness
- 8. Right Concentration
2. Right Thoughts are threefold. They are:
- (a) The thoughts of renunciation which are opposed to sense-pleasures.
- (b) Kind Thoughts which are opposed to ill-will.
- (c) Thoughts of harmlessness which are opposed to cruelty. These tend to purify the mind.
- (a) trade in deadly weapons
- (b) trade in animals for slaughter
- (c) trade in slavery
- (d) trade in intoxicants
- (e) trade in poisons
Right Livelihood means earring ones living in a way that is not harmful to others.
6. Right Effort is fourfold, namely:
- (a) the endeavor to discard evil that has already arisen.
- (b)the endeavor to prevent the arising of unrisen evil.
- (c)the endeavour to develop that good which has already arisen.
- (d)the endeavour to promote that good which has not already arisen.
If one wants to get to the top of a mountain, just sitting at the foot thinking about it will not bring one there.
It is by making the effort of climbing up the mountain, step by step, that one eventually reaches the summit.
7. Right Mindfulness is also fourfold:
- (a) mindfulness with regard to body
- (b) mindfulness with regard to feeling
- (c) mindfulness with regard to mind
- (d) mindfulness with regard to mental objects.