Noble Eightfold Path?The Middle
is the Path for leading a religious life without going to extremes.
outstanding aspect of the Buddha's
Teaching is the adoption of the Eightfold Path is the Middle Path. The
Buddha advised His followers to follow this Path so as to avoid the extremes
of sensual pleasures and self-mortification. The Middle Path is a righteous
way of life which does not advocate the acceptance of decrees given by
someone outside oneself. A person practises the Middle Path, the guide
for moral conduct, not out of fear of nay supernatural agency, but out
of the intrinsic value in following such an action. He chooses this self-imposed
discipline for a definite end in view: self-purification.
Middle Path is a planned course of inward culture and progress. A person
can make real progress in righteousness and insight by following this Path,
and not by engaging in external worship and prayers. According to the Buddha,
anyone who lives in accordance with the Dhamma will be guided and protected
by that very Law. When a person lives according to Dhamma, he will also
be living in harmony with the universal law.
Buddhist is encouraged to mould his life according to the Noble Eightfold
Path as taught by the Buddha. He who adjusts his life according to this
noble way of living will be free from miseries and calamities both in this
life-time and hereafter. He will also be able to develop his mind by restraining
from evil and observing morality.
Eightfold Path can be compared to a road map. Just as a traveler will need
a map to lead him to his destination, we all need the Eightfold Path which
shows us how to attain Nibbana, the final goal of human life. To
attain the final goal, there are three aspects of the Eightfold path to
be developed by the devotee. He has to develop Sila(Morality), Samadhi(Mental
Culture) and Panna (Wisdom). While the three must be developed simultaneously,
the intensity with which any one area is to be practised varies according
to a person's own spiritual development.
A devotee must first develop his morality, that is, his actions should
bring good to other living beings. He does this by faithfully adhering
to the precepts of abstaining from killing, slandering, stealing, becoming
intoxicated or being lustful. As he develops his morality, his mind will
become more easily controlled, enabling him to develop his powers of concentration.
Finally, with the development of concentration, wisdom will arise.
His infinite wisdom, the Buddha knew that not all humans have the same
ability to reach spiritual maturity at once. So He expounded the Noble
Eightfold Path for the gradual development of the spiritual way of life
in a practical way. He knew that not all people can become perfect in one
lifetime. He said that Sila, Samadhi, and Panna, must and can be developed
over many lifetimes with diligent effort. This path finally leads to the
attainment of ultimate peace where there is no more unsatisfactoriness.
Eightfold path consists of the following eight factors:
Right Action Morality
Samadhi Right Mindfulness Mental culture
Panna Right Thoughts Wisdom
What is Right Understanding? It is
explained as having the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. In other words,
it is the understanding of things as they really are. Right Understanding
also means that one understands the nature of what are wholesome kamma(merits)
and unwholesome kamma(demerits), and how they may be performed with
the body, speech and mind. By understanding kamma, a person will
learn to avoid evil and do good, thereby creating favorable outcomes in
his life. When a person has Right Understanding, he also understands the
Three Characteristics of Life (that all compounded things are transient,
subject to suffering, and without a Self) and understands the Law of Dependent
Origination. A person with complete Right Understanding is one who is free
from ignorance, and by the nature of that enlightenment removes the roots
of evil from his mind and becomes liberated. A lofty aim of a practising
Buddhist is to cultivate Wisdom and gain Right Understanding about himself,
life and all phenomena.
When a person has Right Understanding, he
or she develops Right Thought as well. This factor is sometimes
known as 'Right Resolution',
'Right Aspirations" and
It refers to the mental state which eliminates wrong ideas or notions and
promotes the other moral factors to be directed to Nibbana. This
factor serves a double purpose of eliminating evil thoughts and developing
pure thoughts. Right Thought is important because it is one's
thoughts which either purify or defile a person.
are three aspects to Right Thought. First, a person should maintaining
an attitude of detachment from worldly pleasures rather than being selfishly
attached to them. He should be selfless in his thoughts and think of the
welfare of others. Second, he should maintain loving-kindness, goodwill
and benevolence in his mind, which is opposed to hatred, ill-will or aversion.
Third, he should act with thoughts of harmlessness or compassion to all
beings, which is opposed to cruelty and lack of consideration for others.
As a person progresses along the spiritual path, his thoughts will become
increasingly benevolent, harmless, selfless, and filled with love and compassion.
Understanding and Right Thought, which are Wisdom factors, will lead to
good, moral conduct. There are three factors under moral conduct: Right
Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. Right Speech involves respect
for truth and respect for the welfare for others. It means to avoid lying,
to avoid backbiting or slander, to avoid harsh speech, and to avoid idle
talk. We have often underestimated the power of speech and tend to use
little control over our speech faculty. But we have all been hurt by someone's
words at some time of our life, and similarly we have been encouraged by
the words of another. It is said that a harsh word can wound
more deeply than weapons, where as a gentle word can change the heart and
mind of the most hardened criminal. So to develop a harmonious society,
we should cultivate and use our speech positively. We speak words which
are truthful, bring harmony, kind and meaningful. The Buddha once said
'pleasant speech is sweet
as honey, truthful speech is beautiful like a flower, and wrong speech
is unwholesome like filth'.
next factor under good, moral conduct is Right Action. Right Action
entails respect for life, respect for property, and respect for personal
relationships. It corresponds to the first three of the Five Precepts to
be practised by every Buddhist, that is, dear to all, and all tremble at
punishment, all fear death and value life. Hence, we should abstain from
taking a life which we ourselves cannot give and we should not harm other
sentient beings. Respect for property means that we should not take what
is not given, by stealing, cheating, or force. Respect for personal relationship
means that we should not commit adultery and avoid sexual misconducts,
which is important for maintaining the love and trust of those we love
as well as making our society a better place to live in.
Livelihood is a factor under moral conduct which refers to how we earn
our living in society. It is an extension of the two other factors of Right
Speech and Right Action which refer to the respect for truth, life, property
and personal relationships.
Livelihood means that we should earn a living without violating these principles
of a moral conduct. Buddhists are discouraged from being engaged in the
following five kinds of livelihood: trading in human beings, trading in
weapons, trading in flesh, trading in intoxicating drinks and drugs, and
trading in poison. Some people may say that they have to do such a business
for their living and, therefore, it is not wrong for them to do so. But
this argument is entirely baseless. If it were valid, then thieves, murderers,
gangsters, thugs, smugglers and swindlers can also just as easily say that
they are also doing such unrighteous acts only for their living and, therefore,
there is nothing wrong with their way of life.
people believe that fishing and hunting animals for pleasure and slaughtering
animals for food are not against the Buddhist precepts. This is another
misconception that arises owing to a lack of knowledge in Dhamma. All these
are not decent actions and bring suffering to other beings. But in all
these actions, the one who is harmed most of all is the one who performs
these unwholesome actions. Maintaining a life through wrong means is not
in accordance with the Buddha's teaching. The Buddha once said, 'Though
one should live a hundred years immorally and unrestrained, yet it would
indeed be better to live one day virtuously and meditatively.' (Dhammapada
103) It is better to die as a cultured and respected person than to
live as a wicked person.
remaining three factors of the Noble Eightfold Path are factors for the
development of wisdom through the purification of the mind. They are Right
Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. These factors, when
practised, enable a person to strengthen and gain control over the mind,
thereby ensuring that his actions will continue to be good and that his
mind is being prepared to realize the Truth, which will open the door to
Freedom, to Enlightenment.
Effort means that we cultivate a positive attitude and have enthusiasm
in the things we do, whether in our career, in our study, or in our practice
of the Dhamma. With such a sustained enthusiasm and cheerful determination,
we can succeed in the things we do. There are four aspects of Right Effort,
two of which refer to evil and the other two to good. First, is the effort
to reject evil that has already arisen; and second, the effort to prevent
the arising of evil. Third, is the effort to develop unarisen good, and
fourth, the effort to maintain the good which has arisen. By applying Right
Effort in our lives, we can reduce and eventually eliminate the number
of unwholesome mental states and increase and firmly establish wholesome
thoughts as a natural part of our mind.
Effort is closely associated with Right Mindfulness. The practice
of mindfulness is important in Buddhism. The Buddha said that mindfulness
is the one way to achieve the end of suffering. Mindfulness can be developed
by being constantly aware of four particular aspects. These are the application
of mindfulness with regard to the body (body postures, breathing so forth),
feelings (whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutrally); mind(whether the
mind is greedy or not, angry, dispersed or deluded or not); and mind objects
(whether there are mental hindrances to concentration, the Four Noble Truths,
and so on). Mindfulness is essential even in our daily life in which we
act in full awareness of our actions, feelings and thoughts as well as
that of our environment. The mind should always be clear and attentive
rather than distracted and clouded.
Right Mindfulness is directing our attention to our body, feelings, mind,
or mental object or being sensitive to others, in other words, putting
our attention to where we choose to, Right Concentration is the sustained
application of that attention on the object without the mind being distracted.
Concentration is the practice of developing one-pointedness of the mind
on one single object, either physical or mental. The mind is totally absorbed
in the object without distractions, wavering, anxiety or drowsiness. Through
practice under an experienced teacher, Right Concentration brings two benefits.
Firstly, it leads to mental and physical well-being, comfort, joy, calm,
tranquillity. Secondly, it turns the mind into an instrument capable of
seeing things as they truly are, and prepares the mind to attain wisdom.
Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth important truth taught by the Buddha.
As a competent spiritual physician, the Buddha has identified a disease
that afflicts all forms of life, and this is Dukkha or unsatisfactoriness.
He then diagnosed the cause of the unsatisfactoriness to be selfish greed
and craving. He discovered that there is a cure for the disease, Nibbana,
the state where all unsatisfactoriness ceases. And the prescription is
the Noble Eightfold Path. When a competent doctor treats a patient for
a serious illness, his prescription is not only for physical treatment,
but it is also psychological. The Noble Eightfold path, the path leading
to the end of suffering, is an integrated therapy designed to cure the
disease of Samsara through the cultivation of moral speech and action,
the development of the mind, and the complete transformation of one's level
of understanding and quality of thought. It shows the way to gain spiritual
maturity and be released completely from suffering.
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