The Noble Eightfold Path:
The Way to the End of Suffering
The body of teachings of the Buddha, called the dharma (or dhamma in Pali), contains eight areas of aspiration toward our enlightenment, areas to be aligned with the principles of loving kindness, non-harming, self-discipline, mindful contemplative practices, and other important aspects of the teachings. This collection of teachings is referred to as The Noble Eightfold Path, and it guides seekers of enlightenment toward appropriate adjustments in their thoughts, intentions and actions. It tells us things we ought not to do, and it tells us things we ought to do. I recently posted a preview to this post on The Noble Eightfold Path with this:
Here is very different but informative treatment of the Noble Eightfold Path in a lovely illustration:
When we understand the “right” aspects of each of these areas of human life, assuming we are of like mind in our pursuits and goals, with practice and determination in time (and it could take many lifetimes), we can correct the deviations we have. And we all have them. We may chance, if we are most fortunate, to cross paths with a bodhisattva, or enlightened being, in our lifetimes, but very, very few of us will qualify for that title right now. So for all intents and purposes, let us assume there are areas in all of us where we would do well to align ourselves more fully to the dharma.
To best give clear and accurate information, I refer the reader to an excellent essay on The Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu Bodhi that does the topic more justice than I can hope to do. We consider those things we think, feel and do that are out of alignment with the dharma, and we make a sincere effort to change them. Here are my thoughts on the aspects of The Noble Eightfold Path, put forward imperfectly but as I understand them today:
- Right view: How do I see things? Is my view distorted by anger, craving, delusion, or afflictions of some kind? Can I see the good in all beings?
- Right intentions: What is my motivation? Do I seek the approval of others more than I seek to do the right thing? Am I acting out of greed, anger, or laziness? Do I sincerely aspire for all beings to be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit, or do I hope ill to befall an enemy or hope I will receive favor because of adversity happening to someone else?
- Right mindfulness: Am I present-centered, in the now, aware of myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually? Am I meditating mindfully? Or do I zone out or habitually disconnect my mind from my life?
- Right concentration: Do I meditate faithfully? When I focus am I able to give my task or experience my full attention? Or do I become easily distracted and abandon my worthy efforts too soon?
- Right effort: Am I putting all that I can into that which I undertake? Or do I hold back selfishly for no good reason? My effort may need to be spread among my various responsibilities and aspirations, but am I putting in the right effort where it is needed?
- Right speech: Do I choose my words carefully, wasting none, and avoiding frivolous criticisms? Am I able to say what I mean and mean what I say, and carefully consider my intentions before I speak? Do I offer wisdom or do I prattle on mindlessly? If I know I have no wisdom to give do I keep silent?
- Right action: Am I acting with kindness in all my decisions, judging none and living wisely? Do I find that I sometimes blunder into trouble by not being mindful in my actions? Can I keep myself acting out of respect for all beings, including respect for myself?
- Right livelihood: Am I pursuing an honorable profession or line of work? Am I of service to others? Does what I do cause harm to any being? Do I exploit any being in my occupation?
My intention in choosing to write today about The Noble Eightfold Path is to share the beauty of the Buddha’s clear and simple teachings. It is my hope that I have been able to manifest sufficient right speech in selecting my words, truthfully to the best of my ability, and use the effort to bring the dharma near enough for others to want to learn much more about it than I am able to impart. I am certain, that whatever else any of us seeks, most of us seek the end of suffering, at least our own.