The path was discovered by Buddha. The eightfold path is the only way to achieve Nirvana. It avoids the extreme of self-torture that weakens one’s intellect and the extreme of self-indulgence that retards spiritual progress.
It consists of eight factors separated into three basic divisions:
- Right understanding
- Right intention
- Ethical conduct
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right meditation
Encompasses the right to look at life, nature, and the world; To perceive things as they really are and to understand how reality works.
Reasoning begins the path, explaining reasons for human existence, suffering, sickness, aging, death, the existence of greed, hatred, and delusion. It gives direction to the other seven path factors.
The right understanding includes:
- Karma (Moral Law) – Every action, whether by movement of the body, speech, and thoughts of our mind, will have karmic results or a reaction. Wholesome and unwholesome actions will produce results and effects that correspond with the nature of the action.
- The three characteristics– everything exists in an impermanent state. Mental and bodily phenomena are temporary sources of suffering or joy and therefore are not-self.
- Inconstancy – Everything we encounter in this world is in a constant state of flux. There is nothing that ceases to exist; only the appearance of a thing ceases as it transitions from one form to another.
- Dissatisfaction– Nothing found in the physical or the psychological realms can bring enduring, deep satisfaction. We merely allow ourselves to indulge in temporary distractions of the physical world.
“Whatever is impermanent is subject to change. Whatever is subject to change is subject to suffering.” ~The Buddha
- Not-self – There is no unchanging, permanent essence in our being. Every aspect of our “self” is a delusion. The absence of a self releases us from clinging to the misconception of permanence in the “self”. The notion of the self as an unchanging, permanent existence gives rise to unhappiness. Only by departing from our concept of a consistency can we find true happiness.
- Suffering – Birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, and despair and desire to obtain the unattainable are suffering. Our desire is the cause of our suffering. Therefore, the cessation of this craving brings about the cessation of the suffering. Ignorance of reality is the root cause of the arising of suffering, and the elimination of this quality is the root cause of the cessation of suffering.
The purpose of right view is to clear one’s path of confusion, misunderstanding, and deluded thinking. It is intended to help one gain understanding of reality. It should be a flexible, open minded liberation of the soul, without clinging to a dogmatic position.
The exertion of our own will to change. We should aspire to rid ourselves of qualities we know to be wrong and immoral. This includes, renunciation of worldly things and commitment to the spiritual path; good will; and a commitment to harmlessness towards living beings.
“And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.”
Speak the truth and do not deceive the world. Do not speak intending to divide people apart. Instead, seek to reconcile, create concord, commune and unity through your words. Speak words that are soothing, affectionate, polite, appealing and pleasing to others. Speak what is factual, concisely with clarity so others may find your meaning. Avoid rambling idle chatter, adding to the noise and confusion in the universe.
Remain pure in your bodily action. Train oneself to be morally upright in one’s activities and refraining from acting in ways that would be corrupt or bring harm to oneself or to others. This includes: Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, practicing chastity.
Do not engage in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm for other living beings.
The five types of businesses that are harmful to undertake are:
- Weapons – trading in all kinds of weapons and instruments for killing
- Slavery – trading human beings, prostitution, or the buying and selling of children or adults.
- Meat / Butchery– “meat” refers to the bodies of beings after they are killed. This includes breeding animals for slaughter.
- Intoxicants – manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks or addictive drugs.
- Poison – producing or trading in any kind of toxic product designed to kill.
Make effort to abandon wrong and harmful thoughts, words, and deeds. Let yourself practice what would be good and useful to themselves and others in their thoughts, words, and deeds. Do not flinch from difficult tasks or be overcome by weariness. Persist in maintaining righteous thoughts, words and actions.
Right Mindfulness is the awareness of one’s deeds, words and thoughts. Constantly remain alert to stimuli that affect both body and mind. Be mindful and deliberate, making conscious effort not to act or speak due to inattention or oversight.
Practice concentrating on an object until reaching the full height of your concentration and a state of meditative absorption. It is the gradual process of training your mind to focus on a single object and to remain fixated upon it without wavering. The practice of meditation helps develop a calm and concentrated mind, preparing oneself for the ultimate attainment of Wisdom and Enlightenment.