The Noble Eightfold Path is a key teaching in Buddhism. It is the fourth Noble Truth and it sets up the foundations of living a spiritual life in the Buddhist religion.
Though at first The Eightfold Path of Buddhism may seem like a complex topic, it is actually much more simple when broken down into its individual components.
The Eightfold Path of Buddhism: The Background
The Eightfold Path is the path that Buddhists follow to end suffering. Of course, the Eightfold Path is primarily just a set of principles to follow that will show you a rough way to end suffering and get to enlightenment.
The principle is also referred to as the Threefold Way. This is because it encapsulates the three main parts of Buddhist life, namely ethics, meditation and wisdom.
Buddhists believe that the way you live your life can influence your Kamma (or karma). If we act in a positive way, being considerate to life around us, we are likely to get good consequences. The opposite is true if you behave in a negative way.
The eight different guiding principles to follow
The first step in the Eightfold Path of Buddhism is having a thorough understanding of the world and its truths. People have a way of only seeing what they want to see in the world, but with right understanding you are seeing the world as it is. It means understanding the Four Noble Truths.
From here, you have a guiding principle for how to live the rest of your life.
Once you have an understanding of the world and what makes it what it is, it’s then time to put the knowledge into action and become committed to the Eightfold Path.
Having the right intent means acting selflessly, having loving thoughts and not ones that comprise of violence. It means relinquishing selfish desire and ill will, and instead cultivating positive thoughts to make a better world.
Right intent means that you have the persistence to set out on your quest to enlightenment. You need to be truly committed to setting out on your journey, and committed to understanding, as is the first part of the eightfold path.
Our Words can have a tremendous impact on both ourselves and the lives around us. Right speech means speaking in a way that is good to others.
This means not engaging in idle gossip, telling lies or insulting others. It means speaking in a way that is kind to others. It means realizing the importance of careful speech and realizing when it is simply better to remain silent.
Right speech is all about uniting people with the power of words, and it’s about being considerate to others, choosing not to speak carelessly.
Right Action is all about making sure that we behave in a benevolent manner in life, and making sure that you follow an ethical code of conduct.
This means staying away from destroying life, for example, This may involve following a vegetarian diet. Right action comes down to considering the world around us and preserving life. It means that you don’t take anything that hasn’t been expressly given to you.
There are five precepts that fit in with right action, and these are to not kill, steal, lie, to refrain from sexual misconduct, and to avoid drugs or other intoxicants. It also means that you take care of the environment and try to protect the world to make sure it’s in good condition for further generations of people.
Right livelihood pertains to how we earn money and live out lives in general. To have the right livelihood means that you work in a job that has a respect for life, and works for equality of all living beings.
Of course, this means that certain professions are to be avoided if possible. These professions include ones that involve the harm of human or animal life, ones where you are dealing in any harmful intoxicants and ones that involve selling weapons.
Usually right livelihood also involved taking part in work that will better the world. This may be undertaking voluntary work as part of the Buddhist community, or it could be out in the work place or from your own back. Many monks are encouraged to do daily chores that reinforce steps on the Eightfold Path.
Right effort involves putting the right amount of effort into the things that you do. It means having the right amount of determination, steady while also enthusiastic.
This means welcoming positive thoughts and leaving behind negative thoughts such as anger and jealousy. It means putting proper effort into meditation, too.
Many of the above concepts may not be all that unfamiliar to many of us, but mindfulness is one that is slightly more tricky to get to grips with.
To have the right mindfulness means that you are always aware in the moment, remaining focused in every moment. It means truly acknowledging what’s going on around us, from our thoughts, to out breathing, sounds, sights and smells.
It means being present in the moment and acknowledging your journey. It does not involve excluding the world, rather taking it in, moment by moment. This is vital for meditation. Many Buddhist practitioners will engage in various types of meditation, from breathing meditation to walking meditation.
Usually when one is meditating, there is an object of focus. Right concentration is all about directing the mind to the right place and concentrating on it. During meditation, this may be the breathing, an apple, a candle or a variety of other things.
This should be used in conjunction with the right mindfulness in order to truly be successful during meditation. By focusing on the things around us, we choose not to focus on our own suffering. True concentration is necessary for achieving enlightenment. Disciplining the mind is thus an essential component of the Noble Eightfold Path.
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