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Noble Eightfold Path

Noble Eightfold Path

1. Noble Truth of Path leading to Cessation of Suffering

There are two extremes namely:

a) Indulgence in Sensual Pleasure which is base, common, vulgar, unholy and unprofitable;
b) Self- mortification which is painful, unholy and unprofitable.

Both these two extremes, the Perfect One has avoided, and has found out the Middle Path, which makes one both to see and to know, which leads to peace, to discernment, to Enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

It is the Noble Eightfold Path, the way that leads to the cessation of suffering, namely:

(a) Right View Samma-diṭṭhi - Wisdom
(b) Right Thought Samma-sankappa - Wisdom
(c) Right Speech Samma-vaca - Morality
(d) Right Action Samma-kammanta - Morality
(e) Right Livelihood Samma-ajiva - Morality
(f) Right Effort Samma-vayama - Concentration
(g) Right Mindfulness Samma-sati - Concentration
(h) Right Concentration Samma-samādhi - Concentration

2. Right View

a) Right understanding of the Ten Subjects (dasavatthu) as taught by the Buddha, namely:

1. There is moral significance in almsgiving.
2. There is moral significance in large offerings.
3. There is moral significance in small gifts.
4. There is the result of well-done and ill-done kamma (action).
5. There is moral significance in what is done to one’s mother.
6. There is moral significance in what is done to one’s father.
7. There are beings of instantaneous rebirth.
8. There is this world.
9. There is another world.
10. There are in this world sages and recluses of right attainment, of right practice, who having realized by their own super knowledge the truth regarding this world and other worlds, make it known to others.

b) Right view of the Law of Kamma i.e. all beings are owners of their Kamma and will reap the corresponding results.

c) Right view through penetration into the true nature of mental and physical processes (nama-rūpa pariccheda nana).

d) Right view through penetration into the root cause and other causes of the physical and mental processes leading to realization of the cause and effect relationship (paccaya pariggaha nana).

e) Right view by realization of Insight Wisdom (Vipassana ana). There are 10 stages of this mundane Insight Wisdom beginning from the Knowledge of Comprehension (Sammasana ana) to the Knowledge of Conformity (Anuloma ana)

f) Right View by attainment of the Four Stages of Sainthood (Ariya Magga ana)

Now, in understanding wrong view as wrong and right view as right,
one practises ‘Right View’.

In making efforts to overcome wrong view and arouse right view,
one practises ‘Right Effort’.

In overcoming wrong view with attentive mind and dwelling with attentive mind in the possession of right view, one practises ‘Right Mindfulness’.

Hence, there are 3 Factors that accompany and follow right view, namely: Right View, Right Effort and Right Mindfulness.

3. Right Thought

a) Thought free from lust ( ekkhama-sankappa)
b) Thought free from ill-will (Abyapada-sankappa)
c) Thought free from cruelty (Avihimsa-sankappa)

Thought’ here does not mean thinking or conceptualizing. It is used in the technical sense of directing the mind to the object or the application of the mind (consciousness & mental factors) on the object (vitakka).

Now, in understanding wrong thought as wrong, and right thought as right,
one practises Right View.

In making efforts to overcome evil thought and to arouse right thought,
one practises Right Effort.

In overcoming evil thoughts with attentive mind and dwelling with attentive mind in possession of right thought, one practises Right Mindfulness.

Hence there are 3 Factors that accompany and follow Right Thought, namely: Right View, Right Effort and Right Mindfulness.

4. Right Speech

a) Refraining from false speech.
b) Refraining from slanderous speech.
c) Refraining from harsh words and abusive language.
d) Refraining from frivolous talk or vain talk.

Now, in understanding wrong speech as wrong, and right speech as right,
one practises Right View.

In making efforts to overcome evil speech and arouse right speech,
one practises Right Effort.

In overcoming wrong speech with attentive mind and dwelling in possession of right speech with attentive mind, one practises Right Mindfulness.

Hence there are 3 Factors that accompany and follow Right Speech, namely: Right View, Right Effort and Right Mindfulness.

5. Right Action

a) Refraining from injuring or killing any living being.
b) Refraining from taking what is not given.
c) Refraining from wrong conduct in (sexual) pleasures, intoxicants and gambling.

Immoral physical and verbal actions such as deceit, trickery, usury and ungratefulness are considered wrong speech and actions.

Now, in understanding wrong action as wrong, and right action as right,
one practises Right View.

In making efforts to overcome wrong action and arouse right action,
one practises Right Effort.

In overcoming wrong action with attentive mind and dwelling in possession of right action with attentive mind, one practises Right Mindfulness.

Hence there are 3 Factors that accompany and follow Right Action, namely: Right View, Right Effort and Right Mindfulness.

6. Right Livelihood

Refraining from trading in the 5 kinds of merchandise, namely:

(a) Weapons
(b) Living beings
(c) Meat
(d) Intoxicants
(e) Poisons

In general, one should refrain from livelihood based on wrong conduct to be avoided under Right Action and Right Speech.

Now, in understanding wrong livelihood as wrong, and right livelihood as right,
one practises Right View.

In making efforts to overcome wrong livelihood and to establish right livelihood,
one practises Right Effort.

In overcoming wrong livelihood with attentive mind and dwelling in possession of right livelihood, one practises Right Mindfulness.

Hence there are 3 Factors that accompany and follow Right Livelihood, namely: Right View, Right Effort and Right Mindfulness.

7. Right Effort

Right effort is concerned with the development of the mind. There are Four Great Efforts, namely: the effort to avoid, the effort to overcome, the effort to develop, and the effort to maintain.

a) The Effort to Avoid

Here one arouses the will to avoid the arising of evil, unwholesome states of mind that have not yet arisen. He makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.

How? By watching over and restraining his senses, e.g., by noting seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking, at the moment of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking.

b) The Effort to Overcome

Here one arouses the will to overcome the evil, unwholesome states of mind that have already arisen. He makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.

How? He does not retain any thought of greed, ill-will, delusion or any other unwholesome states that may have arisen. He abandons them, dispels them, destroys them and causes them to disappear e.g. by noting them mindfully as they arise.

c) The Effort to Develop

Here one rouses the will to arouse wholesome states of mind that have not arisen. He makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.

How? He develops the 7 Factors of Enlightenment, namely:

1. Mindfulness (Sati), 2. Investigation of physical and mental processes (Dhammavicaya), 3. Energy (Vīrya), 4. Pleasurable Interest (Piti), 5. Tranquillity (Passadhi), 6. Concentration (Samadhi) and 7. Equanimity (Upekkhā).

d) The Effort to Maintain

Here one rouses the will to maintain the wholesome states of mind that have already arisen and not allow them to disappear, but develop them to full maturity (bhāvanā).

He makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives. How?

By applying the mind firmly on the object of concentration either in Tranquillity or Insight Meditation.

These four are the Right Efforts that are explained with reference to their four functions, namely: avoiding, overcoming, developing, maintaining.

But in reality, there is only one factor here ― effort. When one tries to attain any one of the purities, the effort so exercised covers these four functions automatically.

8. Right Mindfulness

Right Mindfulness is the quality of complete awareness developed through the Four Foundations of Mindfulness:

Here one dwells in contemplation of the Body, contemplation of Feeling, contemplation of the Mind and contemplation of Mind Objects: ardent, mindful and clearly comprehending, after putting away greed and hatred.

a) How does one dwell in contemplation of the Body?

Through mindfulness of Respiration, the Four Postures, Clear Comprehension, 32 Parts of the Body, the Four Elements and Meditation on Corpses. (Refer to Chapter XV, 5)

b) How does one dwell in contemplation of Feeling?

Through Mindfulness of pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling and neutral feeling, one beholds how feelings arise; beholds how feelings pass away; beholds the arising and passing away of feelings.

Thus one understands that the expression ‘I feel’ is only a conventional expression:

One understands that in the ultimate sense, there are only feelings but no ‘I’ or ‘Self’ who experiences the feelings.

c) How does one dwell in contemplation of the Mind?

Through Mindfulness of the Mental States such as the greedy mind, angry mind, deluded mind, contracted mind, distracted mind, concentrated mind, developed mind, freed mind, and their opposing states.

Thus one beholds how consciousness arises; beholds how consciousness passes away; beholds the arising and passing away of consciousness.

Thus one understands that the Mind is not a permanent entity. When the greedy mind arises, there is only greedy mind but no ‘I’ or ‘Self’ who is greedy.

d) How does one dwell in contemplation of Mind Objects?

1) Through Mindfulness of Mind Objects, namely:
2) The five mental hindrances, namely: sensual desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, distraction and doubts.
3) The five Aggregates of Clinging.
4) The six Sense Bases and their Objects.
5) The seven Factors of Enlightenment.
6) The Four Noble Truths.

Thus one beholds how mind objects arise; beholds how mind objects pass away; beholds the arising and passing away of mind objects.

One understands that mind objects are impermanent, suffering and not ‘Self’ or ‘I’.

Through the application of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, one develops Right View by the realization of Insight Wisdom leading finally to the realization of the Path & Fruition Knowledge (Magga Phala Nana) and the attainment of Nibbāna, the cessation of all suffering.

The meditation on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is called Satipaṭṭhāna Vipassanā meditation.

9. Right Concentration

This is one-pointedness of mind developed through Tranquillity meditation by fixed concentration (Jhāna) with the mind only on the meditation object, to the exclusion of all others, or the momentary concentration developed by Insight meditation through the application of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

Right Concentration is present in all wholesome consciousness and hence is accompanied by at least Right Thought (application of mind), Right Effort and Right Mindfulness.

The three factors: Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration form the Concentration group of the Eightfold Noble Path by which one penetrates into the true nature of mental and physical processes thereby attaining Right View by realization of Insight Wisdom.

10. Explanatory Notes

According to the Suttas, there are 4 kinds of right concentration:

1) The first jhāna consisting of five factors namely:

a) vitakka – directing the mind towards an object or thinking of the meditation object;
b) vicāra – repeated investigation on the object which has manifested;
c) piti – rapture or joy;
d) sukha – happiness or pleasant feeling;
e) ekaggata – one- pointedness of calm mind;

2) After fading away of vitakka and vicāra, only three factors remain – piti, sukha and ekaggata to form the second jhāna.

3) Then without piti, the two factors sukha and ekaggata constitute the third jhāna.

4) In the fourth jhāna, sukha is replaced by upekkhā (equanimity) so that upekkhā and ekaggata form the two factors of the fourth jhāna.

These 4 types of jhānas may be mundane (lokiya) jhānas known as Rūpāvacara or Supra-mundane (lokuttara) jhānas accompanied by the noble path (magga) consciousness.

The supra-mundane jhāna concentration is the path of noble right concentration.

The mundane jhāna concentration may be classed as the path of right concentration if it forms the basis for the development of Vipassana.