The Noble Eight Fold Path
The Noble 8-fold Path (Ariyo atthangiko maggo):
Right Speech (Samma Vaca)
|Sila (precepts or morality)||2.||Right Action (Samma Kammo)|
Right Livelihood (Samma Ajivo)
Right Exertion or right effort (Samma Vayamo)
Right Awareness (Samma Sati)
Right Concentration (Samma Samadhi)
Right Aspiration (Samma Sankappo)
Panna (wisdom or insight)
|2.||Right Understanding (Samma Ditthi)|
Buddha avoided all extremes, whether of Self Indulgence and Self Mortification; of Eternity or Annihilation; of Complete Indeterminism (adhiccasamuppanna) or Accidentalism and Strict Determinism (Niyati-vada) or Fatalism; or of any other ‘ism’ that tends towards extremes. His Way of Life, as he explained in his first sermon – is the Middle Path (majjhim patipada) – is a teaching that has direct bearing on the lives of mankind, a practical application, without bias, prejudice or emotion – the active and practical aspect of the entire teaching of the Master. It is not mere speculation, philosophizing and rationalizing, for it entails engaging oneself in the real task of applying each and every factor of the path to life; in coming to grips with the true meaning of life, for the sole purpose of freedom from the taints that haunt the human heart….
-Pg 88-89, the Buddha’s ancient path, Thera Piyadassi
The noble eight fold path is not a philosophy or a dogma or a mechanical ritual. It is an art of living-a way of life-the path as shown by the Buddha. It is actually living the teachings-‘going into’ the teachings. The perfection of the noble path is insight or wisdom (samma ditthi). The noble 8 fold path is divided into Sila (morality), samadhi (concentration) and panna (wisdom/insight) but these are not rigid water tight compartments-they flow into each other and help each other culminating in insight. Anyone living a life of real wisdom/insight from moment to moment will be a righteous and virtuous person naturally and effortlessly-for they go hand in hand.
Whenever Lord Buddha talked about Sati (awareness) He said that awareness and insight go hand in hand (atapi sampajano satima-Maha satipatthana Sutta) The Buddha never instructed to develop mere concentration or forced concentration of a narrow or unwholesome mind.
All the 8 limbs of the 8 fold path have the prefix ‘samma‘ which is translated as ‘Right’ but it can be more accurately translated as ‘holistic’. For something to be holistic it has to be natural, choiceless and wholesome – with the perfume of ‘what is’ – which is insight. It cannot be a rigid mechanical system.
The noble 8 fold path is the ‘pathless path’ to truth-to reality-to liberation. It is ‘The path’ (ekayano maggo) because it shows the way to purification (visuddhimagga) but it is the ‘pathless path’ because it is not a beaten track or a mechanical ritual or a technique or a method. To walk on this path one has to be in touch with the reality ‘as it is’ (yathabhuta) and as the reality keeps changing (anicca or impermanence), one is aware of it choicelessly from moment to moment (yathabhuta nana dassanam). The reality keeps changing from moment to moment and one is aware of this change (at the level of sensations) from moment to moment-this changing reality makes the ‘path’ the ‘pathless path’.
The view of reality as it is becomes his right view. Thought of reality as it is becomes his right thought. Effort toward reality as it is becomes his right effort. Awareness of reality as it is becomes his right awareness. Concentration on reality as it is becomes his right concentration. His actions of body and speech and his livelihood become truly purified. Thus the Noble Eightfold Path advances him toward development and fulfillment.
-M. 149, Maha-Salayatanika Sutta
“Those truths of which before I had only heard, now I dwell having experienced them directly within the body, and I observe them with penetrating insight.”
-S. XLVIII (IV). v. 10 (50), Apana Sutta (spoken by Sariputta, chief disciple of the Buddha)