The noble eightfold path is one of the Buddha\’s central teachings. It outlines his philosophy that,
Although pain is a real force in our lives, we can choose whether or not to suffer.
The Buddha described the path to ending suffering in life and achieving nirvana in a practical series of guidelines.
These guidelines teach freedom from attachments, clarity of thought and truth about all things. When we walk the noble eightfold path, it manifests in our lives as wisdom, ethical conduct and mental clarity. It is simple, yet forms a comprehensive basis for making peace with your life. The path has eight steps, but it is a journey that is meant to take a lifetime. The simple overview that follows can be printed and placed near your desk at work, inside a folder or book you reference often or anywhere that you usually spend time sitting during the day. These principles, although simple, are ones that we need to remind ourselves of every day as we walk the journey together of bringing peace to ourselves and to all of the people on our beautiful planet.
The origin of suffering is attachment; the path to freedom begins with non-attachment. As you release attachment to all objects, people and stories and remind yourself daily that life is impermanent, you walk the gradual path of self-improvement.
Commit to mental and ethical self-improvement. There are three essential commitments: 1) resolve to abandon all craving and the objects to which it binds us 2) adopt the intention to practice good will for all people and resist anger and aversion and 3) practice harmlessness and compassion.
Only speak when necessary. Practice a gentle way of speaking, grounded in reality and not woven by desire.Promote friendliness and harmony through your speech as much as possible. Abstain from false or slanderous speech and speech that lacks purpose. One of my favorite quotes from the Buddha is about Right Speech, \”When words are both kind and true, they can change our world\”.
Refrain from doing bodily harm to yourself and others through practicing the three components of Right Action: 1)Avoid sexual misconduct, theft and taking life. 2) Practice honesty, ensure that your sexual relationships never harm others and 3) Honor all life.
Earn your living in a righteous way. Work honestly and harmlessly and gain wealth legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings; 1) Dealing in weapons, 2) Raising animals for slaughter and butchery, 3) Slave trade and prostitution and 4) Selling intoxicants and poisons.
Practice vigilance over your mental energy and avoid confusion and negative states of mind. Protect your thoughts from worry, doubt and ill will. When you notice these thoughts arising, notice, and then let them go. Cultivate virtuous thoughts and practice equanimity. Equanimity is the practice of \’seeing\’ life without getting caught in what we see. It is the practice of observing life with patience and understanding and striving to see the bigger picture. Equanimity teaches us not to take things personally.
Maintain attention and awareness of the present moment through Right Mindfulness. Cultivate mindfulness by contemplating on your body, feelings, state of mind and environment right here and now. Observe the deepest truth about yourself from moment to moment to know the ultimate truth of things, the essence of enlightenment.
Right Concentration is maintaining a focused mind. Practice keeping all of your attention on one object to develop insight and serenity. Find or create a space that is conducive to practice. According to Buddha, once you have purified your mind through progression through the first seven Paths, you can attain focused concentration not only in meditation, but in all places and situations.
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The Noble Eightfold Path is one of the foundational teachings of the Buddha. If you are called to move deeper into Buddhist teachings, join our virtual community, Awakening the Bodhisattva, a place to help you walk with the divine and release suffering for good.
Thomas Knierim. The Big View. 1995 – 2012.
The Noble EightFold Path Lecture