The Noble Eightfold Path is identical with the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, thus constituing a part of them. Indeed, it’s the crucial part, because it describes the way to salvation. Regrettably, the account of Buddha’s first sermon introducing the Four Noble Truths and its Noble Eightfold Path (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta in the Pali Tipitaka; or Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra in Sanskrit) does only mention the names of the eight elements of this path but does not discuss them in detail. Their are more specific informations, of course, mentioned in other parts of the canonical Tipitaka.
Here is a list of the eight elements of this crucial Noble Truth with some short explanation for each:
1. Right Understanding:
This is the right way of looking at life and the world, understanding that it is suffering, which is initiating a practice leading to the cessation of suffering, particularly gaining a correct differentiation between right and wrong intentions.
2. Right Intention:
This is a constant effort to rid oneself of anything hampering the way to salvation, immorality in particular.
3. Right Speech:
Right speech requires much more than always telling the truth. It is also abstaining
from divisive hostile speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter.
4. Right Conduct:
Right Conduct is moral behaviour, in particular abstaining from killing, from stealing, and from sexual misconduct.
5. Right Livelihood:
Right Livelihood is avoiding occupations which could result in harm for other living beings.
6. Right Effort:
Right Effort is a concentration or meditation technique aiming at a persisting abandonment of wrong and harmful desires, words, and deeds.
7. Right Attention:
Right Attention is a characteristic Buddhist meditation technique (Sati) of focusing the mind on exactly what is going on just now, in other words: contemplating the present event by permantly avoiding distractions.
8. Right Meditation:
Right Meditation is full concentration on one object of attention until reaching a state of meditative absorption.
The Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path shares a lot of elements with other salvation pathes of other Indian philosophies. However, there are some tendencies, which mark a difference. On the first sight, the Eightfold Path may appear as a stairway with eight steps, culminating in a state of pure meditation. But the Buddhist path emphasizes moral conduct and meditation techniques as something to be practiced permantly, not one after another. The Sati-meditation called “Right Attention” is typical for this: Always focus your mind on whatever happens.
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