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The Eightfold Path

According to the Buddha, there are eight disciplines that one must cultivate in order to reach Nirvana:
  • Right understanding/belief : Accept the validity of the four noble truths.

  •  Right thought/motives: Make sure that your actions, however good they may seem, are not motivated by fear, selfishness

  •  Right speech: Avoid gossip and harsh words. Be positive in your speech to others - and to yourself.

  •  Right Action: These include five precepts that all Buddhists are expected to follow:

    • Do not destroy life
    • Do not steal
    • Do not engage in immoral conduct
    • Do not lie
    • Do not use intoxicants)
  • Right Livelihood: Your way of making living should not violate 5 precepts.
  • Right Effort: One must work continually to overcome selfish desire and damaging thought processes.

  • Right Mindfulness:  This involves being aware of one's thoughts and feelings at every moment. It also involves realizing that thoughts and emotions are impermanent.

  • Right Meditation: One must practice quieting of the mind itself so that the true nature of everything comes into focus. Quieting and controlling the mind is perhaps the most difficult of the 8 disciplines.

Notice that an individual does not necessarily have to begin with the first component, master it and then move to the next discipline; rather one is able to make progress simultaneously on several disciplines. A spiritual guide or mentor may prescribe a specific order, but that order will vary according to the needs of the individual.

You should also see that the Eightfold Path divides into three major categories:

  • Virtue: (speech, action, livelihood)
  • Concentration (effort, mindfulness, meditation)
  • Discernment: (right view, understanding)
Taken together, the eight disciplines are a practical means for moving from ignorance to enlightenment.

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