The Eight-Fold Path: An End to Suffering

This section is based on The Heart Of the Buddha's Teaching - Thich Nhat Hanh

What is the Eight-Fold Path?

Buddhism teaches that following the Eight-Fold Path is an effective way to put an end to suffering. Keep this in mind as you discover each division of the path.

1) Right View - The ability to see things as they are. Knowing something experientially rather than descriptively or to be one with, rather than apart from something. When we 'see' something we see it from the 'seeds' of our past. Some of these seeds are wholesome, some are not. The practice of mindfulness can help us discover the unwholesome seeds that obscure our 'right vision'.

2) Right Thinking - Right thinking reflects the way things are. It is the speech of the mind. It is grounded by our right view and leads to right speaking. It is grounded in what we are doing. It can recognize our habit energy. Its purpose is to understand ourselves better thus promoting happiness. (Bodhichitta)

3) Right Speaking - Speaking is a form of sharing our thoughts. So is writing, e-mailing, calling and even silence. Deep listening is the beginning of right speech. Right mindfulness is the ground of right speech. We speak the truth consistently and in a mindful manner with compassion and in the hope of healing not only who we are talking to, but ourselves as well.

4) Right Actions - To protect life, practice generosity, behave responsibly, and consume mindfully.

5) Right Employment - To obtain employment that follows our belief in love and compassion maximizes benefits and performs our duties with all of the practices of the Eight-Fold Path.

6) Right Effort/Diligence - The ability to apply right understanding to efforts that promote the growth of wholesome seeds, stored thoughts and actions, prevent the growth of unwholesome seeds, thoughts, and actions that are not conducive to the path that promotes health and joy. The middle path requires that we find a way to practice what we feel compelled to continue but not through austerity nor indulgence. Practice the seven factors of awakening with others (Sangha) or with a teacher to help make our practice easier. (The Seven Factors of Awakening are mindfulness, interest, diligence, joy, ease, concentration and letting go)

7) Right Mindfulness - 'The heart of the Buddha's teaching' is remembering to come back to the present moment without judging or reacting. To be present and make 'the other' present and nourished by our presence in this moment. We receive suffering by looking deeply, understanding, and allowing gentle transformation of habit energy.

We attend our body through mere recognition, mindfulness of body parts, and elements of the body (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air). We attend our feelings by smiling at our feelings, holding them like a baby, and automatically they fade. We attend our mind by noticing our mental formations. We see the connections between the seeds of our unconscious mind, our feelings, and the object of those feelings. We water the healthy 'seeds' and we send the unhealthy seeds back to lay dormant in the unconscious mind. We may explore connections as per the Abhidhamma to other unwholesome mental formations. Observe interdependence, with love and compassion. 'We are only free by letting go.’ Letting go is the only condition for happiness.

8) Right Concentration - The ability to welcome the present moment, experience it lucidly and let it go in active concentration in the moment. The ability to see deeply and accurately, relieve suffering and enjoy our lives using selective concentration in the present moment represents right concentration. (See pp 106-112 for the nine levels of meditative concentration.)

Liberation through the Five Aggregates
The Twenty-four Conditions of Buddhist Philosophy: Daily Realities
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