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The noble eightfold path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 15 Jul 2023, 22:47


This is a succint and concise summary of the noble eightfold path as I currently understand it  (-:


Right view


Bad kamma comes from actions of greed, hate, and delusion.
Good kamma comes from actions of generosity, kindness, and clarity. 

If you can't help another being; then at least have the intention to cause no harm.

Honour your mother and father.

To realise the paths and fruits of the different stages of enlightenment, one must accomplish the instructions given in the four noble truths.

The four noble truths are:

1. Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood).

Birth, ageing, and death is hard to bear. Loss and separation from what we love is also hard to bear. Associating with what is disliked is unpleasant. Being apart from what is liked is unpleasant. Not getting what one wants is unpleasant. Identifying with the five aggregates of clinging (body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations (thoughts), sense-consciousness) is also dissatisfying, because they are always changing. The aggregates (khandas) are insubstantial, impermanent, uncertain and empty of self. This is what needs to be understood.

2. Knowledge of the origin of suffering (which is to be abandoned).

The cause of suffering is craving. The Pali word tanha (thirst) is used for this. And it is important to note that there is such a thing as chanda (right desire). Not all desire is to be abandoned. Chanda is the word used to describe right desire (desire that helps to put an end to suffering); and tanha is used to describe wrong desire, that which causes suffering.

Three aspects of tanha (craving) are:

Thirst for sense pleasures (kama tanha);
Thirst for existence (bhava-tanha);
Thirst for non-existence (vibhava tanha).

This is what needs to be abandoned.

3. Knowledge of the cessation of suffering (which is to be realised).

The fading away and cessation of craving is what ends suffering. With wisdom one stops following the craving, and clinging to that which is insubstantial. The involuntary movements of the mind stop and there is an unshakeable peace. One is no longer harrassed and driven by craving and the worldly winds, which brings relief and freedom to the mind.

The abandonment of the second noble truth is what realises the third noble truth. 

4. Knowledge of the way leading to the end of suffering (which is to be developed).

The way to accomplish the abandonment of craving is through the practise of the noble eightfold path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samhadi. This is what needs to be developed, when this path has been cultivated the third noble truth is realised.

Right Intention

Intention of non ill-will;
Intention of renunciation (non-greed);
Intention of non-cruelty;

The Buddha listed the three right intentions above as being thoughts that he did not regret having, these intentions do not lead to unwholesome actions, they lead to good kamma and to nibanna.

The Buddha before his enlightenment divided his thoughts up to those that he regretted having (unwholesome thoughts); and those that he did not regret having (wholesome thoughts). He worked to abandon the unwholesome thoughts, dismissing them until they no longer arose. And he encouraged and cultivated the wholesome thoughts till they happened naturally, automatically without him needing to apply any more effort. He said the experiment worked and eventually his mind was filled with thoughts he didn't regret having. This made it easier then to settle into meditation.

Intention is the generator of kamma. It is what leads to verbal thoughts, speech and actions. 

Right speech

To be honest.
To refrain from malicious divisive or contentious speech.
To refrain from harsh unkind speech.
To refrain from pointless time-wasting speech.

Right action

To refrain from killing any living being.
To refrain from stealing.
To refrain from sexual misconduct.

Right livelihood

To make a living that does not cause harm to oneself or others. 

Right effort

Needs to be tuned so it is neither too tight, nor too loose. I.e. don't burn yourself out, but also don't get lazy.

The four right efforts are:

1. prevention of unwholesome states of mind from arising. (By avoiding unwise attention to the fault; and unwise attention to the beautiful.)
2. abandonment of unwholesome states of mind should they arise.
3. generating wholesome states of mind.
4. sustaining those wholesome states of mind.

Unwholesome states of mind are the five hindrances: greed, aversion, sloth, restlessness, doubt.

Wholesome states of mind are the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena (dhamma), energy (effort), joy, calmness, samhadi, equanimity (balance).

Right mindfulness

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Mindfulness of the body.
Mindfulness of feelings. (pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant).
Mindfulness of mental states.
Mindfulness of dhammas (teachings).

Right samhadi

Sometimes translated as concentration, but concentration can give me the wrong idea, so I prefer to use the word samhadi. Samhadi is the gathering of the mind together into absorption, a unification of mind. Sustained mindfulness to a meditation object leads naturally to samhadi. It is a whole-hearted experience, which includes the body. The body can feel very pleasant and comfortable in samhadi. There may still be aches and pains in the physical body, but these don't bother one. One is absorbed in the experience of the body as it feels from within, the subtle body.

Emotions such as joy can be a whole body experience.

The body is in the mind. 

 A meditation object is used to calm and centre the mind, gather it together and bring it into unity and balance. Common meditation objects used are the breath, natural elements, primary colours, perception of light, or the emotion of goodwill (metta).

The Buddha classifies right samhadi as the four jhanas.

Here are some verses from the suttas that describe the four jhanas.

'Having gone somewhere quiet, away from distractions. Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world, setting mindfulness before one.

Quite secluded from sense-pleasures and unwholesome states of mind. One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought (or attention). And has the joy and pleasure born of seclusion (from unwholesome states).

With the subsiding of applied and sustained thought. One enters and abides in the second jhana. Which is accompanied by self-confidence and unification of mind. Is without applied and sustained thought, and has the joy and pleasure born of samhadi.

With the fading away of joy. One abides in equanimity. And mindful, clearly comprehending, still feeling pleasure with the body. One enters and abides in the third jhana. On account of which the noble ones say: 'one has a pleasant abiding, who has equanimity and is mindful.'

With the fading away of pain and pleasure. And the previous disappearance of sadness and joy. One enters and abides in the fourth jhana. Which has neither pleasure nor pain. And has mindfulness purified and born of equanimity.'

Once the mind has been made malleable and peaceful from samhadi. There is an afterglow, where unwholesome states of mind can remain absent for some time. In that state, the mind has the capacity for wise reflection, and it is easy to work with and train. It can be pointed towards something you want to understand and learn more about, or a truth you want to penetrate and gain insight from, such as the four noble truths. This investigation can lead to the liberating knowledge that brings about the end of suffering.

The continuous practise of jhana gradually weakens the hold of greed and hatred on the mind until eventually those defilements fall away for good and never return. When this happens one becomes a non-returner, (the third stage of enlightenment) and is never again born into this world.

Full enlightenment (fourth and final stage) is the realisation of nibanna, and the complete end of the conceit 'I am' and delusion.

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