The Eight-fold Path

A basic understanding


The Eightfold Path is often seen as a method we can use to get on the path to enlightenment. The idea of the Eightfold Path appears in what is regarded as the first sermon of the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, who was to be called the Buddha. This is a part of the teaching he gave after his enlightenment namely the Four Nobel Truths. There he lays out a middle way, the Eightfold Path, between the extremes of asceticism and sensual indulgence. Like the Four Noble Truths, which implies nobility and is often called the “Noble Eightfold Path.” just as what is noble about the Four Noble Truths, is not the truths themselves but those who understand them, what is noble about the Noble Eightfold Path is not the path itself but those who follow it.

In the sermon, the Buddha sets forth the Four Noble Truths and identifies the fourth truth, the truth of the path, with the Eightfold Path. What makes up the eight elements of the path are:

(1) Skillful Understanding, an accurate view of the nature of things, specifically the Four Noble Truths, (2) Skillful thought, avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent,

(3) Skillful speech, refraining from verbal misdeeds such as lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and senseless speech,

(4) Skillful action, refraining from physical misdeeds such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, (5) Skillful livelihood, avoiding work that directly or indirectly harms others as well as our-selves, such as selling slaves, weapons, animals for slaughter, intoxicants, or poisons,

(6) Skillful effort, abandoning negative states of mind that have already arisen, preventing negative states that have yet to arise, and sustaining positive states that have already arisen,

(7) Skillful mindfulness, awareness of body, feelings, thought, and phenomena (the constituents of the existing world), and

(8) Skillful concentration, single-pointedness.


The eight-fold path consists of a three-fold training in morality, Wisdom, and concentration. Morality refers to the avoidance of non-virtuous deeds, Wisdom refers to the insight into the nature of reality, and concentration refers to the control of the mind. The components of the Eightfold Path are divided among the three forms of training as follows: skillful action, skillful speech, and skillful livelihood are part of the training in morality; skillful view and skillful intention are associated with the training in wisdom; skillful effort, skillful mindfulness, and skillful concentration are included in the training in concentration.




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