Buddha Himself, the eightfold path is the only way to Nirvana. It avoids the extreme of self-torture that weakens one's intellect and the extreme of self-indulgence that retards spiritual progress. It consists of the following eight factors:
1. RIGHT UNDERSTANDING
is the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. In other words, it is the understanding of oneself as one really is.
The keynote of Buddhism is this Right Understanding. Buddhism, as such, is based on knowledge and not on unreasonable belief.
2. RIGHT THOUGHTS
are threefold. They are:
The thoughts of renunciation which are opposed to sense-pleasures.
Kind Thoughts which are opposed to ill will.
Thoughts of harmlessness which are opposed to cruelty. These tend to purify the mind.
3. RIGHT SPEECH
deals with refraining from falsehood, stealing, slandering, harsh words and frivolous talks
4. RIGHT ACTION
deals with refraining from killing, stealing and lack of chastity. It helps one to develop a character that is self-controlled and mindful of rights of others.
5. RIGHT LIVELIHOOD
deals with the five kinds of trades that should be avoided by a lay disciple. They are:
trade in deadly weapons
trade in animals for slaughter
trade in slavery
trade in intoxicants
trade in poisons
Right Livelihood means earning one's living in a way that is not harmful to others.
6. RIGHT EFFORT
is fourfold, namely:
the endeavor to discard evil that has already arisen.
the endeavor to prevent the arising of evil.
the endeavor to develop that good which has already arisen.
the endeavor to promote that good which has not already arisen.
Effort is needed to cultivate Good Conduct or develop one's mind, because we are often distracted or tempted to take the easy way out of things. The Buddha teaches that attaining happiness and Enlightenment depends upon one's own efforts. Effort is the root of all achievement. If one wants to get to the top of a mountain, just sitting at the foot thinking about it will not bring one there. It is by making the effort of climbing up the mountain, step by step, that eventually the summit is reached. Thus, no matter how great the Buddha's achievement may be, or how excellent His Teaching is, one must put the Teaching into practice before desired results can be obtained.
7. RIGHT MINDFULNESS
is also fourfold:
mindfulness with regard to body
mindfulness with regard to feeling
mindfulness with regard to mind
mindfulness with regard to mental objects.
Right Mindfulness is the awareness of one's deeds, words and thoughts.
8. RIGHT MEDITATION
Meditation means the gradual process of training the mind to focus on a single object and to remain fixed upon the object without wavering. The constant practice of meditation helps to develop a calm and concentrated mind and helps to prepare for the ultimate attainment of Wisdom and Enlightenment.
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