Noble Eightfold Path
To achieve Nirvana, or the end of suffering, Buddhist followers must follow the Noble Eightfold Path as set forth by Buddha over 2,500 years ago. The eight steps of the path form the fourth truth of the Four Noble Truths, which are among the most fundamental of Buddhist teachings.
The Eightfold Path is often depicted as a Dharma wheel, closely resembling a ship’s wheel. The eight steps comprising the path or wheel result in a practical guide to ethics, mental rehabilitation, and mental deconditioning. By achieving these eight steps, a Buddhist follower will eliminate all suffering and reach the desired state of Nirvana. The follower does not have to complete the steps sequentially, but rather, he may obtain them simultaneously.
The steps include:
Right UnderstandingThe Right Understanding is crucial to understanding the Buddhist belief system, particularly the identification, causes, consequences of, and through these eight steps, the elimination of suffering. The Right Understanding also conveys an understanding of the Buddhist philosophy of the non-permanence of the self.
Right ThoughtTo have the Right Thought, a follower should fully understand his purpose in following the teachings of the Buddha, as well as his outlook on the world and world issues.
Right SpeechThe focus of the Right Speech is to avoid harmful language, such as lying or unkind words. It is far better to use gentle, friendly and meaningful words, even when a situation calls for a truth that may be hurtful, despite the follower’s best intentions.
Right ActionThe Right Action forms a list of fundamental ethical behaviors all practicing Buddhists should follow. These are the Five Precepts:
- To refrain from destroying living beings
- To refrain from stealing
- To refrain from sexual misconduct (adultery, rape, etc.)
- To refrain from false speech (lying)
- To refrain from intoxicants which lead to heedlessness