The Noble Eightfold Path

Venue: TIMS

Today’s talk is about the Noble Eightfold Path. It can be seen as divided into 3 facets, each of which comprises a few factors:

  • Wisdom (pañña): comprising Right View and Right Thought
  • Morality (sila): comprising Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood
  • Meditation (samadhi): comprising Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration

To be an ariya, one must have all the 8 factors. Normally we talk about samadhi, sila and pañña. Why does the Eightfold Path have the order in reverse? The fact is that these three facets of the Path do not develop in linear progression. Rather, they develop in cyclical progression.


Right View

One first acquires a bit of wisdom, e.g. learning about kamma and its fruits which leads one to understand why some are poor and others rich; some are ugly and some are good-looking, and so forth. Upon listening to talks, one begins to analyse and understand kamma. When one understands kamma, one is motivated to cultivate Morality through precepts in order to prevent suffering. This is Right View — basic wisdom which inspires one to do good

With Right View, one is able to think properly and follow the Path, thus acquiring Right Thought.

Right Thought

There are three aspects of this:

  • Nekkhamma: thoughts of renunciationThis means renunciation from sensual pleasures as when one goes for a retreat; not necessarily to renounce from worldly life to become a monk. A person in monk’s robes may not have given up sensual pleasures, but a person who goes for a retreat may.
  • Abyapajja: no anger towards othersThis means to think of one’s enemy without anger; not to retaliate with anger even when provoked.
  • Avihimsa: no desire to hurt others

Right Thought is one aspect of Wisdom which is based on the knowledge of the Law of Kamma. One now translates Right Thought into moral action. So one now progresses to Morality.


Right Speech

One refrains from wrong speech because of the fear of kamma. For example, if we lie to others, others will lie to us. Other consequences of lying will also befall us. Likewise, one refrains from speech that causes disunity, harsh speech and useless chatter. Instead, one cultivates positive speech. One is dedicated to the truth, practises speech that unites others, speaks with pleasant words and speaks about beneficial things.

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