noble eightfold path

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Presentation to accompany the playing of Bhikkhu Bodhi's recorded lectures on 'Buddha' Teaching As It Is'

Presentation to accompany the playing of Bhikkhu Bodhi's recorded lectures on 'Buddha' Teaching As It Is'

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  • 1. Lecture 7: Noble Eightfold Path
    Buddha’s Teaching As It Is – Bhikkhu Bodhi
    PowerPoint presentation on Bhikkhu Bodhi’s recorded lectures on ‘Buddha’s Teaching As It Is’. Materials for the presentation are taken from the recorded lectures (MP3) posted at the website of Bodhi Monastery and the notes of the lectures posted at beyondthenet.net
    Originally prepared to accompany the playing of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s recorded lectures on ‘Buddha’s Teaching As It is’ in the Dharma Study Class at PUTOSI Temple, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
    This series of weekly study begins in November, 2010.
  • 2. Noble Eightfold PathThe Fourth Noble Truth
    Bhikkhu Bodhi
    Lecture 7
  • 3. Noble eightfold path – part i
    NamoTassaBhagavatoArahatoSammasambuddhassa
  • 4. Noble Eightfold Path
    Dukkha, its origin, its cessation, and the way to its cessation-these are the Four Noble Truths, the "elephant's footprint" that contains within itself all the essential and other teachings of the Buddha.
    It might be risky to say that any one truth is more important than the others. since they all hang together in a very close integral unit. But if we were to single out one truth as the key to the whole Dhamma it would be the Fourth Noble Truths, the truth of the way, the way to the end of Dukkha. That is the Noble Eightfold Path.
  • 5. Noble Eightfold Path
    The path is made up of the following eight factors, divided into three larger groups:
    Wisdom group: Right View; Right Intention;
    Moral discipline group (sila): Right Speech; Right Action; Right Livelihood
    Concentration (Samadhi) group: Right Effort; Right Mindfulness; Right Concentration.
    We say that the path is the most important element in the Buddha's teaching because the path is what makes the Dhamma available to us as a living experience. Without the path the Dhamma would just be a shell, a collection of doctrines without inner life. Without the path, even full deliverance from suffering would become a mere dream.
  • 6. Discovery of the Path
    Now it should be understood that the Noble Eightfold Path was not created by the Buddha; rather the path was discovered by the Buddha. Whether a Buddha arises or not the path remains as the indispensable means to enlightenment.
    During the long periods when no Buddha has appeared in the world, the path is shrouded in darkness, lost to the masses of mankind. But when a Buddha arises, he rediscovers the lost path to deliverance and then makes it known again to the world. In-fact, that is the special and unique function of a Buddha.
    From one angle the discovery of the Noble Eightfold Path might be called the primary significance of the Buddha's enlightenment.
  • 7. Discovery of the Path
    Before his renunciation, when he was still living in the palace as a Bodhisatta, he had already recognized the unsatisfactory nature of existence. He had recognized the hard facts of old age, sickness and death, and he had lost his worldly complacency, his desire for power, fame and sense pleasures. Thus even from the start he had an intuition, a confidence, that there was a way out of suffering, a state of liberation beyond the round of birth and death. Because of his confidence he was able to leave the palace to go in search of deliverance. But what he did not know was the path to deliverance, and with the discovery of the path he was able to escape the trap of ignorance, to reach enlightenment, to attain his own liberation and to guide others to liberation.
  • 8. The Path – Way to Awakening
    The path is essentially a way to awakening, a means to generate in our own minds the same experience of enlightenment that the Buddha himself went through while sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree.
    In the causal chain that originates Dukkha, the Buddha points out that all the suffering and unsatisfactoriness we meet in the round of becoming arises because of our craving and clinging. Craving and clinging in turn are nurtured by ignorance, by blindness to the real nature of things that shrouds our minds. To eliminate ignorance what is needed is the exact opposite, knowledge, the superior wisdom that shines brightly and eclipses the darkness of ignorance. But this wisdom does not arise out of nothing. It arises out of conditions.
  • 9. The Path – Way to Awakening
    The set of conditions that lead to enlightenment constitutes the Noble Eightfold Path.
    In describing the path the Buddha says that it produces knowledge and vision. The kind of knowledge the Path leads to is not conceptual or abstract knowledge, but immediate insight. By virtue of this insight, the Path leads to peace, the peace that comes with the destruction of craving and clinging, the path leads to full enlightenment (sammasambodhi), thus leading us out of the cycle of suffering, birth and death and to the ultimate goal, the unconditioned state, Nibbana, the deathless element.
  • 10. The Path – Middle Way
    In his first discourse the Buddha calls the Noble Eightfold Path the middle way. He calls it the middle way because the eightfold path avoids all extremes in conduct and in views. In the discourse the Buddha points out that there are two extremes which a seeker of enlightenment has to steer clear off. These two extremes are, on the one side, indulgence in desire, on the other, self -mortification. Some hold the view that sensual indulgence, the grasping of luxury and comfort, is the greatest happiness. But the Buddha, from his own experience, calls this way a low, inferior ignoble course which does not lead to the realization of the highest goal.
  • 11. The Path – Middle Way
    The other extreme is not so common but has always an attraction for religious seekers. This is the extreme of self-mortification. Those who follow this practice hold that the way to liberation is through strict and austere asceticism. The Buddha himself followed this path of asceticism before his enlightenment, but he found that it does not lead to the goal. Therefore he called the path of self-affliction, painful, ignoble and not conducive to the goal.
  • 12. The Path – Middle Way
    In its place he holds up the Noble Eightfold Path as the middle way. It is not called the middle way because it lies in between the two extremes as a compromise between too much and too little, but, because it rises above them, because it is free from their errors, from their imperfections, from the blind alleys to which they lead.
    To follow the middle path means to provide the body with what it needs to be in a strong and healthy condition yet at the same time to rise above bodily concerns in order to train the mind in right conduct, concentration and wisdom. In fact, the middle way is essentially a way of mind training, not a compromise with the attitude of renunciation. On following the Noble Eightfold Path the mind has to be strengthened and trained in the strongest attitude of renunciation, detachment from the demands of craving and clinging.
  • 13. The Path – Middle Way
    The Path is made up of eight factors. When it is called the Eightfold Path, the eight factors of the path are not eight steps to be followed in sequence. In actual practice certain factors have to be developed before other factors can arise. But ideally, each factor that emerges does not replace the one that comes before it nor do the earlier factors that have been developed drop away when more advanced factors appear. Rather the early factors remain, but the new ones that arise merge into them and absorb them so that at its highest level of development the Path consists of the eight factors working simultaneously.
    At this level, all eight factors are present, all are performing their functions and contributing in their own unique way to accomplishment of the goal, to reaching the end of suffering.
  • 14. Vision and Mission
    The eight factors of the path can be divided into two parts; one consisting of knowledge, and understanding, the other concerned with practice and conduct. The first part concerned with understanding contains only one factor, right view; the other part concerned with practice contains the remaining seven factors, from right intention through to right concentration.
    So through this twofold division we can see the tremendous weight that falls on right view.
  • 15. The path factors
  • 16. Right View (Sammaditthi)
    Right view is placed first because right view is the eye that guides and directs all the other factors. In the practice of the path, we need the vision and understanding supplied by right views, in order to see the way to travel along the path. Then we need the other factors, conduct or practice, in order to bring us to our destination.
    Right view is placed at the beginning of the path to show that before we can set foot on the actual practice, we need the understanding provided by right view, as our guide, our inner director, to show us where we are starting from, where we are heading, and what are the successive stages to be passed through in practice.
  • 17. Right View (Sammaditthi)
    Usually the Buddha defines right view as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the origin, its cessation and the way to its cessation. To follow the path right from the start we need a correct perspective on the human condition. We have to see that our lives are not fully satisfactory, that life is impermanent, that it is subject to suffering; and we have to understand that suffering is something that we have to penetrate by means of knowledge, something that we have to conquer, and not something we should escape from by pain removers, entertainment, distractions or dull forgetfulness.
  • 18. Right View (Sammaditthi)
    At the deepest level we have to see that all things that make up our being, the five aggregates, are impermanent, constantly changing, and therefore cannot be held to as a basis for security or unchanging happiness. Then we have to see that the cause of Dukkha lies in our own mind. Nobody is imposing it on us. We cannot put the blame outside ourselves. It is through our own craving and clinging that we produce suffering and pain for ourselves. Then when we see that the cause of the Dukkha lies in our own mind, we understand that the key to liberation too lies in our own mind. That key is the overcoming of ignorance and craving by means of wisdom. Then, to enter the path, we need the confidence that by following the Noble Eightfold Path we can reach the goal, the cessation of suffering.
  • 19. Right View (Sammaditthi)
    The Buddha defines right view as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths for a very important reason, namely, that he does not want his disciples to practice his teaching merely out of feelings of devotion towards him out of respect for him. Rather, he wants them to follow the path on the basis of their own understanding. Their own insight into the nature of human life.
    As we'll see later, the path begins with an elementary level of right understanding. As the mind develops in the course of practice, the understanding will gradually deepen, expand and widen, and as it does so we come back again and again to right view.
  • 20. Right Intention (Samma Sankappa)
    The second factor of the path is right intention. "Sankappa" means purpose, intention, resolve, aspiration, motivation. This factor of right intention follows as the natural consequence of right view.
    Through right view, we gain an understanding of the real nature of existence, and this understanding changes our motivation, our purposes in life, our intentions and inclinations. As a result, our minds become shaped by right intentions(that accord and follow from right view) as opposed to wrong intentions.
  • 21. Right Intention (Samma Sankappa)
    In his analysis of this factor, the Buddha explains that there are three kinds of right intentions:
    a) The intention of renunciation b) The intention of non-aversion or loving kindness.c) The intention of non-injury or compassion.
    These are opposed respectively to the three wrong intentions, the intention of sensuality, the intention of aversion and intention of harmfulness or cruelty.
  • 22. Right Intention (Samma Sankappa)
    Right intention, as we said, follows naturally from right view. Whenever we gain right view, insight into the fact of Dukkha, then we become motivated to renounce our attachments, our clinging to pleasure, wealth, power and fame. We don't have to suppress the desire for them. The desire falls off naturally by itself.
    When we look at other beings through the lens of the Four Noble Truths, we see that others are also caught up in the net of suffering. This perception brings about a deep identification with others, a feeling of oneness with them, which leads to loving kindness and compassion.
    As these attitudes arise they motivate us to renounce aversion and hatred and all violence and cruelty.
  • 23. Right Intention (Samma Sankappa)
    The first two factors of the Path work together in opposition to the three unwholesome roots – greed, hatred and delusion. The most fundamental is delusion. Right view serves to counteract delusion. Delusion is non-understanding. Right views leads to true comprehension.
    The second factor, right intention, counteracts the two unwholesome roots of actions, greed and aversion. The intention of renunciation counteracts greed. The intentions of non-aversion and non-injury counteract hatred.
    With the next three factors, we learn to translate right intentions into right conduct, bodily and verbal acts in daily life. Thus we get the three factors of right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
  • 24. Right Speech (Samma Vacca)
    This contains four aspects.(a)   Abstinence from false speech, that is, from lying – instead, make an effort to speak truthfully.(b)   Abstinence from slanderous speech, statements intended to divide or create enmity between people. Instead, the follower of the path should always speak words which promote friendship and harmony between people.(c)   Abstinence from harsh speech, from speech which is angry and bitter, which cuts into the hearts of others. Instead one's speech should always be soft, gentle and affectionate.(d)   Abstinence from idle chatter, from gossip. Instead, one should speak words which are meaningful, significant and purposeful.
  • 25. Right Speech (Samma Vacca)
    The above show the tremendous power locked up in the faculty of speech. The tongue may be a very small organ compared to the body. But this little organ can do immense good or immense harm depending on how it is used. Of course, what we really have to master is not the tongue but the mind which makes use of the tongue.
  • 26. Right Action (Samma Kammanta)
    This factor, right action, is concerned with bodily action and has three aspects.
    (a)   Abstinence from destruction of life, that is, abstaining from killing of other living beings, which includes animals and all other sentient beings, to abstain from hunting, fishing etc.
    (b)   Abstinence from taking what is not given, that is, from stealing, cheating, exploiting others, gaining wealth by dishonest and illegal ways etc.
    (c)   Abstinence from sexual misconduct, that is from illicit types of sexual relations such as adultery, seduction, rape, etc. and for those who are ordained as monks, the observance of celibacy.
  • 27. Right Action (Samma Kammanta)
    Although the principles of right speech and right action are worded negatively as abstaining from this and that, but a little reflection would show that positive psychological factors (virtues) of great power go along with these abstinences, for example;
    1.   Abstaining from the taking of life implies a commitment to compassion, respecting the life of other beings.2.  Abstaining from stealing involves a commitment to honesty or respect for others' rights of ownership.3. Abstaining from false speech implies a commitment to truth.
  • 28. Right Livelihood (Samma Ajiva)
    The Buddha teaches his disciples to avoid any occupation or job that causes harm and suffering to other living beings or any kind of work that leads to one's own inner deterioration. Instead the disciple should earn a living in an honest, harmless and peaceful way.
    Buddha mentions five specific occupations that one should avoid:(a) Dealing in flesh, e.g.. as a butcher.(b) Dealing in poisons.(c) Dealing in weapons and arms.(d) Dealing in slave trade and prostitution.(e) Dealing in intoxicants or liquors and drugs.
  • 29. Right Livelihood (Samma Ajiva)
    The Buddha also says that his followers should avoid deceitfulness, hypocrisy, high pressure salesmanship, usury and trickery, or any kind of dishonest way of acquiring means of support.
    These three factors which we have discussed - right speech, right action and right livelihood deal with the outer conduct of life. The next three factors are concerned with the training of the mind.
  • 30. Right Effort (Samma Vayama)
    The Buddha begins the training of the mind with right effort. He places a special stress on this factor because the practice of the path requires work, energy and exertion. The Buddha is not a saviour: "The Enlightened Ones point out the path, you yourselves must make the effort". He says further, "the goal" is for the energetic person, not for the lazy one. Here we come to the great optimism of Buddhism, the optimism which refutes all charges of pessimism. The Buddha says through right effort we can transform the whole structure of our lives. We are not the hopeless victims of our past conditioning. We are not the victims of our genes or of our environment. Through mental training it is possible to raise the mind to the high plateau of wisdom, enlightenment and liberation.
  • 31. Right Effort (Samma Vayama)
    Right effort can be broken down into four aspects. If we observe the states that arise in the mind, we see that they fall into two basic classes, wholesome states and unwholesome states.
    The unwholesome states are the states of mind rooted in the defilements, in greed, hatred and delusion, and in their offshoots.
    The wholesome side consists of the virtuous qualities that should be developed and cultivated, such as the eight factors of the path, the four foundations of mindfulness, the seven factors of enlightenment, etc.
  • 32. Four Aspects of Right Effort
    With regard to each of these wholesome and unwholesome states there are two tasks we have to perform. So the four aspects of right effort are as follows:
    (a)  The effort to prevent unarisen unwholesome states from arisingAt a time when the mind is calm, something may happen which will spark off a defilement. e.g. attachment to a pleasant object, aversion to an unpleasant object.
    By maintaining watchfulness over the senses, we are able to prevent the unarisen defilement from arising. We are able to simply take note of the object without reacting to the object by way of greed or aversion.
  • 33. Noble eightfold path – part ii
  • 34. Four Aspects of Right Effort
    (b)   The effort to abandon the arisen unwholesome statesThat is to eliminate the defilements that have arisen. When we see that a defilement has arisen we have to apply energy to eliminate it. This can be done by a variety of methods.
    One method is to replace the unwholesome thought formation by its opposite. For example when a strong attachment arises in the mind for wealth or possession, one could reflect on the impermanence of the possession. When a strong sensual desire arises, one could reflect on the impure nature of the body as a heap of skin, bones, organs and blood, etc, then the desire would fade away. If anger or illwill arises, one could meditate on loving-kindness. If depression arises, reflect on the noble quality of Buddha to drive it away.
  • 35. Four Aspects of Right Effort
    2. A second method is to develop a keen sense of the danger in the unwholesome thoughts, to recognise how they keep us entangled in suffering and prevent us from accomplishing good for oneself and others.
    Another method is to turn the mind away from the object that is stimulating the unwholesome thought and divert it to other object of concentration, to breathing for example.
    A fourth method is to observe the thought itself, to see how the thought arises and to still it eventually. One could trace the causes of the thoughts back in sequence.
    Confront the unwholesome thought directly when the above methods fail, and expel it from the mind.
  • 36. Four Aspects of Right Effort
    (c)  Develop the undeveloped wholesome statesWe have many beautiful, potential qualities stored up in the mind. We have to bring these up to the surface of the mind, e.g. loving kindness, compassion etc.
    (d)  Strengthen and cultivate the existing wholesome states.We must avoid falling into complacency and have to make effort to sustain the wholesome states and to develop them to full growth and completion.
    By applying these four aspects of right effort step by step, we can cleanse the mind of defilements until it becomes pure, bright and radiant.
  • 37. Right Effort and Right Intention
    It might seem that right intention and right effort are very similar. They are not exactly the same. Right intention means the basic purpose or direction of the mind. Right effort is the actual application of the energy to eliminate the unwholesome states and to develop and perfect the wholesome states. In actual practice of the Path, these two factors are so closely intertwined that one cannot draw a sharp dividing line between them. One can distinguish their functions. Right intention is the factor which directs the mind and right effort is the energy or mental power that energises the mind. One could compare right intention to the steering wheel and right effort to the carburetor of a car.
  • 38. Right Effort (Samma Vayama)
    A further word of caution has to be added about right effort. The mind is a very delicate instrument and its development requires a precise balancing of the different mental faculties. We need keen mindfulness to recognize what kind of mental state has arisen and a certain degree of wisdom to keep the mind in balance to prevent it from veering to extremes. This is the middle way.
    Effort should be balanced without exhausting the mind on the one hand and without letting it fall into stagnation on the other. The Buddha says in order to get good music from a lute, its strings have to be tuned not too tight and not too loose.
    Practicing the path must be done in the same way. The way to practising is according to the Middle Way: balance energy with calm.
  • 39. Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati)
    What is meant by Right mindfulness? Right mindfulness is the clear awareness of what is happening in us and around us at the successive moments of experience. Mindfulness is a form of attention. To practice mindfulness involves attending to our experience. But mindfulness differs from ordinary attention. Ordinarily The faculty of attention is used as an instrument for serving our purposes – biological and psychological needs, attention serves as an instrument of the rest of the mind.
  • 40. Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati)
    Mindfulness is a kind of attention that operates independently of all ulterior aims and purposes. Mindfulness is an attention that observes our experience carefully and precisely, always attending to what is occurring in the present, without making any discrimination. Mindfulness is attention concerned only with attending, with observing what is happening in the present for the sake of knowing and understanding what is happening in the present.
  • 41. Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati)
    Mindfulness is an attention that functions in an atmosphere of detachment, aspires to pure objectivity, an awareness that reflects the nature of objects exactly as they are, without elaborating upon them, without interpreting them.
    The Buddha devised the practice of mindfulness according to its objects, into four groups called the Four Foundations of Mindfulness:
    Mindful contemplation of the body
    Mindful contemplation of feeling
    Mindful contemplation of states of mind
    Mindful contemplation of dhammas (mind objects)
  • 42. Mindful Contemplation of the Body
    In mindful contemplation of the body, the practitioner has to develop a continuous awareness of the bodily process, beginning with the grossest object, the physical body. It includes a number of exercises, the most basic of these is the mindfulness of breathing, Anapanasati. Sitting in a comfortable cross-legged posture, when the meditator is breathing in, he becomes aware of breathing in; when breathing out, he becomes aware simply of breathing out. When taking a long breath, he is aware of a long breath; When taking a short breath, he becomes aware of a short breath. Mindfulness is aware of the movement of the breath exactly as it occurs.
  • 43. Mindful Contemplation of the Body
    The practice can be extended to all aspects of bodily experience. The whole itself can be attended to with mindfulness.
    The body is analysed into its component parts, organs and tissues, etc.
    Mindfulness of the body can be applied to different actions and postures, sitting, standing, sleeping, lying, walking.
    Mindfulness is extended to different activities, eating, going to the bathroom, speaking, etc.
    Every aspect of physical bodily experience comes into the range of mindful contemplation.
  • 44. Mindful Contemplation of Feeling
    The second foundation is the mindfulness of feeling. This involves attending to the feelings that arise at the different moments of experience – pleasant feeling, painful feeling, neutral feeling. Whatever feeling arises, it is attended to with bare mindfulness without liking or disliking. We simply become aware of whatever feeling has arisen. In this way we prevent the mind from getting sucked into the feeling, from grasping onto pleasure or running away from the pain. The mind becomes able to look at all the states of experience with calm equanimity and self-possession
  • 45. Contemplation of Mental States
    The third foundation of mindfulness is the contemplation of mind itself, the general state of consciousness. To practice the contemplation of the mind, we have to see into the actual present state of mind clearly and precisely. We have to understand clearly what kind of mental state is occurring, reflect the state without judging, without reproaching or congratulating ourselves for the unwholesome or wholesome states that occur respectively.
    We just see the nature of the state of mind with detached observation; determine whether the state of mind is wholesome or unwholesome state; see into the kind of wholesome or unwholesome state of mind, whether it has attachment, aversion or delusion etc. Whatever state of mind arises, see and note it as it is, let it go its own way without clinging to it.
  • 46. Contemplation of Dhammas
    The fourth foundation of mindfulness is the contemplation of dhammas. These dhammas are the factors and objects of the mind. We tune into the specific contents rather than the general state of the mind. The mind is dissected into its components to see what factors are at work within it, whether defilements or wholesome factors are present. If defilements are present, note their presence, investigate how they arise, how they can be eliminated and how they can be prevented from arising in the future.
    When the beneficial factors leading to liberation arise, become aware of their presence, investigate how they arise, how they can be developed and perfected.
  • 47. Contemplation of Dhammas
    Mindfulness of dhammas has another aspect. This is the contemplation of the basic factors of experience as a pure contemplative exercise aimed at insight, as seeing into the characteristics of the body-mind process. This will be elaborated later.
    Right effort and right mindfulness work together in close cooperation. Right mindfulness makes us aware of what kind of state has arisen, wholesome or unwholesome. Through right effort, we apply our energy to eliminate the unwholesome state. Through right effort, we strive to arouse and strengthen the wholesome states that lead to calm and clarity. Right effort and right mindfulness are both directed to the eighth factor of the Path, right concentration, sammasamadhi.
  • 48. Right Concentration (Samma Samadhi)
    Right concentration is defined as wholesome one-pointedness of the mind, wholesome unification of the mind. To develop concentration we generally begin with a single object and attempt to fix the mind on this object so that it remains there without wavering. We use right effort to keep the mind focussed on the object, right mindfulness to be aware of the hindrances and aids to concentration, then we use effort to eliminate hindrances and strengthen the aids to concentration. With repeated practice the mind becomes gradually stilled, unified and concentrated and tranquil.
    With further practice we can develop deep states of absorption, called the "JHANAS". These will be given in details in the lecture.
  • 49. Stilled Mind – Gateway to Wisdom
    When the mind is stilled and collected, it serves as the means to develop insight. Having developed right concentration, when the mind has become a powerful tool, we direct it to the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness, contemplating the body, feeling, states of mind and mind objects.
    Then as the mind examines the flow of events in the body-mind process, as it tunes in on the flow from moment to moment, gradually step by step there occurs the arising of insight. Insight develops, matures and deepens, and turns into wisdom, the liberating wisdom which sees into the Four Noble Truths.
  • 50. Stilled Mind – Gateway to Wisdom
    At this peak of development, the seeing of the Four Noble Truths become direct and immediate and it brings the destruction of the defilements, the purification of the mind and liberation of the mind from the fetters.
    As the name suggests, the Noble Eightfold Path consists of eight factors in three groups of training – sila (moral discipline – right speech, right action, right livelihood), samadhi (right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration), and panna (right view and right intention).
    The three aspects of the path are to be developed with one stage acting as the base for the other. Begin the Path with preliminary right view and intention (the forerunners of the threefold training). Enter the threefold training with moral
  • 51. Stilled Mind – Gateway to Wisdom
    Discipline. Moral discipline acts as the basis for developing concentration. When the mind is calm and concentrated, that acts as the basis for developing wisdom. When wisdom is fully developed, that results in liberation.
    The eight factors need not be followed in sequence. The path consists of eight factors working simultaneously. They all perform distinctive functions, all contributing in their unique way to attainment of the end of suffering.
  • 52. The Mundane Path
    There are two kinds of Noble Eightfold Path. This is an important distinction to remember:1. The mundane path2. The supramundane path
    The mundane path is developed when we try to purify our discipline, to develop concentration and to arouse insight either in day to day practice or in intensive periods of practice on retreats. The word "mundane" here does not mean a worldly path in the ordinary sense, i.e. a path leading to wealth, fame or worldly success. This mundane path leads to enlightenment, and in fact we have to practice the mundane path to reach the supramundane path. This is called mundane path because even at its highest level of insight contemplation, it still involves the contemplation of conditioned objects, that is, things included in the five aggregates.
  • 53. Supramundane Path
    The supramundane path is the direct seeing of Nibbana, the unconditioned element.
    People often mistake the Noble Eightfold Path for a mere path of ethical conduct. They think that as long as they are living within basic framework of morality, they are in accordance with the Noble Eightfold Path. This is not the case. The Noble Eightfold Path is the way leading to the cessation of Dukkha. When we practise the mundane path, our understanding gets deeper and deeper, sharper and sharper and when insight reaches its climax, at some unexpected moment a sudden radical change can take place.
  • 54. Supramundane Path
    When wisdom stands at its highest point, if all the faculties of the mind are fully mature and the wish for enlightenment is strong and steady, then the mind turns away from all conditioned phenomena and focuses on the unconditioned element. That is, the mind breaks through to the realisation of Nibbana. When this happens, all the eight factors of the path rise up simultaneously with great power of penetration, focussing upon Nibbana. Therefore at this time the eight factors constitute the supramundane path or transcendental path.
    Four levels of Supramundane Path: Stream-entry; Once-returner; Non-returner; Arahat. Certain sets of defilements are eliminated or uprooted at the path moment of each level of attainment.