The Buddha’s Eightfold Path consists of:
Panna: Discernment, wisdom:
1) Samma ditthi Right Understanding of the Four Noble Truths
2) Samma sankappa: Right thinking; following the right path in life
Sila: Virtue, morality:
3) Samma vaca: Right speech: no lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language
4) Samma kammanta Right conduct by following the Five Precepts
5) Samma ajiva: Right livelihood; support yourself without harming others
6) Samma vayama Right Effort: promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts
7) Samma sati Right Mindfulness: Become aware of your body, mind and feelings
8) Samma samadhi Right Concentration: Meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness
These are rules to live by. They are somewhat analogous to the second half of the Ten Commandments in Judaism and Christianity — that part of the Decalogue which describes behaviors to avoid. However, they are recommendations, not commandments. Believers are expected to use their own intelligence in deciding exactly how to apply these rules.
- Do not kill. This is sometimes translated as “not harming” or an absence of violence.
- Do not steal. This is generally interpreted as including the avoidance of fraud and economic exploitation.
- Do not lie. This is sometimes interpreted as including name calling, gossip, etc.
- Do not misuse sex. For monks and nuns, this means any departure from complete celibacy. For the laity, adultery is forbidden, along with any sexual harassment or exploitation, including that within marriage. The Buddha did not discuss consensual premarital sex within a committed relationship; Thus, Buddhist traditions differ on this. Most Buddhists, probably influenced by their local cultures, condemn same-sex sexual activity regardless of the nature of the relationship between the people involved.
- Do not consume alcohol or other drugs. The main concern here is that intoxicants cloud the mind. Some have included as a drug other methods of divorcing ourselves from reality — e.g. movies, television, the Internet. 1
The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths explore human suffering. They may be described (somewhat simplistically) as:
- Dukkha: Suffering exists: (Suffering is real and almost universal. Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, the impermanence of pleasure.)
- Samudaya: There is a cause for suffering. (It is the desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.)
- Nirodha: There is an end to suffering. (Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (a.k.a. Nibbana). The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving.)
- Magga: In order to end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path.
These three consist of:
Sila: Virtue, good conduct, morality. This is based on two fundamental principles:
- The principle of equality: that all living entities are equal.
- The principle of reciprocity: This is the “Golden Rule” in Christianity — to do onto others as you would wish them to do onto you. It is found in all major religions.
Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one’s mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct.
Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.