The Eight Fold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path, as its name implies, is a path with eight parts, each of them noble in the sense that they are based on doing no harm.
In many translations, the word “Right” comes before each of these, but the word “Noble” also applies. Whether it’s “Right” or “Noble,” what’s most important to understand is that these are virtuous and respectable ways to live one’s life in a Buddhist framework.
These eight parts of the path can be grouped into Wisdom, Ethics, and Meditation as overarching categories of training. Here is a basic outline of the Noble Eightfold Path as taught by the Buddha and followed by practicing Buddhists.
“Right View” or “Noble View” refers to a deeper sense of understanding cultivated through insight into the nature of reality, seeing things clearly as they actually are. It is a perspective that arises from knowledge, not from ignorance, and the commitment to uphold this clarity of vision.
“Right Thought” or “Noble Thought” means the intentions of mind are pure. The thoughts we think will be motivated by the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness. With these thoughts and intentions, we can experience peace of mind.
“Right Speech” or “Noble Speech” is practiced through kind words, speaking the truth, refraining from insults and harsh words, using our words for the purpose of deeper meaning.
“Right Action” or “Noble Action” involves actions that support life, respect the property of others, and support the health and well-being of those around us. In other words, we avoid killing, stealing, and abusing others, acting peacefully in our communities, being respectful with ourselves and others.
“Right Livelihood” or “Noble Livelihood” refers to engaging in work that is helpful, not hurtful. Whatever job we perform, whatever line of work we engage in, whatever volunteering we do, we make sure that it is a wholesome means of living and harms no one.
“Right Effort” or “Noble Effort” is the commitment to training the mind. We make the commitment to prevent and overcome suffering through mental focus and clarity. We make a sincere effort to cultivate positive qualities of mind and move beyond negative qualities.
“Right Mindfulness” or “Noble Mindfulness” is being aware in the present moment of the state of our body, our feelings, our thoughts, and of phenomena in the world. We bring this present moment awareness from meditation into every moment of our life.
“Right Concentration” or “Noble Concentration” is the practice of refining our attention so we are able to focus clearly on the present, to the point of achieving deep states of joy and peace from our meditation practice.