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The Eightfold Path

The Way of Realization includes a deep examination of every truth of the Noble Path, and communicates a great concern for “right” living. In the Pali language, the word for right is samma. Samma carries the connotation of correct as opposed to incorrect, but samma also means “that which is fulfilling.” Practitioners of the Buddha’s Dharma live in accordance with the Way and the awakened ones live in accordance with the Way, a way that is fulfilling for us and beneficial for others and the world.


The eight links in the Path are:

  1. Right Understanding or Right View

  2. Right Intention

  3. Right Speech

  4. Right Action

  5. Right Livelihood

  6. Right Effort

  7. Right Mindfulness

  8. Right Meditative Concentration

These links are not sequential steps, like a ladder to spiritual attainment. Instead, spiritual growth is made when due attention is given to each of them as a person is ready and able. In more detail, these links facilitate our spiritual growth in the following ways:

  1. Right Understanding, or Right View includes the contemplation of the Four Noble Truths in every arena of our daily lives. The first truth is to be understood. The second Truth involves letting go and changing conditions that give rise to suffering. The third Truth is to be fully realized, and the fourth Truth stresses emphasis on development of each on link in the eightfold path.

  2. Right Intention: We learn to keep in touch with our intentions. We work upon intentions that cause stress and harm to ourselves or harm to others through body, speech, and acts of mind or acts of the will. Our intentions can carry a variety of feelings, thoughts, and memories that influence and give shape to our intentions. We find intentions in greed, anger, and fear, as well as in generosity, kindness, and fearlessness.

  3. Right Speech: We take real notice of what we say and to whom we say it. Right speech requires vigilance and clarity. The Buddha said that on important matters we have to consider the right person, the right place, right time and the subject if we wish to communicate effectively with others.

  4. Right Action: The principle of right action shows itself in the depth of clarity and love. We consider our intentions, actions, and results, and our relationship to them. Even noble actions do not guarantee that the results we pursue will emerge. We need the capacity to accommodate the results of actions due to a variety of conditions that we may not have perceived. At times, we have to trust in our intentions and actions even if the outcome is different from what we expected.

  5. Right Livelihood: Work constitutes an important feature of many people’s daily lives. The Buddha advised against work that caused suffering, such as the manufacture of weapons, the making of poison, and slave labour. Right Livelihood considers others and ourselves, and requires a degree of maturity and a sense of responsibility. Right livelihood encourages us to question a career focused on position, status, making money, and the exploitation of people and resources. This feature of the Way includes inquiry into one’s lifestyle.

  6. Right Effort: There are four aspects of right effort. What is worth developing? What is worth maintaining? What is worth overcoming? What is worth avoiding? For example, we see the value of developing and maintaining the Way. We see the value of overcoming addictions and avoiding people and situations that we know are unwise.

  7. Right Mindfulness: Mindfulness gives protection. Absence of mindfulness leads to carelessness, ‘accidents,’ forgetfulness, and stress. Mindfulness contributes to peace of mind, connection with what is happening, and the capacity to respond. Mindfulness attends to the needs of the body, feelings, states of mind, and Dharma.

  8. Meditative Concentration: Meditation is a key feature in the teachings of the Buddha. It offers inner depth, calmness, and insight. Through meditation, we become less demanding of others and the world. There are daily benefits also to meditative concentration: we can concentrate on what matters, and we have the capacity to focus our attention in the long term on a worthwhile vision.

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