The Noble Eightfold Path

The descriptions below are quotes from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

Right View

The first practice of the Noble Eightfold Path is Right View (samyag drishti).  Right View is, first of all, a deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths – our suffering, the making of our suffering, the fact that our suffering can be transformed, and the path of transformation.  The Buddha said Right View is to have faith and confidence that there are people who have been able to transform their suffering.  Venerable Shariputa added that Right View is knowing which of the four kinds of nutriments that we have ingested have brought about what has come to be. p. 51

Right Thinking

When Right View is solid in us, we have Right Thinking (samyak samkalpa).  We need Right View at the foundation of our thinking.  And if we train ourselves in Right Thinking, our Right View will improve.  Thinking is the speech of our mind. Right Thinking makes our speech clear and beneficial. Because thinking often leads to action, Right Thinking is needed to take us down the path of Right Action. p. 59

Right Speech

“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.” This is the Fourth Mindfulness Training and it offers a very good description of Right Speech (samyag vac).  P. 84

Right Action

Right Action (samyak karmanta) means Right Action of the body.  It is the practice of touching love and preventing harm, the practice of nonviolence toward ourselves and others.  Right Action is closely linked with four (the first, second, third and fifth) of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.  p. 94

Right Livelihood

To practice Right Livelihood (samayg ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion.  The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others.  The sutras define Right Livelihood as earning a living without having to transgress any of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.  p. 113

Right Effort

Right Diligence (samyak pradhana), or Right Effort, is the kind of energy that helps us realize the Noble Eightfold Path.  If we are diligent for possessions, sex or food, that is wrong diligence.  If we work round-the-clock for profit or fame or to run away from our suffering, that is wrong diligence also.  From the outside, it may appear that we are diligent, but it is not Right Diligence….It is not because we practice hard that we can say we are practicing Right Diligence. p. 99

Right Mindfulness

“When Right Mindfulness is present the Four Noble Truths and the other seven elements of the Eightfold Path are also present…. Right Mindfulness is the energy that brings us back to the present moment.  To cultivate mindfulness is to cultivate the Buddha within, to cultivate the Holy Spirit…. Mindfulness is remembering to come back to the present moment p. 64

Right Concentration

The practice of right concentration is to cultivate a mind that is one-pointed. The Chinese character for concentration means, literally, “maintaining evenness”, neither too high nor too low, neither too excited nor to dull. Another Chinese term and sometimes used for concentration means “the abode of true mind”.

There are two kinds of concentration, active and selective. In active concentration, the mind dwells on whatever is happening in the present moment, even as it changes.

When we practice selective concentration, we choose one object and hold on to it. During sitting and walking meditation, whether alone or with others, we practice. We know that the sky and the birds are there, but our attention is focused on our object. If the object of our concentration is a math problem, we don’t watch television or talk on the phone. We abandon everything else and focus on the object. When we are driving, the lives of the passengers in our car depend on our concentration.

We don’t use concentration to run away from our suffering. We concentrate to make ourselves deeply present. When we walk, stand, or sit in concentration, people can see our stability and stillness. Living each moment deeply, sustained concentration comes naturally, and that, in turn, gives rise to insight.

Right Concentration leads to happiness, and it also leads to Right Action. The higher our degree of concentration, the greater the quality of our life.  p.105-106