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Buddhist Principals: Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path, according to Buddhism and as taught by Gautama Buddha, is the way to the cessation of suffering, the fourth part of the Four Noble Truths. It is summarized into three important categories: wisdom (pañña), virtue (sila), and concentration (samadhi).

The following is An Analysis of the Path, a sutra or discourse delivered by Gautama Buddha from the Tipitaka, explaining this Noble Eightfold Path in detail. In all these, the word "right" is a translation of the word samma (Pali; Sanskrit: Samyañc), which denotes completion, togetherness, or coherence, and which can also carry the sense of "perfect" or "ideal".

Wisdom (pañña)
1. Right Understanding (or Right View, or Right Perspective) - samma ditthi
" And what, monks, is right understanding? Knowledge with regard to sadness, knowledge with regard to the origination of sadness, knowledge with regard to the stopping of sadness, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the stopping of sadness: This, monks, is called right understanding.

2. Right Thought (or Right Intention, or Right Resolve) - samma sankappa
" And what is right thought? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right thought.

Virtue and Ethical Conduct (sila)
3. Right Speech - samma vaca
" And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.

4. Right Action - samma kammanta
" And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, monks, is called right action.

5. Right Livelihood - samma ajiva
" And what, monks, is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This, monks, is called right livelihood.

Concentration and Mental Development (samadhi)
6. Right Effort (or Right Endeavour) - samma vayama
" And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence (tries persistently), upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen(rejects ineptitude). (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.(hopes) (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence (tries), upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance (strives), non-confusion (concentrates), increase (grows), plenitude (achieves), development (branches out), & culmination (flowers in) of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.

7. Right Mindfulness - samma sati
" And what, monks, is right mindfulness? (i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on (his/her) body in & of itself... ardent, aware, & mindful...putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (ii) (He/she) remains focused on feelings in & of themselves...ardent, aware, & mindful...putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iii) (He/she) remains focused on the mind in & of itself...ardent, aware, & mindful...putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iv) (He/she) remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves...ardent, aware, & mindful...putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. This, monks, is called right mindfulness.

8. Right Concentration - samma samadhi
" And what, monks, is right concentration? (i) There is the case where a monk...not ardent, quite withdrawn from sensuality, but mindful and alert, enters in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from detachment, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. (ii) With the stilling of directed thought & evaluation, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration; fixed single-pointed awareness free from directed thought & evaluation; assurance. (iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains in equanimity, mindful & fully aware, and physically sensitive of pleasure. He enters & remains in the third jhana which the Noble Ones declare to be "Equanimous & mindful, (he/she) has a pleasurable abiding." (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain...as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress...he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither in pleasure nor in pain. This, monks, is called right concentration."

The Ninth and Tenth Elements
In the Great Forty Sutra (Mahacattarisaka Sutta), which appears in the Pali Canon, the Buddha explains that cultivation of the Eightfold Path leads to the development of two further stages once enlightenment has been reached. These also fall under the category of pañña and are Right Knowledge (sammanana) and Right Liberation (or Right Release; sammavimutti).

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