The Noble Eightfold Path is the Fourth Noble Truth, thus integrating the Four Noble Truth’s of doctrine with the Eight Fold Path of practice. The Noble Eightfold Path is the means to escape Samsara, the round of birth, life and death. The Noble Eightfold Path allows you to escape suffering of all kinds; it is the path to freedom.
The Noble Eightfold Path is often divided into three sections;
- Moral Conduct
- Mental Discipline
and I will be dealing with the Noble Eightfold Path within these three divisions for the sake of brevity and convenience.
The beginner on this path MUST realise that they do not have to be perfect in all steps straight away. This is a ‘practice’, and it is a practice that we all do every day. Some may take one step on the path and hone their practice of that step for several years before going on to the next step. Patience is the biggest requirement on the path. Don’t expect to arrive before you have learnt to walk.
Within this article I will deal with the concepts of Moral or Ethical Conduct. Moral Conduct encompasses the following steps of the Eightfold Path;
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
To quote the Buddha, right speech is:
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
Right speech is basically ‘be nice’, ‘be wise’, ‘don’t lie’ and ‘don’t chatter nonsensically’. It’s pretty much as simple as that, but just you try it for a day or three. Idle chitter-chatter and gossip is almost impossible to avoid. I know, I’ve tried it and, no matter what, I still find myself being drawn into mindless gossip about others. It is hurtful to those you gossip about and hurtful to yourself because of the demeaning attitude you take regarding that person.
Right speech is also a sign that you are giving another sentient being the respect that they deserve even if, in your heart, you believe they deserve no respect whatsoever. Right speech is to be compassionate, to be kind, to be truthful in every respect. Right speech is to be honest… Right speech is to speak the Dhamma.
Again to quote the Buddha, right action is as follows:
And what is right action? Abstaining from killing, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct. This is called right action
Right action is similar to right speech. Your actions should reflect you words… harm none, do not kill or injure other beings, do not be violent in any way. Be peaceful in your interactions and compassionate. Right Action should be seen as walking the Dhamma whereas Right Speech is speaking the Dhamma. Kamma would dictate that if you injure someone then they are likely to injure you too. Be generous, be charitable. Share what you have and Kamma will show that others will share with you. Right Action and Right Speech go hand in hand to build a sense of community amongst your neighbours where cooperation and companionship are the watch words for a peaceful life.
Once more, to quote the Buddha:
And what is right livelihood? Right livelihood, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions; there is right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
“And what is the right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abandons wrong livelihood and maintains his life with right livelihood. This is the right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.
“And what is the right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The abstaining, desisting, abstinence, avoidance of wrong livelihood in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. (…)
Right Livelihood is simply the fact that you should live honestly. Earn your wage with honesty, put in a good days work for your pay. Also live in an honest and compassionate manner. Tend to the daily chores as they come about, don’t neglect your responsibilities and don’t neglect those close to you. Be truthful and earnest in your daily life. Those in need should be tended too just as much as yourself.