The one and only path that leads to the realization of the Four Noble Truths, the one and only path that assures the eradication of passion, hatred and delusion, and the one and only path that ends suffering forever is the Noble Eightfold Path. The Supreme Buddha and all Arahants attained the Arahant-hood by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold path is practiced at two different levels: the path practiced by the disciples of the Buddha to become stream-entrants, and the path practiced by the noble disciples of the Buddha who are stream-entrants, once returners and non-returners.
Listed below are the eight elements of the Noble Eightfold Path.
- Right view (sammadhitti) – A person with right view is one who knows the Four Noble Truths that is suffering as the first noble truth, origin of suffering as the second noble truth, cessation of suffering as the third noble truth and the path leading to the cessation of suffering as the fourth noble truth.
- Right intention (sammasamkappa) – This has three elements, that is: the intention of giving up, the intention of non-ill will and the intention of non-cruelty.
- Right speech (sammavaca) – This has four elements that is abstaining from false speech, abstaining from malicious speech, abstaining from harsh speech and abstaining from gossip.
- Right action (sammakammantha) – This has three elements that is abstaining from killing beings, abstaining from taking what is not given, and abstaining from sexual misconduct.
- Right livelihood (sammaajeeva) – This is not engaging in anything wrong (i.e. not fuelled by greed, hatred and delusion) to earn a living and to gain something.
- Right effort (sammavayama) – Supported by the right view: This is the exertion to abandon wrong intentions and develop right intentions. This is the exertion to abandon wrong speech and develop right speech. This is the exertion to abandon wrong bodily action and develop right bodily action. This is the exertion to abandon wrong livelihood and develop right livelihood.
- Right mindfulness (sammasati) – Supported by the right view: Mindfully one recognizes and abandons wrong intentions and develops right intentions. Mindfully one recognizes and abandons wrong speech and develops right speech. Mindfully one recognizes and abandons wrong bodily action and develops right bodily action. Mindfully one recognizes and abandons wrong livelihood and develops right livelihood.
- Right concentration (sammasati) – This is the concentration of mind attained by one who has fulfilled right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort and right mindfulness.
The Supreme Buddha explained that one with right view develops right intention. One with right intention develops right speech. One with right speech develops right action. One with right action develops right livelihood. One with right livelihood develops right effort. One with right effort develops right mindfulness. One with right mindfulness develops the right concentration. Finally, one with right concentration develops right knowledge and one with right knowledge develops right deliverance, which is attaining the Arahant-hood and attaining the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.
The precursor for all acts by body, speech and mind is a thought; an idea developed in the mind. If that thought is unwholesome, supported by unwise thinking and proliferation, one engages in unwholesome acts by body, speech and mind. One who knows the teachings of the Buddha, having developed right-mindfulness, see the initiation of that unwholesome thought. Then, thinking wisely and having disgusted at the unwholesome thought, he or she refrains from acting on that unwholesome thought and eradicates that unwholesome thought. Here, he or she practices right-effort to remove that unwholesome thought before it becomes an act. By continuously practicing right-mindfulness and right-effort to eliminate unwholesome, on purifies his or her virtue. The virtuous, blameless person develops right-concentration. The virtuous, blameless person with right-concentration develops the wisdom to know and see by himself “this is suffering, this is the origination of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, and this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering”. Thus, the Noble Eightfold Path is the one and only way for the purification of bodily, verbal and mental acts; one and only way for the purification of beings.