The Noble Eightfold Path (also called the Middle Way, or the Threefold Way) is the fourth part (magga) of the Four Noble Truths . It gives Buddhists a path they can follow to end suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path is also known as the Threefold Way as it contains the three basic aspects of Buddhist life, which are ethics, meditation and wisdom. Each part of the Noble Eightfold Path falls within one of the elements of the Threefold Way:
|The Threefold Way||The Noble Eightfold Path|
|1. Ethics||1. Right action (behaving in a skilful way and not harming others)|
|2. Right speech (speaking truthfully)|
|3. Right livelihood (earning a living in a way that doesn’t cause suffering or harm to others)|
|2. Meditation||4. Right mindfulness (being aware of yourself and the emotions of others)|
|5. Right effort (putting effort into meditation and positive emotions)|
|6. Right concentration (developing focus so that you are able to meditate)|
|3. Wisdom||7. Right view/understanding (remembering that actions have consequences)|
|8. Right intention (being clear about following the Buddhist path)|
How its relevant today
- The COVID pandemic bears testimony to the fact that the complexities of the modern world carry with them more uncertainties and crises. The threats of bioterrorism, climate change, global warming, radicalism, extremism, etc, are shaking the conscience of humanity. Since time immemorial, mankind has built up the capability to control natural resources. The greed and impatient attitude towards utilising these resources have created an imbalance. Reacting to this, nature is more vigorously attacking humanity. The Buddha’s method of introspection and awakening shows the path in these troubling times.
- The Buddha’s lesson of “Atma Dipo Bhava” — every man can be a light unto himself, a saviour of himself through personal efforts — is apt to alter the individualist approach.
- For liberation, Buddha provided an eightfold road, or the middle method. Wisdom (correct understanding and intention), Ethical Conduct (proper speech, conduct, and livelihood), and Meditation are the three pillars of the eightfold path (right effort, mindfulness and concentration).
- According to Buddha, the fundamental causes of suffering are greed and desire, ignorance or delusion, and hatred and destructive tendencies.
- In his teachings, the Buddha emphasised that the only way to free oneself from attachments such as greed, desire, ignorance, delusion, hatred, and destructive urges is to free oneself from attachments such as greed, desire, ignorance, illusion, hatred, and destructive urges.
- Right understanding and intention can pave the way for knowledge and free individuals from delusion and ignorance.
- Right speech has the power to free people from hatred that is promoted over the world in the name of race, nationality, religion, and other factors.
- Right action and livelihood can free society from corruption, ensure food and water security, and increase economic opportunity and employment, resulting in widespread prosperity.
- Right effort, mindfulness and concentration can ensure mental peace and enrich moral and cultural values.
- Loving-kindness, a meditation practice, which brings about positive attitudinal changes as it systematically develops the quality of ‘loving-acceptance’. Friendship, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity are four qualities that are produced by loving-kindness. This has the potential to make societies more inclusive and compassionate to those who are marginalised.
- His teachings find reflection in the globally-accepted Gandhian ethos. On various international platforms, India has shown that need, not greed is the guiding principle for the judicious use of limited natural resources. India has called for a global people’s movement to bring about behavioural change to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with shared responsibility.
- The “right livelihood” for a post-Covid world- COP26- Global leaders have made commitments to make Mother Earth a sustainable planet, to mitigate global warming, protect vulnerable communities and natural habitats, mobilise finance and work together to deliver on these promises.
- In the ongoing global fight against the corona pandemic, India is leading from the front. India has emerged as the pharmacy of the world by helping out the 123 needy countries by supplying hydroxychloroquine and other medical assistance.
- The most important part of the Buddha’s teachings is bhavana, or meditation. It refers to mental conditioning. Everything, according to Buddha, originates in man’s thought.
The influence of Buddhist ideas and symbols on our democracy is both profound and visible. In the Lok Sabha, above the chair of the Speaker are inscribed the words, “Dharma Chakra Pravartanay”, which means ‘“setting in motion the wheel of righteousness”. The Preamble of the Constitution enshrines the principals of liberty, equality and fraternity, whose roots can be traced to Buddhist teachings. In his essay, ‘The Ancient Regime— the State of the Aryan Society’ B R Ambedkar writes: “Buddhism was a revolution. It was as great a Revolution as the French Revolution. Though it began as a religious revolution, it became more than a Religious revolution. It became a Social and Political Revolution.” As Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama put it, “the twentieth century was a century of conflict and violence; now we all need to cooperate to see that the twenty-first century is a century of peace and discourse.”
How to structure:
- Explain about Buddha’s eight fold path
- Examine how it can be used now, especially after the adversities of the pandemic