Of all the paths the Eightfold Path is the best; of all the truths the Four Noble Truths are the best; of all things passionlessness is the best: of men the Seeing One (the Buddha) is the best.
This is the only path; there is none other for the purification of insight. Tread this path, and you will bewilder Mara.
Walking upon this path you will make an end of suffering. Having discovered how to pull out the thorn of lust, I make known the path.
The Buddha’s teachings rest on four universal truths:
- Inherent in life, there is dukkha
- Craving causes dukkha
- The elimintation of craving eliminates dukkha
- There is a path to eliminate our craving & dukkha
These are called the Four Noble Truths. Dukkha is a Pali word (an Indian dialect from the Buddha’s time) that doesn’t have an easy English translation. It is most commonly translated as “suffering,” but dukkha encapsulates all of our “bad” feelings – sorrow, pain, anger, hatred, melancholy, depression, anxiety, those days where you just don’t want to get out of bed, etc.
The Fourth Noble Truth – the path to eliminate dukkha – is called the Noble Eightfold Path. It has eight distinct “folds” or factors that should be developed simultaneously to eliminate our dukkha and attain enlightenment.
Each factor develops a certain component of our practice:
- Wisdom (prajna) – this component is developed through Right View and Right Intention. It is seeing reality as it is and not through the way we typically want to or are conditioned to. It is understanding (not just accepting) the Four Noble Truths and having the intent to cease our dukkha (and others) through this understanding. Our intentions are also an integral part of our practice; having the intent to practice the next “folds” or factors in the Path is just as important as actually practicing them.
- Ethics (sila) – this component is developed through Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood. It is based in the ethical practices of the Five Precepts – one should abstain from killing sentient beings, stealing, performing sexual misconduct, slanderous speech, and alcohol or other intoxicants. These aren’t just to help you treat others correctly, but yourself correctly! Being happy with who we are and our treatment of ourselves is just as important as our treatment of others.
- Training of the mind (samadhi) – this component is developed through Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. We put our mind to wholesome ideas and actions (like positive thoughts and actions toward ourselves and others!). We also develop mindfulness through meditation to increase our awareness and understanding of other human beings. Our mind is further trained and eventually released through deep meditative states described by Right Concentration.