Jewels of Buddhism: The Eightfold Path
The teachings of Buddhism encourage people to follow a spiritual path that will lead them to the jewels of life – happiness, freedom and enlightenment. The Eightfold Path is actually a set of eight practical guidelines that can not only end the suffering in people’s lives, but also enhance mental strength and conviction about following an ethical way of living. The eight teachings of Buddhism are about simple yet effective truths. They are all interdependent.
Right View: This is the first principle and it teaches people about the right way to see the world. Often, our view of the world is colored by our expectations, hopes and fears. If we can keep these factors aside and see things as they are without bringing in our feelings, then that is the right view of the world. We need to have an open attitude towards what we see and perceive, and have a simple and straightforward approach to life.
Right Intention: According to this guideline, if we are able to let go of our judgments, hopes, fears and expectations, then we can behave in a straightforward way, instead of being manipulative. An absence of preconceived ideas will ensure that we can accept the reality of things. This principle will follow naturally if we have right perception.
Right Speech: If our intentions are right, then we do not have to worry about our speech – of what we should speak, how we sound, if we are saying the things people want us to say. Right speech stems naturally from right intention, and happens effortlessly.
Right Action: This guideline urges us to practice simplicity. A person should be kind and not harm anyone, not take something that does not belong to him and not indulge in sexual misconduct. Right action is also about being honest and respectful. Action is a manifestation of thought. With the right view and right intention changes are made at the thought level, and right action follows automatically.
Right Livelihood: This principle emphasizes that livelihood should be earned in a righteous manner and by doing what we like. Most of the stress in the world is created because of people being stuck in jobs they do not like and spending long hours slogging on something they would rather not do. Often, people wish for jobs that pay better or sound better. Buddha urges people to be sincere in whatever they do and to ensure that their livelihood does not cause harm to others. Right thought and right action will ensure that the right livelihood is chosen.
Right Effort: This guideline is about doing work without aggression or struggle. If we are able to see things as they are, have clear intentions and speech, then putting in the right effort to do what we have to do isn’t difficult. Being aggressive, jealous, pushy or manipulative is ruled out by this principle. Right effort comes effortlessly with right livelihood.
Right Mindfulness: This guideline urges people to be mindful of every detail of the experiences they have. If we are mindful of the way we speak, work or interact with people, then we can be happy. Right effort ensures a stress-free mind, which in turn ensures optimum output in any work that the mind is applied to.
Right Concentration: This guideline is about concentrating on the present and on whatever we are doing at the moment. The philosophy of meditation is based on this fact. Right concentration is a natural outcome of a stress-free mind putting in the right effort.