The Fourth Noble Truth
Having realized the truth of suffering (Dukkha) in life, its cause and cessation, the Buddha proceeded to explain the final Truth, his prescription to freedom from suffering – the Noble Eightfold Path.
As Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha had seen a life of great luxury and knew that sensual pleasures alone could not save one from suffering. Later, he had lived the rigorous life of an ascetic and had realized that this too, did not necessarily lead to spiritual liberation. Thus, the Buddha taught that the path to freedom from suffering lies not in extremes, but in moderation, a philosophy that is known as the Middle Way.
The Noble Eightfold Path expands on this, setting out the path one must walk towards the cessation of dukkha. This is less a doctrine than a list of steps one must actively take, if its fruits are to be realized:
The first three steps of Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action teach us what we should avoid – negative thinking and covetousness; lying, hurtful words and gossip; killing, robbing and sexual misconduct.
The fourth and fifth steps are Right Livelihood and Right Understanding – making a living with the right attributes mentioned above and acquiring true wisdom. The last three steps of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration are with reference to meditation – persevering in the practice with joyfulness, keeping one’s mind in the present and maintaining a serene attentiveness.