The Noble Eightfold Path

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote, “The essence of the Buddha’s teaching can be summed up in two principles: the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The first covers the side of doctrine, and the primary response it elicits is understanding; the second covers the side of discipline, in the broadest sense of that word, and the primary response it calls for is practice. “

Webster’s dictionary defines discipline as “a branch of knowledge, typically one studies in higher education.” Of course, the Dharma (Dhamma in Pali) is a life long course of “higher education.”

He continues, “In the structure of the teaching these two principles lock together into an indivisible unity called the dhamma-vinaya, the doctrine-and-discipline, or, in brief, the Dhamma. The internal unity of the Dhamma is guaranteed by the fact that the last of the Four Noble Truths, the truth of the way, is the Noble Eightfold Path, while the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, right view, is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Thus, the two principles penetrate and include one another, the formula of the Four Noble Truths containing the Eightfold Path and the Noble Eightfold Path containing the Four Truths.”

This is a beautiful explanation of how the teachings interpenetrate and clarify one another. As we explore the Noble Eightfold Path we will see how the promise of the Third Noble Truth–the cessation of suffering–can be fulfilled by applying each step of the path in our lives moment to moment.

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