Buddhists believe that enlightenment is available to all beings and can be achieved using what they refer to as the The Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path is a set of simple, straight forward, and logical guidelines for living life in an ethical, open-minded, openhearted, and always evolving fashion. I discovered this path about ten years ago while studying Zen Buddhism. Although I do not claim to be an expert in the official tenants of Buddhism, I hope to share with you my personal understanding of The Eightfold Path.

Life is replete with suffering for all beings. This is an integral lesson found within the Four Noble Truths of Buddhist teachings. Once realized we can choose to continue suffering or determine to overcome our suffering. This is the reason d'etre of The Eightfold Path.

Those steps that lead one towards overcoming suffering are listed as follows:

A Zen Koan (a type of riddle that is intended to bring about wisdom) states, "One cannot hammer a nail into empty space." The word "Right" is used in this sense. In other words, Right means to do something in a way that effectively leads one towards a conciously determined goal.

Right Understanding:

Once we acknowledge that we are suffering, we must determine why we are by understanding our suffering. If we wish to resolve a problem we must first understand it, define it, turn it over and over examining it until we understand the problem inside and out.

Right Thought:

Right Thought is when we make the conscious and resolved choice to resolve our suffering. Through pure determination we make the mental choice to solve the problem through focus and steadfastness. What are those thoughts that will lead me to solve the problem? Stick to that mental path.

Right Speech:

Through our speech we can extend and reinforce our mental determination to overcome our suffering. By speaking about it and making it tangible we can weed out any misunderstandings or falshoods we hold concerning the problem. Others will also give us usefull feedback which we should be open to, regardless of the source; the best advice is often given by those who don't share our views.

Buddhists also believe that right speech refrains from lying, stealing, slander, harshness, and pointless speech. I agree as these behaviors typically lead one in destructive circles that can masochistically turn on oneself.

Right Action:

Right Action, as it implies, is performing those acts that leads towards resolution of one's suffering while refraining from those that hinder one's progress. This is perhaps the most obvious and easily understood of The Eightfold Path. If you want to get from A to B, just do it!

Buddhists also include the acts of killing, stealing, and being unchaste as being anethema to Right Action as it is intended to build character that is controlled and mindful of others.

Right Livelihood:

By this it is meant that we cannot overcome suffering if we are in an environment that hinders our progress towards our goal.

Buddhists also believe Right Livelihood precludes the trade of deadly weapons, the trade of animals for slaighter, the trade of human beings in slavery, the trade of intoxicants, etc. In other words, an ethical livelihood cannot consist of things that may be harmful to other beings.

Right Effort:

You can't hammer a nail into empty space! If you don't put something in, you don't get something out. Suffering doesn't simply go away without a little sweat. We must know and accept that Right Effort is necessary. We must throw away all efforts that fail to resolve the problem and hand and prevent them from resurfacing. We must put energy towards those actions which will lead us to overcoming the problem. Without effort, we're stuck with simply an intellectual understanding of the problem and its resolution.

Right Mindfulness:

Right mindfulness is a state of being aware. To best resolve problems Buddhists believe we should be aware of our body, mind, actions, and words. The suffering is usually never as simple as it seems. The way it effects our lives, our perceptions of it, the interactions of our physical state, thoughts, actions, etc., have the potential to make the path an often foggy one. Only by being more aware of all the relevant factors in real time can we hope to overcome suffering.

Right Meditation:

The final step in The Eightfold Path is the need to be able to focus completely on a problem. Without the ability to concentrate our minds we can spend a lot of our time absent-mindedly straying from our ultimate goals. Buddhists, of course, encourage one to practice meditation to help strengthen ones focus and although I don't necessarily believe one must sit in lotus, I do agree that mental focus is necessary to overcome any problem.


How is The Eightfold Path Similar to the Scientific Method?