The Noble Eightfold Path

William B. Turner
9 min readFeb 5, 2020

“These eight things, friends, when developed and cultivated lead to Nibbāna,
have Nibbāna as their ultimate destination, have Nibbāna as their final goal!”

The Grouped Sayings of the Buddha on the Way. SN V (56)

So just growing up doesn’t sound all that hard. Chances are you’ve already done at least some of that. I don’t think toddlers are the intended audience for this book, although if you’re a toddler out there reading this, welcome. More power to you.

But achieving enlightenment sounds kind of intimidating. You may be surrounded by people whom you think have more or less mastered the whole being an adult thingy, but never met anyone who was fully enlightened. Part of the problem is that people who are fully enlightened tend not to say that about themselves. They tend to be very modest. In fact, if someone tells you s/he is fully enlightened, tread with caution. Watch the person with care for a while and decide for yourself if you think that person’s conduct is consistent with her/his claims. As always, actions speak louder than words.

Even so, the Buddha was very clear. He once said flat out, if it were not possible to achieve the same level of realization he had achieved, he would not tell people to do so. He was, after all, the embodiment of compassion, and telling people to spend their lives in a fruitless quest is not very compassionate. To help us out, he gave us the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of Right View, Right Intention/Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. We usually group them as follows: the first two, Right View and Right Intention/Thought comprise Wisdom. The next three, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood comprise Morality. The last three, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration comprise Meditation.

Note, it is NOT eight paths, it is the Noble Eightfold Path. We don’t much use words like “eightfold” these days, so that part might not be immediately clear. Think of the word “manifold,” which one might also render as “manyfold.” Like drapes or a pleated skirt, a single object can have many folds and still be a single object. Similarly, the Noble Eightfold Path is a single path that we should follow if we want to be good Buddhists, and it has eight different facets or components. Such are the limitations of…