Rationale of the Eightfold Path

GroundReport.com, May 18, 2011

New Delhi, India -- The Eightfold Path contains Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

Right Views refers to studying the world analytically and critically and understanding it from scientific perspectives. This principle is related to the development of scientific viewpoint against superstitious and ignorance. Without correctly examining the society which we live in, how can we ever think of improving it? Therefore, facing existing realities and trying to transform them is the major point of the Right Views as shown by the Buddha.

Similarly, Right Intention matters in every aspect of life. If spoken words are good but intention is bad, one cannot expect good things to happen. If intention is to commit a crime for the sake of luxurious life, shining cars, superb buildings and brilliant profile will be worthless. Good intention results in good actions that produce good results.

Gifted with communication power and tools, human beings have definitely achieved much. But no good actions and consequences can be expected with wrong speech. Right Speech here refers to the ethical and true communication. Lies have no place in Buddha’s Right Speech domain.

Another important contribution by Gautam Buddha to make human life better and meaningful is Right Action. Wrong actions produce wrong effects. Wrong actions are the products of wrong thoughts in the main. Good speech and wrong actions do not match. In today’s politics, this trend is growing alarmingly. Therefore, re-examining our actions is essential.

Equally important is the principle of Right Livelihood. In a country like Nepal, people spoil their mentality from early childhood. ‘Earn money any way, without considering whether it is good or bad’ is the wrong path adopted generally. Those who are honest and totally depend on their good thoughts and actions are mocked at. This shows how wrong path one has adopted for the sake of livelihood. Professional murder industry, kidnap industry, arms industry and more are some examples against the Right Livelihood principle of Buddha.

Moreover, Right Effort encourages human beings to work hard by not wasting their energy, be it physical or mental. It helps us to put our energy in good things, with a proper degree of continuity and focus. Even good policies cannot be successfully implemented without the right effort.

Likewise, Right Mindfulness can be a vital component to succeed in our work. Being attentive to our own thoughts and behavior can keep us on track. Being watchful and careful with every step is equally important. Psychological tendencies affect our behavioral culture. The quality of Buddhist Mindfulness actually makes our mind pro-active, dynamic and productive so that we can be better human beings.

But we cannot become successful without adding one more Buddhist eightfold Path component here. It is Right Concentration, which concerns with focusing our mind on what we do, how and why we do it. Discontinuity, distraction and mind dullification cannot help us at all. Meditation is essential to keep our mind balanced both spiritually and scientifically.

Thus, the Buddhist Eightfold Path principles are vital for the modern human society. They are needed today, ever more on a global scale.

For global peace and justice, understanding the significance of the Eightfold Path is necessary. It teaches us that peace comes from mind. Thousands of fighter planes, drones or bombs cannot bring peace. Can we cite a single example here? The world is being punished by anger. Ignorance, as Buddhism says, is the greatest enemy of human beings, who follow a wrong path seeking happiness. One wrong thought produces more wrong thoughts. One wrong action produces more wrong actions. One bad consequence produces another bad consequence to suffer. One negative reaction towards bad consequences produces more negative reactions. This is what the eightfold path teaches us.

Democracy fighters are depending on others for their liberation. They get money, arms and other training from others in the name of democracy. But Buddha taught us so long ago that we must depend on ourselves to work out our freedom while we co-exist with others for international freedom, fraternity and equality.

The transformation of human life must be the goal of politics. In clearer terms, criminalization of the society is not the goal of human politics. Buddhism can greatly help the human world think better and act better. American film actress Koo Stark reminds us, “Buddhism teaches you to embrace change.”

Finally, it is advisable to examine the following famous quote of Buddha:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”