The Buddha’s Path

The Buddha’s Path

The Buddha’s path to enlightenment is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of Sila (conduct), Samadhi (concentration) and Panna (wisdom). The path is a circular, upward spiral path that begins with conventional wisdom and ends with the higher spiritual wisdom.

The aim of this article is to clarify the path for beginners as well as serious practitioners. This is achieved by pointing out various significant signposts along the path, very much like the signposts along the way that one would rely on when one journeys from a starting point to the end of one’s destination. The signposts are there to help us determine whether we are on the right path or not, and how far more we need to go to reach our destination.

In the Mahaassapura Sutta (MN39), the Buddha lists down a path that begins with good moral conduct and ends with the attainment of Arahantship. These are:

  1. Conduct and livelihood
  2. Restraint of the senses
  3. Moderation in eating
  4. Wakefulness
  5. Mindfulness and full awareness
  6. Abandoning of the hindrances
  7. The four jhanas
  8. The three true knowledges
  9. The arahant

This simple list appears to be a gradual progression of the spiritual practice that the Buddha taught, and is found in greater details in the Noble Eightfold Path, as listed below:

A. Panna (Wisdom)

  1. Right View
    • Apannaka Suttta – The Incontrovertible Teaching (MN60): In this sutta, the Buddha talks about the various doctrines and world views that existed during his time, and the wise way for one to view the world so as to benefit from this life and possibly the next life too. To me, this is the starting point for a life of good moral conduct, which is a prerequisite for spiritual progress.
    • The Four Noble Truths: To most Buddhists, this is the starting point of their spiritual path. However, I feel that one cannot even begin to walk the spiritual path without first having a belief in (a) one’s own spirituality, or (b) an afterlife or rebirth. On the other hand, the Four Noble Truths is also the end point of this spiritual path, and is achieved only when one has progressed to a point that, with a totally clear and sharp mind, one is able to see things clearly as they really are, thus seeing through the delusion of life and self. This realisation leads to the total relinquishment and abandonment of cravings, becoming and self.
  2. Right Thought

B. Sila (Morality)

  1. Right Speech
  2. Right Action
  3. Right Livelihood

C. Samadhi (Concentration)

  1. Right Effort
  2. Right Mindfulness
  3. Right Concentration

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