Welcome to the Course
Our four teachers introduce the eightfold path and explain why it is such a powerful and practical framework for reflecting on our lives, and cultivating wholesome qualities of mind and heart.
A practical, holistic approach
Welcome to this course on the eightfold path. We're really looking forward to exploring this teaching with you. This is a central teaching of the Buddha and really describes a way of life that can lead to our own well-being and the well-being of others. It's a teaching that is central to all Buddhist traditions.
As we start, let's get a clear sense of what the different elements of this path are. It begins with view, how we see the world; moves into intentions, how we wish to live, intentions of loving kindness, compassion and letting go; and then that informs how we speak; how we act, and also our livelihood, how we do our work and earn a living. Then the last three elements of the path are about effort: the effort to develop what's helpful, what's wholesome, and to let go of what is unwholesome; mindfulness, to bring a sense of presence to each moment, to the world around us; and then to concentration or collectedness, gatheredness of mind.
A hallmark of the Buddha's teaching
Towards the very end of the Buddha's life, as he was lying on his deathbed, his attendant Ānanda allowed a man called Subhadda to see the dying Buddha. Subhadda wanted to be received into the monastic community and the Buddha agreed, and he ordained him as a novice. Subhadda then asked the Buddha a question. He said, When you are no longer with us, after your death, when somebody claims that what they're saying is the teaching of the Buddha, how are we to know whether that person is telling the truth or not? And the Buddha replied, "If a person teaches and in that teaching is the doctrine of the eightfold path, then you can be assured that that teaching is coming from me. If the eightfold path is not mentioned, then do not consider that to be my teaching." So the eightfold path is clearly the essential core that marks something out as being a teaching of the Buddha. When the Buddha first started teaching, he started by saying, "I have found a middle way. And what is that middle way? It is the noble eightfold path." And then at the very end of his life, we find that same point being made again to this novice monk, Subhadda. In that way, the eightfold path is like the alpha and the omega of the Buddha's teaching. It begins and ends with the idea of the eightfold path.
It's also important to remember that the eightfold path is included in the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, which is widely understood as the frame within which the Buddha's teaching takes place. These truths are:
- the fact of suffering
- the origin of suffering: craving
- the cessation of suffering
- the path leading to the cessation of suffering is the noble eightfold path.
So, in many different ways, we can see how this idea of the eightfold path encompasses pretty much everything that the Buddha taught.
Bringing the path into modern life
In these six units. We want to present an overview of all the factors of this so-called eightfold path: how they are presented in the old scriptures, but also how we can apply them and understand them in a relevant way for 21st-century life. This will involve presentations from each of us. You will witness some discussions where you might find different viewpoints expressed by each of us. We will lead some brief meditations and also give suggestions as to how you can apply these principles in daily life between each of the units.
Reminding ourselves of another way
We want to present this teaching because it encompasses all aspects of our lives. You could say that the method of the Buddha is cultivating the eightfold path. We want to present each element in detail and show its relevance to our lives and how understanding the different elements—bringing into being these different elements—will make a difference in our relationships but also to ourselves. What this course is doing is reminding us of our value, reminding us of a different orientation we can cultivate. This makes it more likely that there will be a creative, wise, compassionate response when we are confronted with challenges. It helps us to live our lives in a flourishing way. We want to give you tools, and at the same time, give you more understanding. We want to help you to bring width and depth to the cultivation of meditation, wisdom, and compassion.
Mindfulness by itself is not enough
Nowadays, the most well-known of the eight elements is mindfulness. One of the things we want to show is that actually mindfulness is not enough by itself. It's a very important element of the eightfold path, but it needs to be completed. It needs to be integrated with all the other elements so that it can really be activated and manifested in a rich tapestry of different qualities, not just qualities of being mindful: but the qualities of remembering to be mindful, be compassionate, be wise, to explore conditions.
Reflecting on how we live and practice
We want to reflect on different aspects of our lives. For example, if you take right speech—I would prefer to call it caring and careful speech—then we will look at:
- "How do I speak?"
- "How do I listen?"
- "When I speak to my partner, when I speak to a co-worker, do I bring an element of groundedness, mindfulness, compassion, which will help when dealing with difficulty? Or do I immediately react and attack or pick on the person?"
- "If somebody is aggressive toward me, how can I encounter that?"
In a way, each of the element of the eightfold path will lead us to explore a certain dimension of our lives so that we can be more grounded, calmer, and brighter in the way we respond to the situation.
You are welcome to join us on this journey of exploration to enrich our lives so that it can be of benefit for yourself but also everyone and the environment around you. We're really looking forward to you joining us.
Navigating the Course
On a Computer
Click the Complete and Continue button to progress to the next section of the course. You can also use the outline on the left sidebar to jump to a particular section of each unit.
On a Mobile Device
Tap the orange right-arrow button at the top right of the screen to progress to the next section of the course. You can also open the course outline using the three lines button. From there, you can jump to any section of the course.