Reimagining The Eightfold Path
Join Bodhi College for an exploration of the Buddha's path to freedom.
What is the eightfold path?
The eightfold path is the Buddha's prescription for ending suffering. It outlines eight aspects of a contemplative life. Each aspect reinforces the others, creating a compound effect that elevates our meditation, ethical behavior, and wise understanding of life. This is the practice of appropriate view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and mental collectedness.
Study at your own pace
This easy-to-use online course is available to all. It comprises six units that form a program of instruction, discussion, meditation, and inquiry. Each unit contains around 60-90 minutes of material to study, as well as contemplative exercises. Support materials include downloadable workbooks and audio. You are free to study at your own pace, and will retain ongoing access to the material.
6 hours of video guidance
From talks to guided meditations, discussions, and inquiry practices, Reimagining the Eightfold Path offers illuminating video content in manageable chunks. You'll also be able to download audio files and text for offline use.
Understanding through discussion
A strength of Bodhi College is the plurality of voices within the faculty. We don't always agree, and this helps us find a reasonable way forward based on dialogue and discussion. Each unit contains a discussion with a range of viewpoints.
A fresh look at the Buddhist path
We'll be drawing on the discourses of the early Buddhist tradition, the Pāli canon. The aim is to look beyond fixed interpretations and understand what the practice of the eightfold path really might be in our world today.
A practical path
This is what all the theory comes down to. How do you show up in the world? How do you speak to people? What is the right way to gather the mind? What leads away from distress? What brings peace and contentment?
Bring your practice into all areas of your life
Progress on the Buddha's path depends on more than meditation alone. The practice of ethics and wise understanding are also key to success.
Martine, Stephen, Jake, and Christoph are members of the Bodhi College faculty. Together, their experience encompasses the forests of Thailand, Korean Sōn monasteries, Insight Meditation centers in the US and Europe, and teaching on MBCT courses.
Unit 1 | What is the Eightfold Path?
After welcoming you to the course, the teachers present four talks on the eightfold path, explaining what it is and where it fits in the scheme of the Buddha's teachings. The Buddha said that the eightfold path is the means by which suffering comes to an end. However, there are questions of interpretation and emphasis to explore, and the very personal project of walking the path in the particular circumstances of our lives. We'll hear how the eightfold path has informed and enriched the teachers' lives. In each of the following units, there will be open discussion of these issues, and a meditation to begin our inquiry.
Unit 2 | Wise View and Wise Intention
We'll settle with a brief meditation and then start our exploration where the path begins—with right view, or appropriate view. Jake will show that, to start on the path, we need a basic understanding that certain wholesome mind states and actions will lead to desirable, ethical results for ourselves and for others. This entails an understanding of the four noble truths, of which the eightfold path itself is the fourth. This foundational teaching tells us that unwholesome mind states, rooted in craving and aversion, are unsatisfactory and, in fact, lead to further suffering. The good news is that this suffering can come to an end through the actualization of the eightfold path.
Having understood what mind states lead to suffering, and which mind states lead to tranquility, we set an intention to walk this path: to be free from ill will, to be harmless, and to relinquish unnecessary and unhelpful habits that obstruct the path. Stephen will reinterpret this factor as "wise imagination" and explore how we can use imagination in ways that help us to progress on the path, especially in situations where creativity can help us find ethical, wise, compassionate ways forward.
Unit 3 | Wise Action and Wise Livelihood
Ethics is indispensible as a foundation for tranquility, collectedness, and wisdom. Christoph will explore what it means to enact our ethical intentions. This means abstaining from killing beings, taking what is not given, and an inappropriate relationship to sensuality. We can also see this as a responsibility to protect living beings, to be generous and supportive of others, to treat them with respect, and to cultivate circumspection towards sensual pleasure.
Similarly, Martine will explore the area of appropriate livelihood and how our practice relates to our working life. We'll see how our livelihood can be a source of wellbeing for ourselves and others, rather than a source of strife.
Unit 4 | Wise Speech and Wise Effort
Usually the third element of the path, contemplating appropriate ways of speaking and communicating is a decisive factor for so many meditators. Through speech we can uplift people, or, if we are not mindful and compassionate, we can often hurt them. On this path, we make a commitment to truthful, intentional, purposeful speech. We speak gently, not harshly or with the intention to create division. Christoph will widen this area of inquiry to include how we communicate in this interconnected age. This is such a crucial area in our lives for bringing joy, but also, of course, includes times of misunderstanding and difficulty that we can address.
Stephen will show how the practice of appropriate effort is to prevent and abandon unwholesome mind states while cultivating that which is beneficial to ourselves and others. With mindfulness, we see craving, aversion, or delusion arise. We reflect on the drawbacks of this unwholesome state, relax, and return to cultivating wholesome, ethical mind states. We may need to do this many times—in meditation, and in life situations—but gradually the mind comes to settle in deeper states of lovingkindness, collectedness, and awareness.
Unit 5 | Wise Mindfulness and Wise Collectedness
With the other factors of the eightfold path in place, we are much more likely to find smooth progress in meditation. We may notice mindfulness becoming stronger, this capacity to notice when craving takes hold. We see what's happening and remember the teachings. As a result, we bring more wholesome qualities and mind states into being. Jake will share his reflections on practicing mindfulness effectively in meditation and in the midst of life.
Martine will reappraise the factor of "samādhi," often translated as "concentration," a translation that has led to important misconceptions. We will see that our aim is to cultivate gatheredness, collectedness, and composure that unifies the mind—both in meditation and while interacting in the world. In this way, the eightfold path brings us to a mind state that is capable of clear seeing and wakefulness. Just as the other stations of the path strengthen mindfulness and collectedness, this awareness and gatheredness supports every other factor of the path.
Unit 6 | Walking the Path
In the final unit, the four teachers present their individual understandings of the eightfold path in light of the discoveries made during this course. You will hear their different takes and different emphases. There will be discussion and guidance for continuing to walk the path. You are also invited to reflect on how you yourself view the eightfold path, how it applies specifically to the life you lead, and the intentions, habits, and practices you can put in place to cultivate greater peace and contentment in your own life.
Meet Your Teachers
Stephen is a Buddhist teacher and writer known for his secular or agnostic approach to the Dharma. Formerly a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan and Zen traditions, he is the translator and author of several books including Buddhism Without Beliefs, Living With the Devil and After Buddhism. What is this? Ancient questions for modern minds, was published by The Tuwhiri Project in 2019. His most recent book is The Art of Solitude.
Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. In particular, he regards the doctrines of karma and rebirth to be features of ancient Indian civilisation and not intrinsic to what the Buddha taught. Through his writings, translations and teaching, Stephen engages in a critical exploration of Buddhism's role in the modern world, which has earned him both condemnation as a heretic and praise as a reformer.
Martine studied Zen Buddhism under the guidance of the late Master Kusan at Songgwang Sa monastery until 1984. Her Zen training also took her to nunneries in Taiwan and Japan. From 1981 she served as Kusan Sunim's interpreter and accompanied him on lecture tours throughout the United States and Europe. She translated his book The Way of Korean Zen. Following Master Kusan’s death she returned her nun’s vows and left Korea.
Martine is the author of Principles of Zen, Meditation for Life (an illustrated book on meditation), The Path of Compassion, Women in Korean Zen, and Let Go: A Buddhist Guide to Breaking Free of Habits. Her latest book is The Spirit of the Buddha. She is the teacher of the online courses, Knowing How it Feels: Creatively Engaging with Habits and, with Stephen Batchelor, Secular Dharma.
Christoph was born in Vienna, Austria, and spent 17 years of his life as a Buddhist monk in the Theravadin tradition. He lived mainly in monasteries connected with Ajahn Chah in Thailand and the West. Currently he lives in Vienna, working as a psychotherapist in a private practice. He teaches Buddhism and meditation internationally, is trained to teach MBSR and MBCT, and is a faculty member of Bodhi College.
Jake began practicing meditation in 1995 and completed dharma teacher training with Christina Feldman. Jake leads retreats in the Insight Meditation tradition at Gaia House and other centres in the UK and Europe. He is trained to teach Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy at Bangor University and holds a Masters degree in Philosophy and Buddhist Studies. Jake is a Bodhi College faculty member and known for his particularly relatable style of teaching.
Try a Guided Meditation with Martine Batchelor
Settling into the peace of equanimity.
Praise for Bodhi College courses
This is one of the most impressive online courses I have ever taken. Understandable as the four teachers are just outstanding.
An excellent course! I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the multiple perspectives offered by the different teachers. It is refreshing to see such a complex and rich topic addressed from different angles through the perspectives of experienced teachers, rather than relying on a single point of view.
I loved the discussions amongst the teachers—and that it wasn't presented as something conceptual that everyone agreed on but rather that it was, and continues to be, a source of contemplation and practice for each of them.
Every aspect of this course was attended to thoughtfully, with a great deal of mindfulness. The teachers, all so knowledgable, were clear, gentle and inviting.
Although I am familiar with the material, my understanding has deepened. What amazes me is that you hear the teachings in new ways as your own practice deepens and also as teachers find new ways to talk about the subject.
Wonderful! Thank you all so much for a course that has deepened my understanding of mindfulness meditation and that has widened and moved my practice on.
A very clear, practical and helpful course. It helped me deal with some unhelpful habits and get a clearer view on how to engage with situations and feelings.
About Bodhi College
The aim of Bodhi College is to develop fresh ways of understanding the dharma today through rediscovering the core insights of early Buddhist teachings. Courses provide a contemplative education that inspires students to realize the values of the dharma (Buddhist teachings) in the context of this secular age and culture.
In the spirit of the Buddha’s teaching, Bodhi College is committed to a middle way of human awakening that integrates theory with practice, encouraging both personal fulfillment and social engagement.
You may also be interested in these online courses from Bodhi College and Tricycle.