The Noble Eightfold Path

Noble Eightfold Path

The Buddha’s Teaching – In His Own Words
Texts selected, arranged, and translated by Bhikkhu Ñānamoli

Each of its eight components needs a separate definition.

(1) Right View

First Voice. “Just as the dawn heralds and foretells the rising of the sun, so right view heralds and foretells the penetration to the Four Noble Truths according as they really are.” SN 56:37

Narrator Two. Right view has many facets. Let us take them one by one, beginning with
“ripening of action,” which, in certain forms and with some reservations, is also shared by other teachings.

First Voice. “Right view comes first.12 How? One understands wrong view as wrong view, and one understands right view as right view. What is wrong view. The view that there is nothing given, offered or sacrificed,13 no fruit or ripening of good and bad actions, no this world, no other world, no mother, no father, no apparitional beings, no good and virtuous monks and brahmans who have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world: this is wrong view.

“What is right view? There are two kinds of right view: there is that affected by taints, which brings merit and ripens in the essentials of existence; and there is the noble ones’ right view without taints, which is supramundane and a factor of the path.

“What is right view affected by taints? The view that there is what is given, offered and
sacrificed, and that there is fruit and ripening of good and bad actions, and there is this world and the other world and mother and father and apparitional beings and good and virtuous monks and brahmans who have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world: this is right view affected by taints which brings merit and ripens in the essentials of existence.”

“And what is the noble ones’ right view? Any understanding, understanding faculty,
understanding power, investigation-of-states enlightenment factor, right view as path factor, in one whose mind is ennobled and taintless, who possesses the path, and who maintains it in being: this is the noble ones’ right view without taints, which is supramundane and a factor of the path.” MN 117

Narrator Two. Again, it is right view of dependent arising—the basic structure of the “teaching peculiar to Buddhas” and the first of the new discoveries made by the Buddha. Nothing can arise alone, without the support of other things on which its existence depends.

Second Voice. “The Perfect One has told the cause Of causally arisen things;
And what brings their cessation too: Such is the doctrine preached by the Great Monk.”
“The spotless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in him: All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation.” Vin Mahāvagga 1:23

First Voice. “That comes to be when there is this; that arises with the arising of this. That does not come to be when there is not this; that ceases with the cessation of this.” MN 38

“He who sees dependent arising sees the Dhamma; he who sees the Dhamma sees dependent arising.” MN 28

“Whether Perfect Ones appear or not, there remains this element, this structure of things
(phenomena), this certainty in things, namely: specific conditionality. A Perfect One discovers it.” SN 12:20

“If there were no birth altogether in any way of anything anywhere … there being no birth, with the cessation of birth, could ageing and death be described?” — Vo, Lord.” — “Consequently this is a reason, a source, an origin, a condition, for ageing and death.” (And so on with the other pairs in the formula of dependent arising.) DN 15

“Lord, ’right view, right view’ is said. What does ’right view’ refer to?” — “Usually, Kaccāyana, this world depends upon the dualism of existence and non-existence. But when one sees the world’s origin as it actually is with right understanding, there is for him none of (what is called) non-existence in the world; and when he sees the world’s cessation as it actually is with right understanding, there is for him none of (what is called) existence in the world.

“Usually the world is shackled by bias, clinging, and insistence; but one such as this (who has right view), instead of allowing bias, instead of clinging, and instead of deciding about ’my self,’ with such bias, such clinging, and such mental decision in the guise of underlying tendency to insist, he has no doubt or uncertainty that what arises is only arising suffering, and what ceases is only ceasing suffering, and in this his knowledge is independent of others. That is what ’right view’ refers to. ’(An) all exists’ is one extreme; ’(an) all does not exist’ is the other extreme. Instead of resorting to either extreme, a Perfect One expounds the Dhamma by the middle way:

’It is with ignorance as condition that formations come to be; with formations as condition,
consciousness; with consciousness…’ (And so on with both arising and cessation.)” SN 12:15

“If one asserts: ’He who makes (suffering) feels (it): being one existent from the beginning, his suffering is of his own making,’ then one arrives at eternalism. But if one asserts: ’One makes (suffering), another feels (it): being one existent crushed out by feeling, his suffering is of another’s making,’ then one arrives at annihilationism. Instead of resorting to either of these extremes, a Perfect One expounds the Dhamma by the middle way: … (that is, by dependent arising and cessation).” SN 12:17

“All beings are maintained by nutriment.” DN 33; AN 10:27, 28; Khp 2

“What is nutriment? There are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that already are, and for the assistance of those seeking renewal of being: they are physical food as nutriment, gross or subtle, contact as the second, choice as the third, and consciousness as the fourth.” SN 12:63; MN 38

Narrator Two. The very essence of right view is, however, understanding of the Four Noble Truths, which embrace dependent arising and constitute the “teaching peculiar to Buddhas.” They formed the subject of the First Sermon.

First Voice. “What is right view? It is knowledge of suffering, of the origin of suffering, of the cessation of suffering, and of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: this is called right view.” SN 45:8; DN 22

(I) “’Four venomous snakes’ is a name for the four great entities (of earth, water, fire, and air).” SN 35:197

“Form is like a lump of froth,
Feelings like a water bubble,
Perception too is like a mirage,
Formations like a plaintain trunk.
And consciousness, the Sun’s Kinsman shows,
Seems nothing but a conjuring trick.” SN 22:95

“The six bases in oneself can be termed an empty village; for whether a wise man investigates them as to the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind, they appear alike hollow, empty, and void. The six external bases can be termed village-raiding robbers; for the eye is harassed among agreeable and disagreeable forms, the ear among such sounds, the nose among such odours, the tongue among such flavours, the body among such tangibles, and the mind among such mental objects.” SN 35:197

(II) “In the world I see this generation
Racked by craving for being,
Wretched men gibbering in the face of Death,
Still craving, hoping for some kind of being.
See how they tremble
Over what they claim as ’mine,’
Like fishes in the puddles of a failing stream.” Sn 4:2

(III) “This is (the most) peaceful, this is (the goal) superior (to all), that is to say, the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all essentials of existence, the exhaustion of craving, cessation, Nibbāna.” AN 10:60

(IV) “The greatest of (worldly) gains is health;
Nibbāna is the greatest bliss;
The eightfold path is the best of paths,
To lead in safety to the Deathless.” MN 75

Narrator Two. Again it is right view of the three general characteristics of impermanence,
suffering (or insecurity), and not-self, which express comprehensively what dependent arising expresses structurally. They were the subject of the Second Sermon.

First Voice. “There are three formed characteristics of what is formed:15 arising is evident, fall is evident, and alteration of what is present is evident. There are three unformed characteristics of what is unformed: no arising is evident, no fall is evident, and no alteration of what is present is evident.” AN 3:47

“When one understands how form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness (and how the eye, etc.) are impermanent, one therein possesses right view.” SN 22:51; 35:155

“All is impermanent. And what is the all that is impermanent? The eye is impermanent, forms are impermanent, eye-consciousness … eye-contact, whatever is felt as pleasant, painful, or neither-painful-nor-pleasant born of eye-contact is impermanent. The ear, etc.… The nose, etc.… The tongue, etc.… The body, etc. … The mind is impermanent, mental objects … mindconsciousness … mind-contact … whatever is felt … born of mind-contact is impermanent.” SN 35:43

“What is impermanent is suffering, what is suffering is not-self.” SN 35:1; 22:46

“Whether Perfect Ones appear or not, there remains this element, this structure of things
(phenomena), this certainty in things: All formations are impermanent; all formations are
suffering; all things are not-self.” AN 3:134

“Bhikkhus, I do not dispute with the world: the world disputes with me. One who proclaims the Dhamma disputes with no one in the world. What wise men in the world say there is not, that I too say there is not; and what wise men in the world say there is, that I too say there is. Wise men in the world say there is no permanent, everlasting, eternal form which is not subject to change, and I too say that there is none. (And so too of the other four aggregates.) Wise men in the world say that there is impermanent form, which is suffering and subject to change, and I too say that there is. (And so with the other four aggregates.)” SN 22:94

“This body is impermanent, it is formed and dependently arisen.” SN 36:7

“It would be better for an untaught ordinary man to treat as self this body, which is constructed upon the four great entities, than mentality. Why? Because this body can last one year, two years … a hundred years; but what is called ’mentality’ and ’mind’ and ’consciousness’ arises and ceases differently through night and day, just as a monkey ranging through a forest seizes a branch, and, letting that go, seizes another.” SN 12:61

“Fruitful as the act of giving is … yet it is still more fruitful to go with confident heart for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha and undertake the five precepts of virtue.… Fruitful as that is … yet it is still more fruitful to maintain loving-kindness in being for only as long as the milking of a cow … fruitful as that is … yet it is still more fruitful to maintain perception of impermanence in being only for as long as the snapping of a finger.” AN 9:20 (condensed)

“Whosoever relishes the eye, etc., relishes suffering, and he will not be freed from suffering, I say.” SN 35:19

“What is the ripening of suffering? When someone is overcome, and his mind is obsessed by suffering, either he sorrows and laments, and beating his breast, he weeps and becomes distraught, or else he undertakes a search externally: ’Who is there that knows one word, two words, for the cessation of suffering?’ I say that suffering either ripens in confusion or in search.” AN 6:63

“That anyone should see formations as pleasure … or Nibbāna as suffering, and have a liking that is in conformity (with truth) is not possible. (But the opposite) is possible.” AN 6:99

“All form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, of whatever kind, whether past, future, or present, in oneself or external, coarse or fine, inferior or superior, far or near, should be regarded as it actually is thus: ’This is not mine, this is not what I am, this is not my self.’” SN 22:59

“That in the world by which one perceives the world and conceives conceits about the world is called ’the world’ in the Noble One’s Discipline. And what is it in the world with which one does that? It is with the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind.” SN 35:116

“It is being worn away (lujjati), that is why it is called ’the world’ (loka).” SN 35:82

“ ’Void world, void world’ is said, Lord; in what way is ’void world’ said?” — “It is because of what is void of self and self’s property that ’void world’ is said, Ānanda. And what is void of self and self’s property? The eye … forms … eye-consciousness … eye-contact … any feeling … born of eye-contact … The ear, etc.… The nose, etc.… The tongue, etc.… The body, etc.… The mind, etc.… any feeling whether pleasant, painful, or neither-painful-nor-pleasant born of mind-contact is void of self and self’s property.” SN 35:85

“When a bhikkhu abides much with his mind fortified by perception of impermanence, his
mind retreats, retracts, and recoils from gain, honour, and renown instead of reaching out to it, just as a cock’s feather or a shred of sinew thrown on a fire retreats, retracts, and recoils from it instead of reaching out to it.… When he abides much with his mind fortified by perception of suffering in impermanence, there is established in him vivid perception of fear, of laxity, indolence, idleness, negligence, and failure in devotion and reviewing, as of a murderer with poised weapon.… when he abides much with his mind fortified by perception of not-self in suffering, his mind is rid of the conceits that treat in terms of ’I’ and ’mine’ this body with its consciousness and all external signs.” AN 7:46

Narrator Two. The rationalized “self-theory,” which is called, in whatever form it may take,
“both a view and a fetter,” is based upon a subtle fundamental distortion in the act of
perceiving, the “conceit ’I am,’” which is “a fetter, but not a view.” Now self-theories may or
may not be actually formulated; but if they are, they cannot be described specifically without reference to the five aggregates. For that reason they can, when described, all be reduced to one of the types of what is called the “embodiment view,”17 which is set out schematically. These are all given up by the stream-enterer, though the conceit “I am” is not.

First Voice. “How does there come to be the embodiment view?” — “Here the untaught
ordinary man who has no regard for noble ones and is unconversant with their Dhamma and Discipline … sees form as self, or self as possessed of form, or form as in self, or self as in form. (And so with each of the other four aggregates: feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness.) A well-taught noble disciple does not do this.” MN 44; MN 109

“The untaught ordinary man who has no regard for noble ones … gives unreasoned (uncritical) attention in this way: ’Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?’ Or else he wonders about himself now in the presently arisen period in this way: ’Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Whence has this being come? Whither is it bound?’ “When he gives unreasoned attention in this way, then one of six types of view arises in him as true and established: ’My self exists’ or ’My self does not exist’ or ’I perceive self with self’ or ’I perceive not-self with self’ or ’I perceive self with not-self’ or some such view as ’This is my
self that speaks and feels and experiences here or there the ripening of good and bad actions; but this my self is permanent, everlasting, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity.’ This field of views is called the thicket of views, the wilderness of views, the contortion of views, the vacillation of views, the fetter of views. The untaught ordinary man bound by the fetter of views is not freed from birth, ageing and death, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair: he is not freed from suffering, I say.” MN 2

“Bhikkhus, there are two kinds of (wrong) view, and when deities and human beings are in
their grip, some hang back and some overreach; it is only those with vision that see.
“How do some hang back? Deities and human beings love being, delight in being, enjoy
being; when the Dhamma is expounded to them for the ending of being, their hearts do not go out to it or acquire confidence, steadiness, and decision. So some hang back.
“And how do some overreach? Some are ashamed, humiliated, and disgusted by that same being, and they look forward to non-being in this way: ’Sirs, when with the dissolution of the body this self is cut off, annihilated, and accordingly after death no longer is, that is the most peaceful, that is the goal superior to all, that is reality.’ So some overreach. “And how do those with vision see? Here a bhikkhu sees whatever has come to being as come to being. By seeing it thus he has entered upon the way to dispassion for it, to the fading and ceasing of lust for it. That is how one with vision sees.” It 49

“Bhikkhus, the possession that one might possess that were permanent, everlasting … do you see any such possession?” — Vo, Lord.” — “…The self-theory clinging whereby one might cling that would never arouse sorrow and … despair in him who clung thereby; do you see any such self-theory clinging?” — Vo, Lord.” — “… The view as support that one might take as support that would never arouse sorrow and … despair in him who took it as support; do you see any such view as support?” — Vo, Lord.” — “…Bhikkhus, there being self, would there be self’s property?” — “Yes, Lord.” — “And there being self’s property, would there be self?” — “Yes, Lord.” — “Bhikkhus, self and self’s property being unapprehendable as true and established, then would not this view — ’This is the world, this the self; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, I shall endure as long as eternity’—be the pure perfection of a fool’s idea?”—“How could it not be, Lord? It would be the pure perfection of a fool’s idea.” MN 22

“Whenever any monks or brahmans see self in its various forms, they all of them see the five aggregates affected by clinging, or one or another of them. Here an untaught ordinary man who disregards noble ones … sees form as self, or self as possessed of form, or form as in self, or self as in form (or he does likewise with the other four aggregates). So he has this (rationalized) seeing, and he has also this (fundamental) attitude ’I am’; but as long as there is the attitude ’I am’ there is organization of the five faculties of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. Then there is mind, and there are ideas, and there is the element of ignorance. When an untaught ordinary man is touched by feeling born of the contact of ignorance, it occurs to him ’I am’ and ’I am this’ and ’I shall be’ and ’I shall not be’ and ’I shall be with form’ and ’I shall be formless’ and ’I shall be percipient’ and ’I shall be unpercipient’ and ’I shall be neither percipient nor unpercipient.’ But in the case of the well-taught noble disciple, while the five sense faculties remain as they are,
his ignorance about them is abandoned and true knowledge arisen. With that it no more occurs to him ’I am’ or … ’I shall be neither percipient not unpercipient.’” SN 22:47

Narrator Two. The ordinary man is unaware of the subtle fundamental attitude, the underlying tendency or conceit “I am.” It makes him, in perceiving a percept, automatically and simultaneously conceive in terms of “I,” assuming an I-relationship to the percept, either as identical with it or as contained within it, or as separate from it, or as owning it. This attitude, this conceiving, is only given up with the attainment of arahantship, not before. (See e.g. MN 1 and MN 49.)

First Voice. “ ’I am’ is derivative, not underivative. Derivative upon what? Derivative upon
form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness.” SN 22:83

“When any monk or brahman, with form (and the rest) as the means, which is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change, sees thus ’I am superior’ or ’I am equal’ or ’I am inferior,’ what is that if not blindness to what actually is?” SN 22:49

(Questioned by elders, the Elder Khemaka said:) “I do not see in these five aggregates affected by clinging any self or self’s property … yet I am not an arahant with taints exhausted. On the contrary, I still have the attitude ’I am’ with respect to these five aggregates affected by clinging, although I do not see ’I am this’ with respect to them.… I do not say ’I am form’ or ’I am feeling’ or ’I am perception’ or ’I am formations’ or ’I am consciousness,’ nor do I say ’I am apart from form … apart from consciousness’; yet I still have the attitude ’I am’ with respect to the five aggregates affected by clinging although I do not see ’I am this’ with respect to them. “Although a noble disciple may have abandoned the five more immediate fetters (see below), still his conceit ’I am,’ desire ’I am,’ underlying tendency ’I am,’ with respect to the five aggregates affected by clinging remains as yet unabolished. Later he abides contemplating rise and fall thus: ’Such is form, such is its origin, such its disappearance’ (and so with the other four), till by so doing, his conceit ’I am’ eventually comes to be abolished.” SN 22:89

Narrator Two. Lastly, we come to the ten fetters, which are progressively broken by the four stages of realization.

First Voice. “An untaught ordinary man who disregards noble ones … lives with his heart
possessed and enslaved by the embodiment view, by uncertainty, by misapprehension of virtue and duty,18 by lust for sensuality, and by ill will, and he does not see how to escape from them when they arise; these, when they are habitual and remain uneradicated in him, are called the more immediate fetters.” MN 64

“The five more remote fetters are: lust for form, lust for the formless, conceit (the conceit ’I am’), distraction, and ignorance.” DN 33

“There are bhikkhus who, with the exhaustion of (the first) three fetters, have entered the
stream, are no more subject to perdition, certain of rightness, and destined to enlightenment. There are bhikkhus who, with the exhaustion of three fetters and the attenuation of lust, hate, and delusion, are oncereturners: returning once to this world, they will make an end of suffering. There are bhikkhus who, with the destruction of the five more immediate fetters, are destined to reappear spontaneously elsewhere and will there attain final Nibbāna, never returning meanwhile from that world. There are bhikkhus who are arahants with taints exhausted, who have lived out the life, done what was to be done, laid down the burden, reached the highest goal, destroyed the fetters of being, and who are completely liberated through final knowledge.” MN 118

“That which is the exhaustion of lust, of hate, and of delusion is called arahantship.” SN 38:2

“When a bhikkhu travels in many countries, learned people of all stations will ask him
questions. Learned and inquiring people will ask ’What does the venerable one’s teacher tell, what does he preach?’ Rightly answering you can say: ’Our teacher preaches the removal of desire and lust.’ And if you are then asked ’Removal of desire and lust for what?’ you can answer: ’Removal of desire and lust for form (and the rest).’ And if you are then asked ’But what inadequacy (danger) do you see in those things?’ you can answer: ’When a person is not without lust and desire and love and thirst and fever and craving for these things, then with their change and alteration, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair arise in him.’ And if you are then asked ’And what advantage do you see in doing thus?’ you can answer: ’When a person is free from lust and desire and love and thirst and fever and craving for form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, then, with their change and alteration, no sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair arise in him.” SN 22:2

(2) Right Intention

Narrator Two. The survey of right view is now concluded. The next factor of the Noble Eightfold Path is right intention.

First Voice. “What is right intention? It is the intention of renunciation, the intention of non-ill will, the intention of non-cruelty: this is called right intention.” SN 45:8; DN 22

“When a noble disciple has clearly seen with right understanding, as it actually is, how little gratification sensual desires provide and how much pain and despair they entail, and how great is their inadequacy, and he attains to happiness and pleasure dissociated from sensual desires and unwholesome states, or to something higher than that, then he is no more interested in sensual desires.” MN 14

“Even if bandits brutally severed him limb from limb with a two-handled saw, he who
entertained hate in his heart on that account would not be one who followed my teaching.” MN 21

“He does not choose for his own affliction, or for others’ affliction, or for the affliction of both.” MN 13

(3) Right Speech

Narrator Two. These two factors of right view and right intention together constitute (the group of path factors) “understanding” (paññā). Now the third factor, right speech. First Voice. “What is right speech? Abstention from lying, slander, abuse, and gossip; this is called right speech.” SN 45:8; DN 22

“Here someone abandons lying: when summoned to a court or to a meeting or to his relatives’ presence or to his guild or to the royal family’s presence and questioned as a witness thus ’So, good man, tell what you know,’ then, not knowing, he says ’I do not know,’ knowing, he says ’I know,’ not seeing, he says ’I do not see,’ seeing, he says ’I see’; he does not in full awareness speak falsehood for his own ends or for another’s ends or for some petty worldly end. “He abandons slander: as one who is neither a repeater elsewhere of what is heard here for the purpose of causing division from these, nor a repeater to these of what is heard elsewhere for the purpose of causing division from those, who is thus a reuniter of the divided, a promoter of friendships, enjoying concord, rejoicing in concord, delighting in concord, he becomes a speaker of words that promote concord. “He abandons abuse: he becomes a speaker of such words as are innocent, pleasing to the ear and lovable, as go to the heart, are civil, desired of many and dear to many. “He abandons gossip: as one who tells that which is seasonable, factual, good, and the Dhamma and Discipline, he speaks in season speech worth recording, which is reasoned, definite, and connected with good.” MN 41

(4) Right Action

Narrator Two. And the fourth factor, right action.
First Voice. “What is right action? Abstention from killing living beings, stealing, misconduct in sensual desires: this is called right action.” SN 45:8; DN 22

“When a lay follower possesses five things, he lives with confidence in his house, and he will find himself in heaven as sure as if he had been carried off and put there. What are the five? He abstains from killing living beings, from taking what is not given, from misconduct in sensual desires, from speaking falsehood, and from indulging in liquor, wine, and fermented brews.” AN 5:172–73

(5) Right Livelihood

Narrator Two. And the fifth factor, right livelihood.
First Voice. “What is right livelihood? Here a noble disciple abandons wrong livelihood and
gets his living by right livelihood.” SN 45:8; DN 22

“Scheming (to deceive), persuading, hinting, belittling, and pursuing gain with gain; this is
called wrong livelihood (for bhikkhus).” MN 117

“There are five trades that a lay follower should not ply. What five? They are: trading in
weapons, living beings, meat, liquor, and poisons.” AN 5:177

(6) Right Effort

Narrator Two. These last three factors, right speech, action, and livelihood, constitute (the group of path factors) “virtue” (sīla). They are known as the preliminary stage of the path. Now comes the sixth factor, right effort.
First Voice. “What is right effort? Here a bhikkhu awakens desire for the non-arising of
unarisen evil unwholesome states, for which he makes efforts, arouses energy, exerts his mind, and endeavours. He awakens desire for the abandoning of arisen evil unwholesome states, for which he makes efforts.… He awakens desire for the arising of unarisen wholesome states, for which he makes efforts.… He awakens desire for the continuance, non-corruption, strengthening, maintenance in being, and perfecting, of arisen wholesome states, for which he makes efforts, arouses energy, exerts his mind, and endeavours: this is called right effort.” SN 45:8; DN 22

(7) Right Mindfulness

Narrator Two. Now comes the seventh factor, right mindfulness.
First Voice. “What is right mindfulness? Here a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware and mindful, having put away covertousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent.… He abides contemplating consciousness as consciousness, ardent.… He abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects, ardent, fully aware and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. This is called right mindfulness.” SN 45:8; DN 22

“How does a bhikkhu abide contemplating the body as a body? Here a bhikkhu, gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or to a room that is void, sits down; having folded his legs
crosswise, set his body erect, and established mindfulness in front of him, just mindful he
breathes in, mindful he breathes out. As a skilled turner or his apprentice, when making a long turn, understands ’I make a long turn,’ or when making a short turn, understands ’I make a short turn,’ so, breathing in long, the bhikkhu understands ’I breathe in long,’ or breathing out long, he understands ’I breathe out long’; breathing in short, he understands ’I breathe in short,’ or breathing out short, he understands ’I breathe out short.’ He trains thus: ’I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body (of breaths)’; he trains thus: ’I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body (of breaths).’ He trains thus: ’I shall breathe in tranquillizing the bodily formation (function)’; he trains thus: ’I shall breathe out tranquillizing the bodily formation (function).’ “He abides contemplating the body as a body in this way either in himself, or externally, or in himself and externally. “Or else he contemplates in the body either its factors of origination, or its factors of fall, or its
factors of origination and fall. “Or else mindfulness that ’There is a body’ is established in him to the extent of bare knowledge and remembrance of it while he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world.
“That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.
“Again, when walking, a bhikkhu understands ’I am walking’; or when standing, he
understands ’I am standing’; or when sitting, he understands ’I am sitting’; or when lying down, he understands ’I am lying down.’ Or whatever position his body is in, he understands it to be so disposed.
“He abides contemplating the body as a body … externally.
“Or else he contemplates … the factors or origination and fall.
“Or else mindfulness … not clinging to anything in the world.
“That also is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.
“Again, a bhikkhu is fully aware in moving to and fro, in looking ahead and away, in flexing
and extending the limbs, in wearing the outer cloak of patches, the bowl and other robes, in eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting, in evacuating the bowels and making water, and he is fully aware and mindful in walking, standing, sitting, going to sleep, waking, talking, and keeping silent.
“He abides contemplating.…
“That also is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.
“Again, as though there were a bag with two openings full of many sorts of grain, such as hill rice, red rice, beans, peas, millet, and white rice, and a man with good sight had opened it and were reviewing it: ’This is hill rice, this is red rice, this is beans, this is peas, this is millet, this is white rice’; so too a bhikkhu reviews this body up from the soles of the feet and down from the top of the hair as full of many kinds of filth: ’There are in this body head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin; flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys; heart, liver, midriff, spleen, lights; bowels, entrails, gorge, dung; bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat; tears, grease, spittle, snot, oilof-the-joints, and urine.’
“He abides contemplating.…
“That also is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.
“Again, as though a skilled butcher or his apprentice had slaughtered a cow and were seated at the four crossroads with it cut up into pieces; so too, in whatever position a bhikkhu finds this body, he reviews it according to the elements: ’There are in this body earth element, water element, fire element, and air element.’
“He abides contemplating.…
“That also is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.
“Again, a bhikkhu judges this same body as though he were looking at a corpse thrown on a charnel ground, one-day dead, two-days dead, three-days dead, bloated, livid, and oozing with matter: ’This body too is of such a nature, will be like that, is not exempt from that.’
“He abides contemplating.…
“That also is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.
“Again, a bhikkhu judges this same body as though he were looking at a corpse thrown on a charnel ground, being devoured by crows, kites, vultures, dogs, jackals, and the multitudinous varieties of worms: … as though he were looking at a corpse thrown on a charnel ground, a skeleton with flesh and blood, and held together by sinews: … a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood and held together by sinews:… a skeleton without flesh or blood, held together by sinews:
… bones without sinews, scattered in all directions, here a hand-bone, there a foot-bone, there a shin-bone, there a thigh-bone, there a hip-bone, there a back-bone, there a skull: … bones bleached white, the colour of shells: … bones heaped up, more than a year old: … bones rotted and crumbled to dust: ’This body too is of such a nature, will be like that, is not exempt from that.’
“He abides contemplating.…
“That also is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.
“And how does a bhikkhu abide contemplating feelings as feelings?
“Here, when feeling a pleasant feeling, a bhikkhu understands ’I feel a pleasant feeling’;
when feeling a painful feeling, he understands ’I feel a painful feeling’; when feeling a neitherpainful- nor-pleasant feeling, he understands ’I feel a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.’ When feeling a materialistic pleasant feeling, he understands ’I feel a materialistic pleasant feeling’; … (and so with the other two). When feeling an unmaterialistic pleasant feeling, he understands ’I feel an unmaterialistic pleasant feeling’; … (and so with the other two).
“He abides contemplating feelings as feelings in this way either in himself, or externally, or in himself and externally.
“Or else he contemplates in feelings either their factors of origination, or their factors of fall, or their factors of origination and fall.
“Or else mindfulness that ’There are feelings’ is established in him to the extent of bare
knowledge and remembrance of it while he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world.
“That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating feelings as feelings.
“And how does a bhikkhu abide contemplating consciousness as consciousness?
“Here a bhikkhu understands consciousness affected by lust as affected by lust, and that
unaffected by lust as unaffected by lust. He understands consciousness affected by hate as affected by hate, and that unaffected by hate as unaffected by hate. He understands
consciousness affected by delusion as affected by delusion, and that unaffected by delusion as unaffected by delusion. He understands contracted consciousness as contracted, and distracted consciousness as distracted. He understands exalted consciousness as exalted, and that unexalted as unexalted. He understands surpassed consciousness as surpassed, and that unsurpassed as unsurpassed. He understands concentrated consciousness as concentrated, and that unconcentrated as unconcentrated. He understands liberated consciousness as liberated,
and that unliberated as unliberated.
“He abides contemplating consciousness as consciousness in this way either in himself, or externally, or in himself and externally.
“Or else he contemplates in consciousness its factors of origination, or its factors of fall, or its factors of origination and fall.
“Or else mindfulness that ’There is consciousness’ is established in him to the extent of bare knowledge and remembrance of it while he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world.
“That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating consciousness as consciousness.
“And how does a bhikkhu abide contemplating mental objects as mental objects?
“Here, a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the five hindrances. How is that done? Here, when there is desire for sensuality in him, he understands ’There is desire for sensuality in me’; or when there is no desire for sensuality in him, he understands ’There is no desire for sensuality in me’; and also he understands how there comes to be the arising of unarisen desire for sensuality, and how there comes to be the abandoning of arisen desire for sensuality, and how there comes to be the future non-arising of abandoned desire for sensuality. When there is ill will in him … When there is lethargy and drowsiness in him … When there is agitation and worry in him … When there is uncertainty in him … he understands how there comes to be the future non-arising of abandoned uncertainty. “He abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in himself, or externally, or in himself and externally.
“Or else he contemplates in mental objects either their factors of origination, or their factors of fall, or their factors of origination and fall.
“Or else mindfulness that ’There are mental objects’ is established in him to the extent of bare knowledge and remembrance of it while he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world.
“That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the five hindrances.
“Again, a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the five aggregates affected by clinging. How is that done? Here a bhikkhu understands: ’Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception, such its origin, such its disappearance; such are formations, such their origin, such their disappearance; such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.’
“He abides contemplating.…
“That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the five aggregates affected by clinging.
“Again, a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the six bases in oneself and external. How is that done? Here a bhikkhu understands the eye and visible forms and the fetter that arises owing to both; he understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen fetter, and how there comes to be the abandoning of the arisen fetter, and how there comes to be the future non-arising of the abandoned fetter. He understands the ear and sounds … the nose and odours … the tongue and flavours … the body and tangibles … the mind and mental objects and the fetter that arises owing to both; … and he understands how there comes to be the future non-arising of the abandoned fetter.
“He abides contemplating.…
“That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the six bases in oneself and external.
“Again, a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the
seven enlightenment factors. How is that done? Here, when there is the mindfulness
enlightenment factor in him, a bhikkhu understands ’There is the mindfulness enlightenment factor in me’; when there is no mindfulness enlightenment factor in him, he understands ’There is no mindfulness enlightenment factor in me’; and he understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen mindfulness enlightenment factor and how there comes to be the development and perfection of the arisen mindfulness enlightenment factor. When there is the investigation-of-states enlightenment factor in him … the energy enlightenment factor in him … the happiness enlightenment factor in him … the tranquillity enlightenment factor in him … the concentration enlightenment factor in him … the equanimity enlightenment factor in him …and he understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen equanimity enlightenment factor and how there comes to be the development and perfection of the arisen equanimity enlightenment factor.
“He abides contemplating.…
“That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the seven enlightenment factors.
“Again, a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the Four Noble Truths. How is that done? Here a bhikkhu understands according as it actually is: ’This is suffering’ and ’This is the origin of suffering’ and ’This is the cessation of suffering’ and ’This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’
“He abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in himself, or externally, or in
himself and externally.
“Or else he contemplates in mental objects either their factors of origination, or their factors of fall, or their factors of origination and fall.
“Or else mindfulness that ’There are mental objects’ is established in him to the extent of bare knowledge and remembrance of it while he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world.
“That is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the Four Noble Truths.
“Bhikkhus, were anyone to maintain in being these four foundations of mindfulness for seven years … let alone for seven years … for seven days, then one of two fruits could be expected of him: either final knowledge here and now, or else non-return.” DN 22; MN 10

“Bhikkhus, I shall expound to you the origin and disappearance of the four foundations of
mindfulness: the body has nutriment for its origin, and it disappears with cessation of
nutriment; feelings have contact for their origin, and they disappear with cessation of contact; consciousness has name-and-form for its origin, and it disappears with cessation of name-andform; mental objects have attention for their origin, and they disappear with cessation of attention.” SN 47:42

“All things have desire for their root, attention provides their being, contact their origin, feeling their meeting-place, concentration confrontation with them, mindfulness control of them, understanding is the highest of them, and deliverance is their core.” AN 8:83

“Would one guard oneself, then the foundations of mindfulness should be cultivated; would one guard others, then the foundations of mindfulness should be cultivated. Who guards himself guards others; who guards others guards himself.” SN 47:19

(8) Right Concentration

Narrator Two. Now we come to the eighth and last factor, right concentration.
First Voice. “What is right concentration?
“Here, quite secluded from sensual desires, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first meditation, which is accompanied by thinking and exploring, with happiness and pleasure born of seclusion.” DN 2; DN 22; MN 39; SN 45:8

“Just as a skilled bath man or his apprentice heaps bath-powder in a metal basin, and sprinkling it gradually with water, kneads it up till the moisture wets his ball of bath powder, soaks it, and extends over it within and without though the ball itself does not become liquid; so too, the bhikkhu makes happiness and pleasure born of seclusion drench, steep, fill, and extend throughout this body, so that there is nothing of his whole body to which it does not extend.” DN 2; MN 39

“With the stilling of thinking and exploring he enters upon and abides in the second meditation, which has self-confidence and singleness of mind without thinking and exploring, with happiness and pleasure born of concentration.” DN 2; DN 22; MN 39; SN 45:8

“Just as if there were a lake whose waters welled up from below, having no inflow from the east, west, north, or south, nor yet replenished from time to time with showers from the skies, then the cool fount of water welling up from the lake would make the cool water drench, steep, fill, and extend throughout the lake, and there would be nothing of the whole lake to which the cool water did not extend; so too, the bhikkhu makes happiness and pleasure born of concentration drench, steep, fill, and extend throughout this body, so that there is nothing of his whole body to which they do not extend.” DN 2; MN 39

“With the fading away as well of happiness he abides in equanimity, and, mindful and fully
aware, still feeling pleasure with the body, he enters upon and abides in the third meditation, on account of which the noble ones announce: ’He has a pleasant abiding who is an onlooker with equanimity and is mindful.’” DN 2; DN 22; MN 39; SN 45:8

“Just as, in a pond of blue or white or red lotuses, some lotuses are born under the water, grow under the water, do not stand up out of the water, flourish immersed in the water, and the water drenches, steeps, fills, and extends throughout them to their tips and to their roots, and there is nothing of the whole of those lotuses to which it does not extend; so too, the bhikkhu makes the pleasure divested of happiness drench, steep, fill, and extend throughout this body, so that there is nothing of his whole body to which it does not extend.” DN 2; MN 39

“With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, he enters upon and abides in the fourth meditation, which has neither pain nor pleasure, and the purity of whose mindfulness is due to equanimity.” DN 2; DN 22; MN 39; SN 45:8

“Just as if a man were sitting clothed from head to foot in white cloth, and there were nothing of his whole body to which the white cloth did not extend; so too the bhikkhu sits with pure bright cognizance extending over his body and there is nothing of his whole body to which it does not extend.” DN 2; MN 39;

“What is the noble ones’ right concentration with its causes and its equipment? It is any
unifiedness of mind that is equipped with the other seven factors of the path. Right view comes first: one understands wrong view, intention, speech, action, and livelihood, as wrong; one understands right view, intention, speech, action, and livelihood, as right, each of two kinds, that is, either associated with taints and ripening in the essentials of existence, or supramundane and a factor of the path. One makes efforts to abandon wrong view and the other four, and to acquire right view and the other four: this is one’s right effort. Mindfully one abandons the wrong and enters upon the way of the right: this is one’s right mindfulness.” MN 117 (condensed)

Narrator Two. These last three factors, right effort, mindfulness, and concentration, together constitute “concentration.” The eight, with right knowledge and right deliverance, are called the “ten rightnesses,” which constitute the “certainty of rightness” attained with the path of streamentry. Before leaving the subject of concentration, though, there are four more stages attainable called the four “formless states.” They are extra to “right concentration,” merely refinements of the fourth meditation.
First Voice. “With the complete surmounting of perceptions of form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, by not giving attention to perceptions of difference, (aware of) ’infinite space,’ a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base consisting of infinity of space.
“Again, by completely surmounting the base consisting of infinity of space, (aware of)
’infinite consciousness,’ he enters upon and abides in the base consisting of infinity of
consciousness.
“Again, by completely surmounting the base consisting of infinity of consciousness, (aware that) ’there is nothing at all,’ he enters upon and abides in the base consisting of nothingness.
“Again, by completely surmounting the base consisting of nothingness, he enters upon and abides in the base consisting of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.
“The four meditations are not called effacement in the Noble One’s Discipline; they are called in the Noble One’s Discipline, a pleasant abiding here and now. The four formless states are not called effacement in the Noble One’s Discipline; they are called in the Noble One’s Discipline, quiet abidings.” MN 8

“This bhikkhu (who practises these eight attainments) is said to have blindfolded Māra, to have (temporarily) deprived Māra’s eyesight of it s object and become invisible to the Evil One.” MN 25

Narrator Two. None of these eight attainments is claimed as peculiar to the Buddhas’ teaching. The practice of them without right view leads only to heaven, but not to Nibbāna. The teaching peculiar to Buddhas is the Four Noble Truths. A ninth attainment, the “attainment of cessation,” is described as reached only in the two highest stages of realization and is thus peculiar to Buddhas and their disciples.
First Voice. “By completely surmounting the base consisting of neither-perception-nor-nonperception, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the cessation of perception and feeling, and his taints are exhausted by his seeing with understanding. Then a bhikkhu is said to have blindfolded Māra, to have deprived Māra’s eyesight of its object and become invisible to the Evil One, and, what is more, to have gone beyond all attachment to the world.” MN 25

“When a wise man, established well in virtue,
Develops consciousness and understanding,
Then as a bhikkhu, ardent and sagacious,
He succeeds in disentangling this tangle.” SN 1:23

“Bhikkhus, if one man were to travel and trudge through one age, then the heap, the pile, the mass of his bones would be as high as this Vepulla Hill, if they were collected and the store were not destroyed.” It 24

“Suppose a man threw into the ocean a yoke with one hole in it, and then the east wind blew it west and the west wind blew it east and the north wind blew it south and the south wind blew it north; and suppose there were a blind turtle that came up to the surface once at the end of each century. How do you conceive this, bhikkhus, would that blind turtle eventually put his head through that yoke with the one hole in it?”
“He might, Lord, at the end of a long period.”
“Bhikkhus, the blind turtle would sooner put his head through that yoke with a single hole in it than a fool, once gone to perdition, would find his way back to the human state.” MN 129

“Bhikkhus, the Dhamma well proclaimed by me thus is frank, open, evident, and stripped of padding. In this Dhamma well proclaimed by me thus, any who have simply faith in me, simply love for me, are destined for heaven.” MN 22

“What should be done for the disciples out of compassion by a teacher who seeks their welfare and is compassionate, that I have done for you. There are these roots of trees, these rooms that are void: meditate, bhikkhus, do not delay lest you regret it later. This is our instruction to you.” MN 8; MN 152

Narrator Two. That concludes the survey. But how is the Way actually followed?


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