Eightfold Path

Eightfold Path:

In Buddhism, the path of the Buddha’s teachings that can lead to the end of suffering.


Buddhism concentrates on the concept of dukkha, or suffering, and how to avoid it. In the Buddha’s first lesson, which came to be called ‘‘Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Law or Truth,’’ he announced the Four Noble Truths. These provide the foundation for all of Buddhism.

The First Noble Truth is that existence contains suffering, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

The Second Noble Truth explains that suffering exists because of tanha, or desire. All desire in life leads to suffering.

The Third Noble Truth then declares that to be free of suffering one must first be freed from desire.

The Fourth Noble Truth states that release from desire and suffering can be achieved by following the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path consists of eight steps:

• right understanding;
• right thought;
• right speech;
• right action;
• right livelihood;
• right effort;
• right mindfulness; and
• right concentration.

Each step on the Eightfold Path can be followed by anyone willing to dedicate him or herself to it.

Right understanding means to begin the journey by knowing the Four Noble Truths and the Buddha’s teachings.

Right thought is to be dedicated to practicing Buddhism and caring for others.

One practices right speech when one does not lie, speak harshly of others, or gossip.

Right action consists of following what are called the Five Precepts. These are to not kill, not steal, not overindulge in activities involving the senses, not lie, and not drink alcohol to excess.

To follow right livelihood, a person should avoid working in jobs that are harmful to others, such as trading in weapons or alcohol, or in anything that shames or injures others.

Right effort can be practiced by promoting positive qualities in one’s self, such as improving one’s knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings or completing an assignment on time.

Right mindfulness is when one does something with one’s full attention.

The final step on the Eightfold Path is right concentration, which means to focus the mind, usually through meditation.

The steps of the Eightfold Path are sometimes grouped into three categories: wisdom (including right understanding and thought), meditation (right effort, mindfulness, and concentration), and morality (right speech, action, and livelihood).

Buddhists rely on their community, or sangha, to help them on their paths. A person following these steps can learn to understand completely the Buddha’s teachings on suffering and impermanence and achieve enlightenment and nirvana.

Nirvana is when a person stops the cycle of suffering and rebirth.
– Source: Buddhism, World Religions: Almanac, Vol. 1 Edited by Neil Schlager and Jayne Weisblatt; written by J. Sydney Jones and Michael O’Neal, U·X·L, and imprint of Thomson Gale, Pages 96-98

This post was last updated: Dec. 23, 2007    
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