The practical method that the Buddha taught is called the Noble Eightfold Path. By following this path fully one can gain insight knowledge, leading to attainment of the path and its fruition, which means to realise nibbāna, the cessation of suffering. If one can attain nibbāna, one will have no doubt about the real Dhamma, since one has personally realised the goal of Buddhism.
To attain nibbāna one must develop insight knowledge through the constant practice of mindfulness. The eightfold path is a gradual path that must be cultivated through training in morality, concentration, and wisdom. If one practises the path, confidence in the power of mindfulness will steadily grow, but doubt is not completely eradicated until one attains the first path and its fruition with the realisation of nibbāna. Before that life-changing experience, however, one will attain the lower stage of insight knowledge — “Purity by overcoming doubt” — which will confirm one’s faith in the importance of practice. Even at this early stage of insight, a meditator will have firm confidence in the real Dhamma, and will understand the need to develop the practice further. He or she will no longer be content with outward forms of Buddhism.
The Noble Eightfold Path can be divided into three trainings: morality, concentration, and wisdom. These should be practised in parallel. To be perfect in morality before trying to develop concentration and insight is not essential, but one should live by sound moral principles.
Jon Abbott writes:
The 8-fold path is actually a moment of path consciousness with nibbana as object. Only at such momens do the 8 factors arise together. At such moments, and only at such moments, the 8 factors are ‘samma’. They cannot be ‘samma’ at any other moment, no matter to what level the particular cetasika (mental factor) may have been developed.
When the Buddha is declaring the various path factors, he is describing them as they arise at a moment of path consciousness, ie. at the moment of enlightenment. As we know, at such moments levels of kilesa are eradicted. Each of the path factors is taking effect at a level or in a manner that it does not otherwise function at. The momentary samma samadhi is of the level of jhana, regardless of the person’s attainment of mundane jhana…
Sarah Abbott writes:
May I add a few comments on the eightfold path?
Just to summarise (according to my understanding).
1. The eight factors of the eightfold path are cetasikas (mental factors) which arise with kusala citta (wholesome consciousness) and ‘know’ the nama or rupa (mental or physical phenomena) at that time.
2. Knowing and being aware of the nama and rupa, the eightfold path is developed.
3. It is still lokiya (mundane) when the cetasikas do not arise with the lokuttara citta (which experiences nibbana)
4. At the moment of lokuttara citta, the eight cetasikas arise and nibbana is experienced.
5. Any time right understanding (accompanied by rt awareness, rt effort, rt thought, rt concentration) knows a nama or rupa which appears, the eightfold path is being developed.
6. Only when the lokuttara citta arises do all eight factors arise together.
When we read about the experience of the eight factored path at the moment of enlightenment, it amy seem very remote. We have to be very patient (remember the Adze-handle sutta) and also remember that samma ditthi (right understanding) is the key, like ‘dawn is the forerunner’.
So the understanding develops slowly and naturally and the mundane eightfold path is developed….
Mike N. and Jon Abbott discuss:
M: I ran across this great discourse by chance this morning, and it seems to me to address what I was aiming at when I mistakenly referred to the ‘mundane eightfold path’.
“And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with fermentations [asava], siding with merit, resulting in the acquisitions [of becoming]; and there is noble right view, without fermentations, transcendent, a factor of the path.”
Majjhima Nikaya 117
The Great Forty
This goes on to describe the other path factors in
the same way–with asavas and (Noble) without asavas.
“And what is the right view that is without fermentations, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor of Awakening, the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from fermentations, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without fermentations, transcendent, a factor of the path.”
Am I mistaken in reading into this that there is a Noble Eightfold path for the Ariyapuggala and a (non-Noble) (‘five-fold’) path for the puthujjana?
J: Certainly it is talking about the Noble Eightfold Path which, as I understand it, means the 4 path moments corresponding to the 4 stages of enlightenment. At those moments all 8 supramundane path factors arise together.
There is also a mundane version of the path, at which moment 5 path factors (the 8 path factors excluding the 3 abstinences) arise. This is a moment of satipatthana. Although the factors of the mundane path are not of course at the supramundane level, they nevertheless lead in that direction. However, I do not see any specific reference to the mundane path in this sutta.
The mundane version of the supramundane path factors mentioned in the sutta are something different again. They are, in layman’s terms, ordinary moments of kusala. They are moments of kusala that are not
moments of satipatthana. They differ from the mundane path factors mentioned above in that they lead to rebirth and continued existence rather than in the direction of the supramundane path. That is why, in the first of the passages cited in your message above, mundane right view is described as ‘resulting in the acquisitions [of becoming]’. This would not be an appropriate description for a moment of satipatthana (ie. a mundane path moment).
M: Further on, he says of each of the first five path factors that ‘right view, right effort and right mindfulness run and circle around’ it, and that ‘this is one’s right mindfulness’.
“One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view.
“One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right resolve.
“One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right speech.
“One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong action & to enter & remain in right action: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right action.
“One tries to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter into right livelihood: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter & remain in right livelihood: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right livelihood.
Interestingly, it stops here–right effort and right mindfulness are present only by ‘running and circling around’ the first five factors and there is no mention at all of (non-Noble) right concentration.
J: The absence of any mention of right concentration could be because the purpose of the sutta is to explain what are the necessary supports for the arising of supramundane right concentration (namely the other seven path factors).
M: This seems to stress a very specific emphasis on and relationship between right view, right effort and right mindfulness that I don’t recall seeing elsewhere in the Suttanta or the Vinaya.
J: Yes, these 3 factors seem to be the basis for the arising of all the other factors.