The Fourth Noble Truth

Path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)

The final Noble Truth is the Buddha’s prescription for the end of suffering. This is a set of principles called the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path is also called the Middle Way: it avoids both indulgence and severe asceticism, neither of which the Buddha had found helpful in his search for enlightenment.

The eight divisions

The eight stages are not to be taken in order, but rather support and reinforce each other:

  1. Right Understanding – Sammā ditthi
    • Accepting Buddhist teachings. (The Buddha never intended his followers to believe his teachings blindly, but to practise them and judge for themselves whether they were true.)
  2. Right Intention – Sammā san̄kappa
    • A commitment to cultivate the right attitudes.
  3. Right Speech – Sammā vācā
    • Speaking truthfully, avoiding slander, gossip and abusive speech.
  4. Right Action – Sammā kammanta
    • Behaving peacefully and harmoniously; refraining from stealing, killing and overindulgence in sensual pleasure.
  5. Right Livelihood – Sammā ājīva
    • Avoiding making a living in ways that cause harm, such as exploiting people or killing animals, or trading in intoxicants or weapons.
  6. Right Effort – Sammā vāyāma
    • Cultivating positive states of mind; freeing oneself from evil and unwholesome states and preventing them arising in future.
  7. Right Mindfulness – Sammā sati
    • Developing awareness of the body, sensations, feelings and states of mind.
  8. Right Concentration – Sammā samādhi
    • Developing the mental focus necessary for this awareness.

The eight stages can be grouped into Wisdom (right understanding and intention), Ethical Conduct (right speech, action and livelihood) and Meditation (right effort, mindfulness and concentration).

The Buddha described the Eightfold Path as a means to enlightenment, like a raft for crossing a river. Once one has reached the opposite shore, one no longer needs the raft and can leave it behind.

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