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The Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path avoids the extreme of self-torture that weakens ones intellect and the extreme of self-indulgence that retards ones spiritual progress. It consists of the following eight factors:
1. Balanced Understanding
2. Balanced Thoughts
3. Balanced Speech
4. Balanced Action
5. Balanced Livelihood
6. Balanced Effort
7. Balanced Mindfulness
8. Balanced Concentration
1. Balanced Understanding is the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. In other words, it is the understanding of oneself as one really is. The keynote of Buddhism is this Balanced Understanding. Buddhism is based, as much, on knowledge and not on unreasonable belief.
2. Balanced Thoughts are threefold. They are:
(a) The thoughts of renunciation which are opposed to sense-pleasures.
(b) Kind thoughts which are opposed to ill-will.
(c) Thoughts of harmlessness which are opposed to cruelty.
These tend to purify the mind.
3. Balanced Speech deals with refraining from falsehood, stealing, slandering, harsh words and frivolous talks
4. Balanced Action deals with refraining from killing, stealing and unchastity. It helps one to develop a character that is self-controlled and mindful of right of others.
5. Balanced Livelihood deals with the five kinds of trades which should be avoided by a lay disciple. They are:
(a) trade in deadly weapons
(b) trade in animals for slaughter
(c) trade in slavery
(d) trade in intoxicants
(e) trade in poisons
Balanced Livelihood means earning ones living in a way that is not harmful to others.
6. Balanced Effort is fourfold, namely:
(a) the endeavour to discard evil that has already arisen.
(b) the endeavour to prevent the arising of unrisen evil.
(c) the endeavour to develop that good which has already arisen.
(d) the endeavour to promote that good which has not already arisen.
Effort is needed to cultivate Good Conduct or develop one's mind, because one is often distracted or tempted to take the easy way out of things. The Buddha teaches that attaining happiness and Enlightenment depends upon one's own efforts. Effort is the root of all achievement. If one wants to get to the top of a mountain, just sitting at the foot thinking about it will not bring one there. It is by making the effort of climbing up the mountain, step by step, that one eventually reaches the summit. Thus, no matter how great the Buddha's achievement may be, or how excellent His Teaching is, one must put the Teaching into practice before one can expect to obtain the desired result.
7. Balanced Mindfulness is also fourfold:
(a) mindfulness with regard to body
(b) mindfulness with regard to feeling
(c) mindfulness with regard to mind
(d) mindfulness with regard to mental objects.
Balanced Mindfulness is the awareness of one's deeds, words and thoughts.
8. Balanced Meditation
Meditation means the gradual process of training the mind to focus on a single inner eye and to remain fixed upon that without wavering. The constant practice of meditation helps one to develop a calm and concentrated mind and help to prepare one for the attainment of Wisdom and Enlightenment ultimately.