by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Preface The essence of the Buddha’s mentor can be summed up in 2 concepts: the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The very first covers the side of teaching, and the primary action it elicits is comprehending; the 2nd covers the side of discipline, in the broadest sense of that word, and the main action it requires is practice. In the structure of the teaching these 2 concepts lock together into an indivisible unity called the dhamma-vinaya, the doctrine-and-discipline, or, in brief, the Dhamma.
The internal unity of the Dhamma is guaranteed by the truth that the last of the 4 Noble Truths, the fact of the method, is the Noble Eightfold Path, while the first element of the Noble Eightfold Path, right view, is the understanding of the 4 Noble Truths. Hence the two principles permeate and consist of one another, the formula of the Four Noble Truths including the Eightfold Path and the Noble Eightfold Path including the Four Truths.
Given this important unity, it would be meaningless to posture the question which of the 2 aspects of the Dhamma has greater worth, the doctrine or the course. But if we did risk the pointless by asking that concern, the response would need to be the path. The course claims primacy due to the fact that it is specifically this that brings the teaching to life. The path translates the Dhamma from a collection of abstract formulas into a continually unfolding disclosure of reality. It gives an outlet from the issue of experiencing which the teaching begins. And it makes the mentor’s goal, freedom from suffering, accessible to us in our own experience, where alone it takes on authentic significance.
To follow the Noble Eightfold Course refers practice instead of intellectual knowledge, but to apply the path properly it needs to be correctly comprehended. In reality, ideal understanding of the path is itself a part of the practice. It is a facet of ideal view, the first course factor, the forerunner and guide for the remainder of the path. Thus, though preliminary enthusiasm may recommend that the job of intellectual comprehension might be shelved as an irritating distraction, fully grown factor to consider reveals it to be quite necessary to supreme success in the practice.
The present book targets at contributing towards a correct understanding of the Noble Eightfold Course by investigating its eight factors and their components to figure out precisely what they involve. I have actually tried to be succinct, utilizing as the framework for exposition the Buddha’s own words in description of the course factors, as discovered in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon. To assist the reader with limited access to main sources even in translation, I have actually attempted to confine my selection of quotations as much as possible (but not entirely) to those discovered in Age-old Nyanatiloka’s classic anthology, The Word of the Buddha.
Sometimes passages taken from that work have been somewhat modified, to accord with my own favored renderings. For additional amplification of meaning I have in some cases brought into play the commentaries; specifically in my accounts of concentration and wisdom (Chapters VII and VIII) I have relied heavily on the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Filtration), a huge encyclopedic work which systematizes the practice of the course in a comprehensive and thorough way. Limitations of space prevent an extensive treatment of each aspect.
To make up for this deficiency I have included a list of suggested readings at the end, which the reader might consult for more comprehensive descriptions of individual course elements. For full dedication to the practice of the course, however, particularly in its innovative phases of concentration and insight, it will be extremely helpful to have contact with an appropriately qualified instructor. Bhikkhu Bodhi
About the Author
Bhikkhu Bodhi is a Buddhist monk of American nationality, born in New york city City in 1944. After completing a doctorate in approach at the Claremont Graduate School, he pertained to Sri Lanka for the purpose of entering the Sangha. He received newbie ordination in 1972 and greater ordination in 1973, both under the eminent scholar-monk, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, with whom he studied Pali and Dhamma. He is the author of numerous deal with Theravada Buddhism, including four translations of major Pali suttas along with their commentaries. Since 1984 he has actually been the Editor for the Buddhist Publication Society, and since 1988 its President.
Source: The Wheel Publication No. 308/311 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1984), second edition (revised) 1994. Transcribed from a file offered by the BPS Copyright © 1998 Buddhist Publication Society. Recreated and reformatted from Access to Insight edition © 1999 Totally free circulation. This work might be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and rearranged in any medium. It is the author’s desire, however, that any such republication and redistribution be offered to the public on a complimentary and unrestricted basis which translations and other derivative works be plainly marked as such. All Wheel publications and Bodhi Leaves described above are published by the Buddhist Publication Society.