Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path (Short Version)

A Guide to Mindful, Harmonious and Peaceful Living

Charles Day*


The Eightfold Path is a prescription, a guide, a do-it-yourself instruction manual that outlines eight steps or practices for reducing and ultimately ending suffering and attaining enlightenment. While some parallel the commandments and moral laws of other religious traditions, Buddha repeatedly emphasized that:

1. The practices are guidelines, not commandments;
2. Difficulties in following them reflect ignorance and inexperience, not sin;
3. They are validated by personally experiencing the consequences of practicing them, not by any authority, scriptural edict, consensual agreement, or outside approval.

The Eight Practices are divided into three groups:

1. Wisdom Practices—to attain the transcendental experience of seeing things as they really are and accepting that “what is, is”: Steps 1 & 2: Right or Skillful Understanding and Skillful Thought
2. Morality Practices—to develop virtuous, ethical, and harmonious conduct. Steps 3, 4, & 5: Skillful Speech, Skillful Action, and Skillful Livelihood
3. Mental Practices—to develop mindfulness and tranquility. Steps 6, 7, & 8: Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness, and Skillful Concentration



a. Of the Four Noble Truths: (1) Suffering is caused by (2) attachment and (3) can be overcome (4) by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path;
b. The Three Characteristics of Reality—(1) the universal suffering or unsatisfactoriness experienced by all living beings, (2) the impermanence of all physical and mental phenomena, and (3) the interdependent, interconnected, selfless nature of everybody and everything throughout time and space;
c. The Law of Karma (Causality) and Intentionality; and
d. The Wheel of Conditioned or Co-dependent Arising.

Buddha described three levels of wisdom or understanding:

a. Inspirational wisdom is acquired by reading or hearing the words of another, such as from scriptures, texts, reports, tradition, popular beliefs, teachers, leaders, or parents. Such wisdom is based on devotion, trust, and blind faith.

b. Intellectual wisdom is based on examining what one has heard or read to evaluate whether it is rational, logical, practical, and beneficial, and whether it has been taught by wise and respected persons across cultures and over time.

c. Experiential wisdom results from personally experiencing, intuiting, and knowing at a transcendental level what is universally and invariably correct, right, truthful, skillful, good, beneficial, and wholesome for all living beings and nature, and what is incorrect, wrong, untruthful, unskillful, bad, harmful, and unwholesome....(continued)

Click here to read about Steps Two through Eight and to print out this complete essay.