The Eightfold Path

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The Eightfold Path is an inportant teaching in Buddhism, and is proposed as means by which humans can free themselves of the suffering imposed by craving, clinging, and desire. Its tenets include:

  1. right views
  2. right aspirations or resolve
  3. right speech
  4. right behavior
  5. right mode of livelihood
  6. right efforts
  7. right mindfulness or awareness
  8. right contemplation, concentration or meditation

In everyday life, the Eightfold Path requires that the individual do no harm to any creature, and, in addition, theft, falsehood, unchastity, strong drink, and the taking of life are strictly forbidden.

According to Professor Damien Keown[1] the Eightfold Path is the path leading to the cessation of suffering. However, according to Cathy Cantwell,[2] it is a Theravada formulation and Mahayana prefers others.

At first sight it is hard to see how this relates to the real-life practice of Buddhism as described by other scholars:

  1. Nearly all Buddhists use ritual for spiritual ends.[3]
  2. Devotion is a major part of the lives of most Buddhists.[4]
  3. For most of Buddhist history, meditation has been mainly monastic, and by no means universal even in that context.[5]
  4. The most popular form of Buddhism is Pure Land,[6] which offers a way of salvation based on faith alone,[7] and believes the Buddha Amitabha has the power to take his devotees to his Pure Land.[8]


  1. Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 1996
  2. Buddhism, Routledge, 2010, page 68
  3. Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004 (Volume One), page 139
  4. Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, Cambridge University Press, 1990, page 170
  5. Lopez, Buddhist Scriptures, Penguin Classics, 2004, page xxxii; Routledge Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2007, pages 502f
  6. Flesher, Exploring Religions, University of Wyoming
  7. Oxtoby & Amore, World Religions: Eastern Tradtions, Oxford University Press, 2010, page 211/Oxtoby & Segal, Concise Introduction to World Religions, 2nd ed, 2012, page 398
  8. Mitchell, Buddhism, Oxford University Press, ist ed, 2002, page 206/2nd ed, 2008, page 226