Understanding Ashtangika-Marga: The noble eight-fold path to unlearning from Lord Buddha

Wheel of Law depicting the Eight-Fold Path from Lord Buddha

Each one of us needs calmness and happy life. Most of us will say that getting fame, being wealthy and leading a life without misery are the points on which the real aim of life exists but do you know how to feel the calmness of mind which results in real happiness? To go into the depth of these questions we have to study about Ashtangika-Marga, put forward by Mahatma Buddha, which is one of the pillars of the teachings of Buddhism.

Ashtangika-Marga, also known as the Eight-Fold Path, is about unlearning instead of learning i.e. “learning to unlearn and uncover.” This path will lead the person to peace and happiness which will be real in every aspect. The path, as told by Buddha, consists of eight interconnected activities and it is a process that will help the follower to move beyond the conditioned responses and these responses are ones that obscure a person’s true nature. Let’s go deeper and see what the path consists of!

The Ashtangika-Marga consists of eight steps or activities which are

  1. Right Vision: Also known as “Samma-Ditthi in Buddhism”, it signifies understanding and perfect view of the nature of reality and the path of transformation.
  2. Right Attitude or Thought: Also known as “Samma-Sankappa in Buddhism”, it signifies doing actions with love and compassion. The step or activity will develop your emotional intelligence as well.
  3. Right or Whole Speech: Known as “Samma-Vacca in Buddhism”, the name, itself, makes clear that the person should communicate with everyone clearly, truthfully, and non harmfully. His/Her speech should not hurt everyone and this step will take the speech of the person away from all spoken evils.
  4. Right or Integral Action: In Buddhism, it is known as “Samma-Kammanta” and signifies an ethical foundation of life. This foundation is based on the principle of non-exploitation of self and others. This step consists of training rules known as “The Five Precepts” which govern the behaviour of the laity and members of the monastic order. These rules are as follows:
    • Do not commit violence: This rule applies to each living being as everyone has the right to live and that should be respected by everyone as well.
    • Do not covet the property of others: This rule goes much beyond than just stealing as it says that one must not take anything unless the thing that he/she wants is meant for him/her respectively.
    • Do not speak a lie: This rule covers slander, deceiving, lying, and speech that is not beneficial to others’ welfare. One should refrain from false speech,
    • Do not indulge in corrupt practices or sensual behaviour: This precept will teach to control self from any misconduct including sensual behaviour. For the laity, celibacy was replaced by chastity but for the monastic order, strict celibacy was made obligatory.
    • Do not use intoxicants: This precept says straightly to abstain from substances that cause intoxication and heedlessness. Also, this rule is placed in a special category as it believes that being indulged in such substances could break the other four precepts or training rules.
  5. Right Livelihood or Proper Livelihood: Known as “Samma-Ajiva in Buddhism” and this precept signifies living life based on right actions and ethical principle of non-exploitation. This is the basis of an ideal society as said by Lord Buddha.
  6. Right Effort or energy: “Samma-Vayama” as called in Buddhism, signifies directing our life energy consciously to transformative path of creative and healing action and this will foster wholeness which will move the practitioner towards conscious evolution.
  7. Right Mindfulness: Also known as “Samma-Sati in Buddhism” or complete awareness in general. This training rule signifies developing awareness about oneself and keenly watching the behaviour of self. Lord Buddha says,”If you hold yourself dear, watch yourself well”.
  8. Right Concentration: In Buddhism it is known as “Samma-Samadhi”. The name signifies “Samadhi” in the sense of Buddhahood. Samadhi means that you get fixed to or get established at one point and this also means concentration of mind to a specific object. This is the first level of its meaning and the second level of meaning goes even further which represents the “Establishment”, not just of mind, but also of the whole being in various levels of consciousness and awareness.

Following all the above-mentioned steps of the Eight-Fold path will uncover the real calmness and happiness in the individual. In Hinduism, Yoga is performed which also has eight paths and the last one is “Samadhi”. So, I leave it to the reader whether he wants to follow Yoga or Ashtangika-Marga. Both are the same and whichever path you choose, you will feel the essence of living a real life.

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