The Truth of the Path (Magga)
Today we have
reached the topic of the Eightfold Path (Magga) and I will therefore take the
factors one at a time so you can see them in and for yourself. The Path has eight
The first factor is right view (samma-ditthi). This is the understanding of suffering, of the origination of suffering, of the extinction of suffering and of the path leading to the extinction of suffering.
See this suffering in your own self whenever you encounter it. Understand it then. Realize that these five aggregates arise at birth and then must grow old and die. This is their inevitable course. If you grasp and cling to these five aggregates as being me-and-mine, then when they become engaged in suffering, so do you. Focus on your going along with this suffering of the five aggregates.
See the cause of the arising of suffering. This is seeing the mind's craving and desire, which are the creators of all of the different forms of suffering.
See the abating and subsidence of suffering. This is the mind bright and clear of craving because that desire has waned. At this time, if such craving has subsided you will have relief from suffering, even if only temporarily. See this temporary cessation of suffering in the mind and notice the knowledge and understanding which is able to relieve and still that suffering. Seeing this understanding is seeing the Path.
Focus in yourself to see the present condition of suffering, its cause and origination, its extinction and the Path.
The second factor is right thought (samma-sankappa). This is thought free from sensual desire, from ill will and cruelty.
Focus to see the thought and reflections going on in your mind. What are they about? When your thoughts are free from sensuous desire --as when you are reflecting on Dhamma-- then be aware of it. They have not been pulled away to like, desire and find satisfaction in the affairs of visual objects, sounds, odours, tastes or tangibles.
When there are thoughts free of ill will and vindictiveness, and thoughts free of cruelty, then be aware of that. See and be aware of your thoughts and reflections.
The third factor is right speech (samma-vaca). This is abstaining from lying, tale bearing, harsh language and foolish babble. See this in your own mind. Is there such thought of abstinence present or not? When it can be observed, this indicates that the factor of right speech is present. You don't need to speak though: Even being silent with such abstinence is already considered right speech.
The fourth factor is right (bodily) action (samma-kammanta). This is abstaining from killing, stealing and unlawful sexual behaviour (or from breaking the rules of celibacy). See if this abstinence is present in your mind. If it is, then you should understand that this is right action. There is no need to do anything though, for the abstinence is already considered right action.
The fifth factor is right livelihood (samma-ajiva). This is the abstaining from wrong livelihood and instead following one's livelihood in a correct and proper way. Focus in the mind to see your present lifestyle. Were the necessities of life supporting it obtained by right or wrong means? If you note that they were found in a right and correct way, then you can consider this as right livelihood.
The sixth factor is right effort (samma-vayama). This is the effort of avoiding or overcoming evil and unwholesome things, and of developing and maintaining wholesome things.
Focus to see unwholesomeness or evil, and wholesomeness or virtue in your own mind --for this is where they first arise. Inspect to see about your actions (kamma) which arise from within the mind. If you find the mind is thinking of doing unwholesome actions or evil, then make an effort to avoid that action. If your inspection reveals the mind is already concerned with unwholesomeness or evil, then make an effort to overcome and abandon that, so as not to do it again. Such evil actions can be avoided. We are capable of avoiding unwholesomeness.
Now focus to see the virtue or wholesomeness . That virtue which you have not yet done but are capable of doing --make an effort to do it. That virtue which you have already done --make an effort to maintain, support and develop it further.
This matter requires you to train your endeavour and effort. 'Effort' can be understood as meaning 'being dauntless' in the abandoning of evil and in the pursuit and implementation of goodness and virtue. This dauntlessness is necessary because of the obstacles which block such an effort: the inner obstacles of the defilements (kilesa) in one's mind and the external surrounding circumstances that can also act as a block. These defilements are lust, hatred and delusion or desire which pull away to avoid virtue but provoke the doing of evil. The external situation comprises those people, things or any of the various outside causes that engage and pull the mind into evildoing and away from virtue. When this is the case if the mind is weak and easily daunted it will suffer defeat from the defilements within itself. It will also fail against the external circumstances and be misled into doing evil and being far from virtue.
You must therefore strengthen your effort and dauntlessness so that the mind is intrepid and can meet and beat the defilements within it as well as those misleading external circumstances. You can then avoid evil and cultivate virtue, as has already been explained. Inspect your mind to see if there is present within it that effort, that dauntlessness which can defeat the inner defilements and the external situation. If your mind is dauntless, without being weak, lazy or sluggish, you will be able to abandon evil and cultivate virtue. Then all kinds of evil can be avoided and all kinds of virtue accomplished. You can then consider that the factor of right effort is present.
The seventh factor is right mindfulness (samma-sati). Inspect what you are recollecting or being mindful about at this moment. If your recollection is concerned with affairs of lust or greed, hatred or delusion, then this is not right mindfulness. This lust, greed, hatred and delusion can be referred to in short as a pair hankering and dejection --and this is the sort of mindfulness and recollection which lead them to arise in the mind. The mind must recollect or shift out to take in an agreeable issue for hankering to arise, or a disagreeable issue which results in dejection. This sort of mindfulness leads defilements into arising in the mind. However, this is not right mindfulness (samma-sati).
Right mindfulness is the recollection that brings in only those matters which will relieve and allay that hankering-and-dejection and lead to calmness and purity in the mind. It comprises: The recollection and examination of one's complete body. This has been explained previously stage by stage in the section on mindfulness of the body (kayanupassana); the examination of pleasant, painful and intermediate feelings as presented in the section on mindfulness of feeling (vedananupassana); the examination of the mind and its present state as presented in the section on mindfulness of the mind (cittanupassana); the examination of objects of mind as presented in the section on mindfulness of mental objects (dhammanupassana).
The preceding explanation was graduated step by step, but in brief one can say, recollect and see your body, feelings, mind, mental objects and issues. Be aware so that you know in your mind the condition of body, feeling, mind, mental objects and issues. Adopt these things as objects to manifest clearly in the mind. For example, when you focus on a bodily part, then manifest that clearly as an object in your mind. Make a feeling, condition of mind or mental issue manifest as a clear object in the mind. This is the external seeing, being the manifesting of objects gathered together. Hankering and dejection concerning any object occur because one does not see its arising and disappearing. When one can see the disappearing as well as the arising, then hankering and dejection cannot be born or will occur too late. The object where hankering and dejection sought to establish themselves is not viable anymore because it is about to disappear.
Focus on your mindfulness. When you see that it is established in the foundations of mindfulness (body, feelings, mind, or mental objects) and that it is centred within rather than swerving away after external objects, this indicates --even if one is only at the beginning stage-- that it is the start of right mindfulness (samma-sati). When this mindfulness is swift and fully agile it will immediately catch and realize the arising and disappearing and will therefore be able to prevent hankering and dejection. This is a mindfulness well established, full and swift. Inspect the mindfulness within yourself: If it has these characteristics, you can be sure it is right mindfulness (samma-sati).
The eighth factor is right concentration (samma-samadhi). This is the setting and establishing of the mind in samadhi and, when it focuses on an object, fixing on it firmly. This also must rely on mindfulness. Mindfulness recollects in the body, feelings, mind and mental objects while samadhi centres and establishes itself in the body, feeling, mind or mental object. If mindfulness is present but samadhi isn't firmly established, then an awareness and understanding of various things cannot arise. If mindfulness is not present, then samadhi can't be established. This means that they must go together: mindfulness of an object and samadhi established in that object. Inspect to see this in yourself. If your mind is still unstable and not firmly established, then samadhi has not yet arisen. Later, when the mind has advanced and is stable and firmly established together with mindfulness, it gives rise to knowledge (nyana). This is right concentration or right samadhi.
Of the eight factors of the Path, right speech, right action and right livelihood together form moral virtue (sila). In short this is the natural mind which is orderly and restrained without any thought of disturbing it in a wrong way. When you inspect your mind and find this naturalness, then you can consider that this is moral virtue: right speech, right action and right livelihood within yourself. There's no need to look for many things, just check to see if the mind is natural. If it is, then that is moral virtue.
Right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration are together known as samadhi. This is the mind stilled and firmly established. Inspect your mind to see if it is stilled and firm within the determined object without any wavering. There's no need to reckon up samadhi's components ; just check to see if your mind is stable and calm. If it is, then that is samadhi.
Right view and right thought together make up wisdom (pannya) which is knowing. Inspect your mind to see whether that knowing, which is wise to the arising and disappearing of things, is present or not. If it is then it can immediately deal with any defilements. It will either know before the defilements arise or, if too late, it will finally realize and again quickly cut them out. This knowing is wisdom, and by seeing this single thing you won't need to reckon up all the composite factors.
If we summarize all of this we can say, focus on the natural mind, the calm established mind and that knowing in the mind. We can then expand into the Eightfold Path according to the conditions I've already mentioned.
To summarize again: We can see that the natural mind, the calm established mind and the knowing mind must all be one. The natural mind must be a calm established mind, which must in turn be a knowing mind. They can all be brought together as one. This is what the Lord Buddha meant when He spoke of virtue being samadhi and wisdom; of samadhi being virtue and wisdom, and of wisdom being virtue and samadhi. This is the convergence of the Path into one.
This Eightfold Path can be summarized and reduced to three, and then further to one, which is the Path's convergence. Everyone has this way of practice within himself to a greater or lesser extent.
Inspect this Path in your own mind. Examine the detailed and comprehensive aspect of the eightfold form and the more integrated aspects of the threefold and the unified forms. With constant inspection you will know the state of the Path within yourself: whether it is slack and undeveloped or exalted and mature. When you can always see and know the true state of the Path within yourself it is called 'attannyu' --a knowing of oneself. The Path will then be steadily developed and cultivated.
Will you now prepare to listen with attention while the monks chant concerning this Path. Afterwards, determine set your minds on practising for calm and tranquillity.
25th October 2504 B.E. (1961)