Two and a half millennia ago, the Buddha wrote down eight rules to end suffering.
It became known as the Buddhist Eightfold Path, and following it can be quite difficult.
It requires a certain amount of self-discipline, self-awareness, and courage, as well as the knowledge of the 4 Noble Truths, which are:
- Existence is suffering, because it is in a state of constant change.
- Attachment to pleasure and aversion to pain trap you within existence.
- By ceasing the attachment/aversion cycle, you can experience liberation from existence.
- The Eightfold Path is the way to end suffering.
Here are the rules of the Noble Eightfold Path:
1) Right View
The Right View is the understanding that reality is temporary; it is not the truth.
Everything we sense in this world is nothing more than a magic show, a pause before we reach the ultimate truth.
When you see the world in this way, then you see that all suffering is virtual; none of it is real.
Suffering is only as real as the world in which it exists in real, and this world does not truly exist at all.
2) Right Resolve
The Right Resolve is also known as the Right Thought, Right Intention, or Right Aspiration.
This means to cut yourself from your worldly ties, and to leave all your wants and desires behind.
In some cases, the Right Resolve means to become harmless—giving no harm unto others and wishing no ill will unto any other being.
In more extreme examples of the Right Resolve, it means to consider that everyone around you is impermanent and unreal, and is just a possible source of suffering from which you should become unattached.
3) Right Speech
Right Speech means exactly what you think it would mean—to have honor in every word you say.
To hold yourself by your word, and to exercise truth in your claims and interactions with others.
The Right Speech teaches that the words you speak shape the world around you, and by being mindful of your words, you can shape a better reality than someone who wastes them.
Never lie, never abuse, and never manipulate. Even gossip and idle chatter are considered wasteful.
4) Right Action
Right Action is similar to Right Speech, except it is focused on the things you do rather the things you say.
You must abstain from the act of hurting or killing other living beings, whether this hurt is in the form of physical harm or mental distress.
Do not steal from, hurt, kill, or maim another living being, and this counts for every creature, not just humans.
For some, Right Action also involves sexual conduct—to abstain from sensual pleasure and to maintain strict celibacy. You must not have any involvement with married individuals or young children.
5) Right Livelihood
With Right Livelihood, an individual should make sure that their livelihood or their profession does not directly or indirectly cause harm or distress unto others.
You should be able to say that what you do does not cause suffering to other people, no matter how distantly involved you may be.
Right Livelihood prohibits one from pursuing five types of business, including:
1) Business in Weapons (selling, creating, or trading arms)
2) Business in Humans (prostitution, slavery, human trafficking, abusing others)
3) Business in Meat (raising cattle to be eaten, slaughtering animals, selling them)
4) Business in Intoxicants (selling, creating, trading, or advertising tobacco, alcohol, or drugs)
5) Business in Poison (selling, creating, or trading any chemical that may cause harm)
6) Right Effort
Right Effort means that you have to actively uphold truth and justice around your community.
You cannot simply just live on your own terms and say that you are a good person; if you see injustice in the world around you, you must make the effort to protect the rights of others.
7) Right Mindfulness
Right Mindfulness means appreciating every moment of your life.
So many of us fall to auto-pilot with so many activities in our life, whether it’s when you’re stuck in traffic, in a meeting, or simply watching TV.
To waste life away without even thinking about it is suffering in itself. We must make the most of the life we are given, and make the most to follow the Eightfold Path mindfully at all times.
If we forget this path and zone out even for a few moments, then we may resort to our primal reactions and do something banned from the path.
8) Right Concentration
And finally, the Right Concentration. What this focuses on is meditation, and it is last because only once you have cut yourself from all your ties and desire in the real world can you truly and effectively meditate and perhaps reach nirvana.
With a mindfulness of your breathing and some repetition of mantras, the meditator may pass through meditative absorption, or the four classic facets of meditation:
- The joy of meditation
- The joy of a completed awareness
- Maximum alertness and mindfulness
- Perfection of equanimity; pure, blissful awareness
Only by following this Eightfold Path can you completely end suffering, if not just for yourself, but for those around you.