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The Dharma &
The Twelve Steps
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The Fourth Noble Truth:

the Noble Eightfold Path

Recall from our webpage titled "The Four Noble Truths" that the Fourth Noble Truth expressed by Buddha can be stated as1

"The way to eliminate these causes [of suffering] is the Eightfold Path:
  1. Right View2
  2. Right Intention3
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action4
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort5
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration."

After Buddha gave the Fourth Noble Truth in his first sermon, he stated:6

"By the practice of loving-kindness I have attained liberation of heart, and thus I am assured that I shall never return in renewed births. I have even now attained Nirvana."

From The Essence of Buddhism by Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche:7

"Having realized that this is the goal-to achieve a permanent happiess that is not based upon external changing conditions-we then have to find out how to apply ourselves in order to achieve that goal. This is what the fourth Noble Truth explains. The fourth Noble Truth is the path, and this is the essence of Buddhist practice. Known as the Eightfold Noble Path, it is oriented toward developing three things in an individual: moral sensitivity, meditation or the concentrated mind, and wisdom. Through the practice of moral sensitivity we become better individuals, able to overcome our egocentric tendencies. We become more compassionate and more sensitive to the needs of others. Through the practice of meditation our mind becomes more focused, more resilient, and more aware, which in turn gives rise to wisdom.

The eight "steps" of the Noble Eightfold Path are to be practiced more or less simultaneously. The Noble Eightfold Path is not a program where, after doing step number n, you are finished with step n and then go on to do step n+1. For example, you must have Right Intention while doing all the other "steps" or else you will be going the wrong way, not really practicing these other "steps." So let us here, in this series of webpages, call each of these "steps" a "practice". Thus we say here that the Noble Eightfold Path consists of eights practices.

In reference to the Twelve Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous, the "Big Book" (actual title:Alcoholics Anonymous) of Alcoholics Anonymous states:8

"Many of us exclaimed, 'What an order! I can't go through with it.' Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are able to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection."

The same is to be said about practicing The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. According to most Buddhist traditions, there are only a few, if any, people who lived on this earth since the time of the historical Buddha and attained enlightenment to anywhere near the perfect, complete awakening that Buddha achieved.

Now let us go to our page concerning the last two elements of the Noble Eightfold Path: Right Mindfulness & Right Concentration.


1Translation from Sherab Chodzin Kohn, "The Life of the Buddha" in Entering the Stream: An Introduction to the Buddha and His Teachings (ed. by Samuel Bercholz and Sherab Chodzin Kohn, c. 1993), p. 19.

2Sometimes this is labeled as "Right Understanding" instead of "Right View."

3Sometimes this is labeled as "Right Aspiration" or "Right Thought" or "Right Thinking" instead of "Right Intention."

4Sometimes this is labeled as "Right Behavior" instead of "Right Action."

5Sometimes this is labeled as "Right Diligence" instead of "Right Effort."

6Paul Carus, The Gospel of Buddha (1915 edition), p. 54. (In chapter 16: "The Sermon at Benares." See Google Books—"The Gospel of Buddha" by Paul Carus —or— Sacred-Texts.com-The Gospel of Buddha—"The Sermon at Benares" —or— Mountain Man Graphics—The Gospel of Buddha—"The Sermon at Benares".)

7Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, The Essence of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its Philosophy and Practice (c. 2001), page 7.

8Alcoholics Anonymous Fourth Edition (c. 2008), p. 60 (See Alcoholics Anonymous—"The 'Big Book' Online" From this website, you may download a free copy of the "Book Book" in the form of a PDF file).


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