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Religion Library: Buddhism

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Written by: Julia Hardy

4. Right action: Actions that are not "right" are those that are forbidden by the five precepts: lying, stealing, killing, taking intoxicants, and sexual misconduct. Instead, one must act with respect, generosity, self-control, honesty, and compassion.

5. Right livelihood: One should not pursue an occupation that harms or exploits others, nor should one be motivated by a big salary or hope to earn more than one needs. The right livelihood is one that provides for one's needs while at the same time serving others and improving the human condition.

Right practice (Samadhi)
6. Right effort: To follow the Buddha's teachings is difficult and requires conscientious effort. This effort need not involve straining or struggling. Instead of trying to prevent wrong thoughts or speech, for example, one can, when they occur, simply let them go. One could try to understand them without allowing them to fester, or one could visualize the negative consequences if they are allowed to persist. Another method is to consciously cultivate more productive mental states. One can also change one's environment to one that is more conducive to following the proper path.

7. Right mindfulness: To be mindful is to be aware of one's thoughts, feelings, and actions so that one is not controlled by them. In addition, mindfulness is awareness of the nature of the world and its operations.

8. Right concentration: This involves a one-pointed focus on spiritual realization. It is a way of avoiding distractions and disruptive emotions and directing the mind toward productive action. The Buddha taught specific practices to cultivate right concentration, forms of meditation that encouraged either tranquility or insight.

The Eightfold Path, along with the concepts of merit and karma, while originally directed toward the ultimate goal of enlightenment, serve also as behavioral guidelines. Within the Buddhist world, these concepts effectively inspire moral behavior and foster social harmony.

Study Questions:
1.      Describe the relationship of merit and karma.
2.     Describe how the eight items of the Eightfold Path are categorized. How do they relate to one another?
3.     What is meant by “right,” as it is used within the Eightfold Path?