Taught during the Buddha’s first turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Sarnath, the Eightfold Noble Path is the fourth Noble Truth:
"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right meditative concentration."
"Samyak", normally translated as "right", has the sense of "authentically pure". "That which transcends the self". The Eightfold Path is travelled by recognising ‘self’ as an illusion and consequently living with pure-vision.
The Mahasatipatthana Sutra describes the Eightfold Noble Path thus:
- right view as the understanding of the four noble truths
- right thought is the aspiration towards renunciation, generosity and kindness
- right speech is free from lying, slander, abuse and idle chatter
- right conduct does not involve killing, stealing or sexual misconduct
- right livelihood is to stop following any wrong livelihood
- right effort summons up the energy to support that which is virtuous and to let go of that which is not
- right mindfulness is to be consistently and undistractedly aware of body, emotions, thoughts and events from a position of equipose having overcome the extremes of grasping and rejection
- right meditative concentration advances through the four levels of dhyana until purity of mindfulness and equanimity is attained.
The Majjhima Nikaya Sutra 117 says that the Noble Eightfold Path starts with Right View. Unless you have Right View you actually can't have entered the Path. It continues, Right View leads to Right Thought, and that in turn leads to Right Speech. Right Speech leads to Right Action. Right Action, in turn, leads to Right Livelihood, which leads to Right Effort. At last, Right Effort is the basis for Right Recollection which leads to Right Concentration. So, based on Right View, the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path are cultivated and developed one by one.
Samyutta Nikaya Sutra 45.1.8 also argues that a person with Right View understands the Four Noble Truths. If a person fully understands the Noble Truths he will become an Arahant or a Pacceka Buddha, or even a Sammasambuddha. Someone with even a cursory understanding of the Noble Truths may become an Ariya, a Noble One. Right View is the condition for entering the path. Anguttara Nikaya Suttas 9.20, 10.63, and Samyutta Nikaya Sutta 13.1 confirm that the Sotapanna is endowed with Right View. For this reason, according to the Sutric System, the prerequisite for any dharma practice at all is comprehensive understanding and adoption of Right View, the Four Noble Truths.