chapter two

The Arising of the Path

In the phrase, “noble eightfold path,” the Pāli word translated as “eightfold” —aṭṭhaṅgika—literally means “eight-factored,” “eight-part,” or “eight-limbed.” The eight factors, parts, or limbs of the path are these: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. As we noted in the previous chapter, these factors all assist one another in becoming right to the point of forming a noble path. In other words, none of them are fully noble and right until they all are. But to reach that point, they have to help one another, even when not fully right, to approach greater rightness until they all fall into place.

It’s for this reason that when the Buddha speaks of the arising of the noble eightfold path, he does so in two senses. In the ultimate sense, he is referring to the stage in the practice when all eight factors are fully right, leading immediately to the first noble attainment, a level of awakening called stream-entry because the mind is now ensured that it will inevitably reach full awakening, just as the water in a stream leading to the ocean will eventually arrive at the ocean.

In a preliminary sense, though, the Buddha also speaks of the arising of the noble eightfold path to refer to the very beginning stage in the practice, as you consciously start to develop the factors. This is the sense of the word that will be discussed in this chapter.

The texts equate the holy life taught by the Buddha with the noble eightfold path, and speak of it as containing neither lack nor excess (DN 29). But the factors of the path don’t arise in a vacuum. They require supplementary factors—both within your mind and in the way you live your life—to foster their arising.

There is no single passage in the Canon listing all these supplementary factors as a set, but they can be gathered from various passages where the Buddha describes:

• what qualities he is looking for in a student, such as truthfulness and the ability to be observant (§31);

• what internal quality necessarily underlies the arising of skillful actions in body, speech, and mind, i.e., heedfulness (§36);

• what factors give rise to right view, the first factor of the path, i.e., the voice of another and appropriate attention (§32);

• an exercise in reflection that, in engendering a sense of dismay and urgency (saṁvega), causes the path to arise (§38); and

• what factors signal the arising of the path (§35).

This last set of texts appears in the Magga Saṁyutta, SN 45, a section of the Canon devoted to short suttas about the path. Many of the supplementary factors listed in this set of texts seem to be referring to the arising of the path in its ultimate sense, because they are actually different ways of expressing the actual path-factors: View-consummation, for instance, obviously refers to the perfection of right view; virtue-consummation, to the perfection of right speech, right action, and right livelihood. But other supplementary factors in this set do seem to be preliminary to the initial step of embarking on the path: heedfulness, appropriate attention, and admirable friendship.

Eliminating redundancies in all the above lists, we can arrive at the following two lists of supplementary internal and external factors:

• Internal factors: truthfulness, the ability to be observant, heedfulness, urgency, and appropriate attention.

• External factors: admirable friendship and the voice of another.

Truthfulness is primarily the willingness to be truthful in reporting your conduct to your teachers and fellow practitioners, but it is paired with the ability to be truthful to yourself. If you can’t admit your faults to yourself, you won’t be able to admit them to others. And if you can’t admit them to others, you tend to hide them from yourself.

The ability to be observant is frequently mentioned in the texts but, surprisingly, rarely explained. The few passages that depict its meaning in action point to the capacity to see the connections between your own actions and their results, and to detect subtle levels of suffering and stress in those results. In this way, the ability to be observant is connected to appropriate attention, below, and through appropriate attention to right view.

Heedfulness is the ability not to remain complacent about your attainments. As long as you see that there are still sources of suffering in the mind, you exert yourself to act in whatever way necessary to ward off the dangers to which they could lead.

Urgency (saṁvega) is a sense of chastened dismay over the pointlessness of life as it is ordinarily lived, combined with a sense of urgency to escape from this pointlessness.

Appropriate attention (yoniso manasikāra) is the habit of asking yourself the right questions. On the transcendent level, this means asking questions in terms of the four noble truths and their duties—detecting, say, when there is clinging to a particular aggregate, and investigating how that fact can be comprehended. In the beginning levels, though, appropriate attention means focusing on questions concerning your own actions and their results, looking for ways to reduce the harm and suffering caused by your actions, and avoiding questions that would direct your attention elsewhere. This quality thus works hand in hand with heedfulness, in that both are based on a conviction in the efficacy of action.

Admirable friendship is a quality with a double meaning. On the one hand, it refers to the friends you choose. In particular, you want to look for friends who embody the principles of conviction, virtue, generosity, and discernment. On the other hand, it refers to the quality of the friendship: You try to emulate those qualities in yourself (§42). To aid in emulating these qualities, the Buddha recommends that when you have found a friend who embodies them, you should treat that friend with utmost respect (§43).

The voice of another is rarely mentioned in the Canon, and never explained. As a result, many explanations for the term have been suggested over the centuries. Primarily, it seems to mean the voice of an admirable friend teaching Dhamma, but it could also refer to the voice of a person expressing a view that is not Dhamma: You listen to it with appropriate attention and, in detecting what’s wrong with it, you articulate for yourself what would actually be right view.

These supplementary factors support one another. On the internal level, heedfulness and urgency give a sense of urgency to appropriate attention and to your powers of observation, and inspire you to be truthful; truthfulness allows appropriate attention to be accurate in detecting areas of your actions that still need work; and appropriate attention keeps heedfulness and truthfulness focused on that task at hand, while balancing the terror of urgency with a sense of confidence that there is a way out through developing skill in your actions.

Admirable friendship as an external factor also influences your internal factors. In teaching you generosity, for instance, it helps you to overcome the stinginess that, as §34 notes, can get in the way of right concentration and the higher attainments. In teaching you discernment, it encourages appropriate attention and heedfulness.

The internal factors also play a role in making the external factors possible. Truthfulness is what allows you to detect a person of integrity who could act as an admirable friend (§44), and it—together with the ability to be observant—is what would inspire an admirable friend to develop a friendship with you. Even the Buddha, as an admirable friend, did not want to take on a student who lacked these two qualities.

As these supplementary factors develop, they not only provide the conditions to support the path, but some of them actually develop into path-factors. Appropriate attention and the ability to be observant develop into right view; the ability to be observant combined with truthfulness develops into alertness, one of the sub-factors of right mindfulness; truthfulness develops into right speech; and heedfulness and urgency become two of the motivating factors for generating the desire to engage in right effort.

Two sets of texts from the Canon are especially helpful in showing how these supplementary factors assist one another in giving rise to the path, at the same time showing some further qualities that they engender when developed together. The first set of texts consists of those in which the Buddha tells of his own quest for awakening, when he was still a Bodhisatta—a Buddha-to-be. The second set consists of two connected lines of instructions that the Buddha gave to his son, Rāhula, when the latter was still a young child.

The Buddha’s autobiography. In telling his own story (§§26–30), the Buddha was not motivated by the desire, common at present, to simply tell “what it felt like to be me.” He gives very few details of his personal life, mentioning his luxurious and refined upbringing simply to prove that when he talks of the drawbacks of sensual pleasures, he’s talking from experience. Aside from that detail, he recounts only the events and decisions of universal import. He tells his story as a way of teaching Dhamma that others can apply in their own lives, regardless of race, gender, or cultural or economic background. And the lessons in Dhamma begin with the role that many of the supplementary factors for the path played in his own search for awakening.

His original impulse to seek awakening was inspired by a sense of heedfulness, realizing that he had been complacent in his search for happiness, and that a life devoted to the pursuit of things subject to aging, illness, and death was a life wasted. Later, in reflecting on this realization, he compared the arising of heedfulness to the act of sobering up from an intoxication.

Heedfulness grew to urgency when he reflected on the pointless conflict of life around him. In this way, his movement from heedfulness to urgency parallels the contemplation in §38, where contemplating one’s own mortality gives rise to heedfulness, and contemplating the universality of mortality gives rise to the terror of urgency.

This sense of urgency was followed by a quality that is not given a name in the Buddha’s autobiographical accounts, but which other suttas call confidence (pasāda): the uplifting belief that it is possible, through developing skillfulness, to find a way to the deathless.

The way consisted of applying his powers of observation to his actions, posing questions in terms of appropriate attention, and in being truthful in answering those questions. This quality of truthfulness was particularly dramatic in his decision to abandon his austerities. Even though he had devoted six years to those austerities, enduring extreme hardship, he did not allow his pride to obscure the fact that that path had been a mistake. At the same time, he was able to use the questions of appropriate attention to understand where exactly the austerities were unskillful. As we learn from reading §30 together with SN 42:12, he realized that the problem lay, not in the pain, but in the fact that he had pursued his punishing course to the extent of weakening his body beyond the point where his mind could enter right concentration.

In this way, the Buddha’s autobiographical accounts are an excellent lesson in the power of action, and in how to put his later teachings on action to good use. He frames his search for the deathless as a search for what is skillful. In other words, the very nature of an act of search means that one is convinced of the power of action, and wants to find which actions will help the search succeed. At every step where the Bodhisatta entered a new phase of his search, the impulse to change came from asking himself, in effect, “I am not getting the results I want. Why am I doing this? What if I tried doing that instead?” In some cases, “that” turned out to be a mistake—spectacularly in the case of his austerities. But he never lost his confidence that a skillful way could be found—a lesson that applies to all who follow in his footsteps.

Another lesson that can be drawn from the Bodhisatta’s story is the way he uses the supplementary factors leading to the path so that they reinforce one another. His heedfulness and sense of urgency motivate the truthfulness with which he observes his actions, applying the questions of appropriate attention, which sharpen his heedfulness and force him to be ever more truthful. In fact, these factors become so mutually supportive that they begin to blend into one another and form a seamless whole.

The one supplementary factor missing in the Bodhisatta’s story is that of admirable friendship. In fact, the story shows the drawbacks of not being able to find admirable friends, and of living with people who know nothing of the goal or how to reach it. His two teachers were complacent in teaching no further than the formless concentration attainments. The five brethren who attended to the Bodhisatta during his austerities encouraged him in that direction and abandoned him with disgust right at the point where he actually got on the path.

The Bodhisatta was able to compensate for this lack of admirable friendship by being exactingly truthful in observing his actions, and by developing two strong forms of heedfulness: discontent with skillful actions—i.e., an unwillingness to rest content with anything but the deathless; and the determination to reduce his body to nothing but skin, tendons, and bones if he had not reached the highest goal attainable through human striving (§26). In this way, he discovered the middle way through a level of heedfulness that was anything but moderate. And even though the Buddha later recommended that his followers develop the same degree of heedfulness and determination, their path is considerably lightened by the fact that he survived his search, and succeeded, so that he could act as an admirable friend to give confidence and guidance to all who embark on the noble search in his wake.

The instructions to Rāhula. The role of admirable friendship in promoting the supplementary factors of the path is well illustrated in the Buddha’s instructions to his son when—according to the Commentary—the latter was only seven years old (§45). Of the various supplementary factors we have been discussing, only saṁvega doesn’t enter into the discussion, perhaps because it would have been inappropriate for a child of Rāhula’s age, or perhaps because of Rāhula’s personality in general. The Vinaya (Mv.I.54) tells us that one of the reasons Rāhula ordained as a young novice was that he liked being near his father. The instructions in §45 show how the Buddha made use of this emotional connection to spur Rāhula on the path.

In §45, the Buddha’s most obvious role as admirable friend is as instructor, telling Rāhula how to develop the supplementary factors in practice. In essence, he is showing Rāhula how to develop the qualities that he elsewhere (§31) said he looked for in a student: truthfulness and powers of observation.

The Buddha’s instructions fall into two lines of questioning. The first focuses on the issue of truthfulness, making the point that one’s quality as a contemplative devoted to the training of the mind depends on being truthful, feeling a sense of shame at the idea of telling a lie, and as a result not telling a lie even in jest. This quality of truthfulness then provides the foundation for the second line of questions, which show how to develop one’s powers of observation. Rāhula will have to be truthful to himself in observing his actions—and particularly his mistakes—and truthful to his teacher or another fellow contemplative in asking for counsel when he observes that he has committed a mistake in word or deed.

The Buddha recommends to Rāhula that he sharpen his powers of observation by applying appropriate attention to his actions, beginning with the stage when he is intending to act, then while he is acting, and finally when the action is done. This examination applies to actions in body, speech, and mind. The Buddha recommends heedfulness by warning Rāhula that if, at the stage of intention, he sees that an action would harm himself or others, such an action should absolutely not be done; if, at the stage of performing the act, he sees that it is actually causing harm, he should stop then and there; and if, after the act is done, he sees that it actually caused harm, then if it was an act in word or deed, he should confess it to his teacher or to a fellow contemplative. If it was an act in thought, he should simply develop a sense of shame around the act. In both cases, he should then resolve to exercise restraint in the future—i.e., not to repeat the mistake. However, if, after reflecting on his action, he saw that it caused no harm, he should take joy in the fact—to sustain his confidence both in himself and in the path—and be heedful to continue training in skillful actions, day and night. The element of joy here is important, because it’s what healthy shame and honor are for: to encourage you to taste the benefits of skillful actions. When you’ve tasted this joy for yourself, the standards of the wise become your own.

The reference to a wise friend to whom Rāhula can confess his misdeeds—and possibly ask for advice on how not to repeat them—shows the second role of an admirable friend in developing these supplementary qualities: someone you trust not to condemn you for your mistakes, but to give wise recommendations instead.

As for the primary elements in admirable friendship—an admirable person worth emulating on the one hand, and the desire to emulate him/her on the other—§45 doesn’t portray the Buddha in terms of all the qualities to look for in an admirable friend, but it does show him exemplifying one of them: his discernment. He illustrates his points with vivid similes appropriate to Rāhula’s age, and he manages to impart, in a few brief instructions on how to learn from one’s mistakes, several important Dhamma lessons:

• To begin with, by telling Rāhula to gauge his actions by his intentions, the Buddha is teaching Rāhula a point that he makes elsewhere, that the action lies in the intention (§57). In other words, both skillful actions and unskillful actions are rooted in the mind, rather than in outside conditions. You are responsible for what you choose to do. Even if you try to act without care for the consequences, that doesn’t escape the fact that you intended to act, and the actual consequences of the act will be influenced by the mind-state underlying the intention. Unskillful actions are rooted in greed, aversion, or delusion; skillful actions, in intentions free of those three states of mind (§130).

• By telling Rāhula to gauge his actions not only by his intentions but also by their results, he is making the point that mere well-meaning intentions are not enough to be skillful. Skillfulness requires that they also have to be based on lack of delusion as to their consequences.

• By telling Rāhula to judge the results of his actions both while he is doing them and after they are done, he is preparing Rāhula to grasp the basic principle of causality that lies at the basis of fabrication, which states in essence that experience is comprised of a complex interaction of the results of past actions combined with present actions and their results. (See the discussion of this point in the next chapter.)

• At the same time, the Buddha teaches Rāhula the three qualities that are essential to right mindfulness: mindfulness in keeping in mind at all times the appropriate questions to ask about his actions; alertness in examining his intentions and the results of his actions; and ardency in the desire to keep training day and night in skillful qualities in body, speech, and mind.

The Buddha’s skill and discernment as a teacher is displayed in the way he can convey all these lessons in the way he frames a few brief questions to his son.

As for the motivation to emulate an admirable friend, the Buddha’s instructions to Rāhula highlight an emotion that is poorly understood and rarely appreciated at present: the emotion of shame. This is not the debilitating shame that’s the opposite of self-esteem. Instead, it’s the healthy shame that’s the opposite of shamelessness and accompanies a high sense of personal honor. It’s healthy in that it spurs you to act in a skillful way, and to find joy in being skillful. In this way, the shame the Buddha recommends is a corollary of high rather than low self-esteem. It’s a mark of honor in the best sense of the word.

Honor is, in essence, the sense that one is worthy of respect. Like shame, it begins with the desire to look good in the eyes of others. Now, the Buddha had shown by example that the esteem of others, in general, was nothing to be trusted. In his own search for awakening, he didn’t let himself get waylaid by the praise of his teachers or the criticism of the five brethren. After all, he was following a code of honor different from theirs: He was engaged in the noble search (§17), whose standards were more stringent in aiming at nothing less than the deathless.

After his awakening, though, he realized that the problem with honor lay, not with wanting to look good in the eyes of others, but with wanting to look good in the eyes of the wrong people. A desire for the esteem of unprincipled people can lead you astray, but a desire for the esteem of those who are wise—admirable friends who are engaged in the noble search or have reached its goal—can be a spur to act wisely yourself. After all, without the Buddha as a noble friend, none of his disciples would have known of the path. And, in teaching them the path, the Buddha was training them to become admirable friends as well. In this way, admirable friendship is what keeps the path alive.

This explains why the Buddha often recommended, as a useful motivation along the path, the desire to look good in the eyes of the noble ones. In §61, the famous Kālāma Sutta, he recommends judging actions as to whether they are praised or criticized by the wise. In §217, he tells monks that if they are thinking thoughts of sensuality, ill will, or harmfulness—wrong resolves—they should remember that in the world there are human beings and devas who can read minds, and that such beings would look down on them for thinking those thoughts. This should then spur them to abandon what is unskillful and bring their minds to concentration.

In §216, he makes reference to a custom mentioned often in the Vinaya (see Pārājika 4): When a monk was on his deathbed, his fellow monks would ask him if he had attained any superior human state—the jhānas or the noble attainments—and, if so, to set his mind on that state. The reflection in §216 is meant to provoke a sense of honor and shame as a spur to practice in preparation for this event: “Do I have any such attainment so that I won’t be abashed when asked at that point?” In all these passages, the Buddha recommends developing a desire to look good in the eyes of the wise to foster a sense of shame and honor that will incite the heedfulness needed to make further progress on the path.

In the instructions to Rāhula, the Buddha mentions shame explicitly in two contexts: Rāhula should develop shame at the thought of telling a deliberate lie, and he should develop shame around any unskillful mental actions in which he has engaged. But the issue of honor and shame is also implicit in the analogies the Buddha uses to illustrate his points. This is most obvious in the image of looking in a mirror: People look into mirrors to see how they appear in the eyes of others. In this case, the Buddha tells Rāhula to look at his actions in the same way. In other words, Rāhula should be concerned, not with how his face appears to others, but with how his actions look to the wise, for that is how the wise will judge him: by the extent to which, in his thoughts, words, and deeds, he tries to avoid afflicting others as well as himself.

The image of the empty dipper expands on this point. If Rāhula tells a deliberate lie with no sense of shame, this is how he looks to the wise: empty, hollow, with his goodness thrown away.

Even the image of the elephant is a lesson in honor—in the Buddha’s sense of the word. At first glance, it might seem that the elephant who doesn’t protect his trunk and has given his life to the king would be a positive image. After all, that’s what a king would want in an elephant, and it exemplifies the kind of behavior that’s often viewed as honorable in warrior cultures. But the Buddha actually presents the image in a negative light: The elephant’s willingness to risk its trunk is a sign of its servility to the king. In this way, the Buddha is telling Rāhula that being heedful to protect his truthfulness—in the same way that the other elephant protects his trunk—is a point of genuine honor: a sign that he is a servant to no one, neither to anyone outside nor to defilements inside.

This inversion of the old military sense of honor is echoed in the Buddha’s comment (§185) that better than victory in battle over a thousand-thousand men is victory over one person: yourself. It is also echoed in the story of Sakka’s gaining victory over Vepacitti by recommending restraint, rather than the use of force, in dealing with a fool (§186).

By prefacing his remarks on shame and honor with the principle of truthfulness, the Buddha is heading off a potential conflict between the two ideals. There might have been the danger, if Rāhula hoped to look good in the eyes of the wise, that he would not want them to see his mistakes. But given the importance of truthfulness, the Buddha is making the point that making a mistake is less shameful than making a mistake and then trying to hide it. The honorable course—and the course that leads to progress on the path—is to be open about your mistakes, both to others and to yourself. That’s how you can learn.

At the same time, the Buddha shows Rāhula that the purpose of telling the wise about his mistakes was not simply to hear their judgment of what he had done wrong, but also to get their advice on how to get it right the next time around. This means that the wise are to be known not only by the standards by which they judge your actions, but also by their motivation for judging them: to help you become more skillful in the future. This is how they express their genuine goodwill: not in trying to make you feel good about your errors, but in helping you learn how not to repeat them. That way, you’ll be able to taste the joy that comes with knowing that your actions are harmless—a joy that goes deeper than mere self-acceptance, and that allows your integrity to become more self-reliant. Your need to look good in the eyes of the wise lessens as your own eyes become more and more wise.

As we will see when we discuss the factors of the noble eightfold path in detail, the standards by which the wise judge your actions relate to right view, and their purpose in judging relates to right resolve. As you internalize their values, you develop in these two path-factors as well.

The Buddha’s instructions in training Rāhula to be the kind of student he wanted eventually bore fruit: Instead of taking pride in the fact that he was the Buddha’s son, Rāhula showed a willingness to learn from all the monks. And after he gained awakening, the Buddha extolled him for being foremost among the monks in his desire for training. Of course, Rāhula at that point had no need for the Buddha’s praise, as he had already found a deathless happiness that was beyond the reach of other people’s respect. Instead, the Buddha was praising Rāhula for the sake of posterity, to show that shame and honor can be useful tools on the path.

So in the Buddha’s first instructions to Rāhula, we see how admirable friendship as an external factor fosters the internal factors needed both for getting onto the path and for staying there all the way to the end. These instructions are also distinctive in highlighting the uses of a healthy sense of shame and honor: qualities that not only serve as supplementary factors in getting onto the path, but also help to internalize the factors of right view and right resolve. And as we will see in Chapter 8, they are useful attitudes for generating the desire needed to engage in right effort. In this way, they function as part of the cluster of interacting qualities that give rise to the path and nurture its continuing development.

The path-factors & their relationships. Once these supplementary factors reach sufficient strength, they give rise to the proper factors of the path. As noted above, in some cases the supplementary factors blend into the path-factors themselves as, for example, appropriate attention becomes right view, heedfulness, shame, and urgency become part of right effort, and powers of observation become alertness under right mindfulness. At the same time, the dynamic among the supplementary factors—in which they are mutually reinforcing to the point of shading into one another—repeats among the path-factors themselves.

This point is not apparent from the standard exposition of the path-factors, which simply lists them, one through eight, or in the suttas setting forth a simple linear progression among the arising of the factors, with right view leading to right resolve, right resolve to right speech, and so on down the line to right concentration (§47). However, there are many other suttas that, in the course of discussing the path-factors, either show alternative relationships among them or raise questions that the standard linear exposition can’t explain. Four issues, in particular, stand out:

1) Some suttas show that many of the factors, instead of leading directly to awakening, can lead simply to a good rebirth. Thus, instead of acting as transcendent kamma—neither bright nor dark, in the terms of §58—they function as bright kamma: leading to happiness on the mundane level in this life and the next. One prominent instance is the standard description of the Buddha’s second knowledge on the night of his awakening, where he sees beings who act on right view gaining rebirth in good destinations (§30), rather than being unbound. Another passage is §309, which describes a person who has developed a peaceful awareness release, equivalent to right concentration, but doesn’t have enough right effort or right view to work further to end the ignorance that underlies all suffering. A simple, linear understanding of the path-factors, in which one factor automatically leads to the succeeding factors, can’t explain passages like these.

2) Similarly, there are other explanations of the path in which the factors occur in a different order. Prominent among these are the Dhamma talks that the Buddha gave on the triple training in the last year of his life (§51), in which he states that concentration fostered with virtue has great fruit and great rewards, as does discernment fostered with concentration. This puts the factors in this order: virtue (right speech, right action, and right livelihood), concentration (right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration), and discernment (right view and right resolve) (§50).

This divergence from the list of factors in the standard description of the noble eightfold path, where right view and right resolve come first, can be explained by passages that insist on a mutually reinforcing relationship among the factors, saying, for example, that jhāna needs discernment just as discernment needs jhāna (§53), or that discernment and virtue need each other in order to be purified (§52). In other words, all the factors start out weak, but support one another until they all reach enough strength to lead to awakening. This is an explanation that the Buddha himself suggests by the image of the rafters of a roof being unstable until they are firmly connected by the ridge beam of discernment (SN 48:52). This explanation makes perfect practical sense, but no strict linear understanding of the factors could provide it.

3) There is also the question of how, if the factors have to arise in linear order, a person could gain awakening on listening to a Dhamma talk. There would be no opportunity for such a person to practice right speech or right livelihood, and not enough time to master right concentration, if none of these factors could exist without the right view that he or she gained on listening to the talk.

4) Finally, there is the question raised by §319, which states that the noble eightfold path is identical to the stream of stream-entry, which is the first level of awakening. If this is the case, then how does a stream-enterer’s path differ from that of a person who reaches full awakening as an arahant? An explanation that limits the path-factors to eight cannot answer this question.

MN 117 (§48) provides an alternative explanation of the path-factors, however, that addresses many of these issues, giving some sense of the complexity of the relationships among the factors of the path. In fact, the picture it presents is so complex that it’s easy to understand why the Buddha presented the factors more frequently in simple linear order. The simpler exposition is easier to memorize and understand; the more complex exposition then builds on the simpler exposition to present a more nuanced portrait of the practice. Even then, though, the picture provided by MN 117 is incomplete, in that it sketches an outline that it doesn’t completely fill in. Still, it provides enough information to give a more practical sense of what the path involves, at the same time offering some resolution to the above four questions.

1) To address the issue of the mundane and transcendent results of the path-factors, it divides each of the first five factors into two versions: mundane on the one hand, and noble and transcendent on the other. In the case of right resolve, right speech, right action, and right livelihood, the definition of the mundane factor is identical with the definition of that factor in the standard list (§46). At the same time, only right resolve among these factors is given a transcendent/noble version that differs appreciably from its standard definition, a point that we will discuss under question (2), below. For the other factors, the transcendent/noble version simply states that once the path as a whole becomes transcendent, these factors become transcendent as well.

In the case of right view, though, the standard definition becomes the transcendent/noble level of right view, whereas the mundane level of right view consists of right view about kamma and rebirth.

This way of recasting the factors helps to explain why the path-factors lead to mundane results in some instances, and to transcendent results in others. The deciding factor in this difference is right view. If concentration, for instance, is developed under the influence of mundane right view, the results will be mundane; if under the influence of transcendent right view, the results will be transcendent. This point is not explicitly made in MN 117, which simply defines noble right concentration as any singleness of mind equipped with the seven other factors of the path. This definition suggests, but does not state outright, that right concentration will be mundane if the other factors are mundane, and transcendent if they are transcendent.

This suggestion is made somewhat more explicit by the Canon’s only other reference to noble right concentration, in AN 5:28 (§296). That sutta’s explanation of noble right concentration gives it a fifth factor in addition to the four jhānas, illustrating the fifth factor with a simile indicating that it involves backing away slightly from the concentration and observing it. AN 9:36 (§312) fleshes out the meaning of this simile by showing that the process of observation has to involve appropriate attention. In other words, you apply right view to comprehend the component factors of the concentration. AN 5:28 then concludes that when this process is mastered, concentration will lead to release. This means that if the terms of appropriate attention in that fifth factor deal in transcendent right view, the concentration will have a transcendent result.

2) To address the issue of the interrelationship among the factors, MN 117 makes two points. (a) Each right factor depends on a combination of three other factors “circling around” it: right view, right mindfulness, and right effort. Right view knows the right and wrong versions of the factor; right mindfulness—in contrast to the popular understanding of mindfulness as non-reactive acceptance—remembers to abandon the wrong version of the factor and to develop the right; and right effort actually does the work of doing what right mindfulness reminds it to do. In this way, every factor contains a cluster of other factors helping it along, and the image of “circling” suggests a feedback loop, in which the work of right effort helps to develop right view and raise it to a higher level.

(b) The transcendent version of right resolve is defined in such a way as to equate it with the first jhāna: For instance, the “verbal fabrications” listed in the definition are the factors of directed thought and evaluation present in the first jhāna. This interpretation is seconded by §164, which states that the first jhāna is where unskillful resolves cease without trace; and that the second jhāna, in which directed thought and evaluation are stilled, brings about the cessation of even skillful resolves. In this way, right resolve, which is one of the discernment factors, becomes part of right concentration, and vice versa. Their mutual support becomes so thoroughgoing that the line between them gets erased.

So these are two of the ways in which MN 117 portrays the interrelationships among the factors of the path to indicate that they need one another to develop fully.

3) The distinction between mundane and transcendent factors of the path also provides an explanation for why a person can gain awakening by listening to a Dhamma talk, for they show that it’s possible for people to have developed a mundane version of all the factors while lacking simply the transcendent versions of the discernment factors. Once these people learn transcendent right view, their minds will enter the first jhāna and—because the other factors have all been developed—reach awakening.

4) MN 117 goes on to state that, whereas the path of the stream-enterer has eight factors, the path of the arahant has ten: The two additional factors are right knowledge and right release. Unfortunately, the sutta doesn’t define those two added factors, and the testimony from the rest of the Canon on these factors is sketchy. Perhaps the Buddha felt that once stream-entry was attained, the disciple would now know the path and be able to develop it for him- or herself in a way that produces the remaining two factors, as he suggests at the end of MN 117.

So MN 117 provides answers for many of the questions that other suttas in the Canon raise about the standard exposition of the path. Still, there are some areas where its explanations need further fleshing out, and a few important points about the path, as reported in other suttas, that it doesn’t touch on at all.

• Although it clearly defines the wrong version of each of the first five factors of the path, it doesn’t provide definitions of the wrong versions of the remaining three.

• Even though it provides an explanation of the reciprocal relationship among the factors, it only suggests that right view has something to learn from the other factors, without clearly stating that this is so. In fact, in line with the standard linear description of the path, it keeps repeating the point that right view comes first. This means that MN 117 doesn’t fully make room for other versions of the practice—as outlined, for example, in the triple training or the five faculties—where discernment comes after all the other factors of the path.

• Although it clearly defines the mundane and transcendent/noble versions of right view and right resolve, it doesn’t show the dynamic of how the mundane level leads to the transcendent level of each factor.

• At the same time, it doesn’t provide an explanation for the handful of sutta passages indicating a level of right view that goes beyond transcendent right view on the verge of awakening when—given that even transcendent right view is fabricated—the mind executes a turn where it lets go of right view and all the other factors of the path to reach the unfabricated.

Of course, it’s too much to expect any one sutta to provide a complete picture of the path. This is partly because there is only so much that can be said about the path, and far more that can be learned only by putting the path into practice. Even what can be said is far too extensive for any one sutta to cover it all. As the Buddha said in MN 12, even if he were questioned for 100 years just on the topic of right mindfulness, he wouldn’t come to the end of the topic—and that’s only one factor out of eight.

Still, there are other passages in the Canon—both in the suttas and in the Vinaya, or disciplinary rules—that help to explain the above four points, providing a detailed overview of the path that will provide added help in practice.

It’s for these reasons that I have gathered these extra passages in this book. The following chapters will cover each path-factor in turn, followed by a chapter on the fruits of the path. Each chapter dealing with the path-factors will include passages from the Canon that not only flesh out the definition of the path-factor, but also:

—define the wrong version of the factor, where such passages exist;

—show what that factor has to learn from the other factors—and in particular, from right view—and how putting the factor into practice gives lessons to the other factors, including right view, helping them to advance to the transcendent level and beyond; and

—show what happens to the factor as the path approaches the point where it is so fully developed that it has to be abandoned in favor of the unfabricated.

In addition, for the factors of right view and right resolve, I will also include passages indicating how to reflect and behave in such a way as to progress from their mundane to their transcendent levels, and then from the transcendent levels to the stage where they are so fully developed that they can be abandoned as a last step in reaching the goal.

To provide a framework for understanding the passages, each chapter will begin with a discussion of the major themes surrounding the topic of the chapter. These discussions will also provide recommendations for how to read and understand some of the more obscure Canonical passages included there. Although these introductory discussions will focus primarily on the passages in the chapters they preface, they will also draw on passages from other chapters, as a way of showing how the different path-factors are interrelated.

In discussing the interrelationships among the path-factors, the emphasis will be on the role of fabrication. On the one hand, this means pointing out the lessons that each factor receives about fabrication from right view. On the other, it means pointing out the practical lessons on the process of fabrication that the development of each factor offers to all the other factors—and in particular to right view, helping it to develop through all of its three levels: mundane, transcendent, and beyond.

This emphasis on fabrication as a key to the interconnected arising of the eight factors serves two purposes. One, in terms of interconnection, it shows how, in trying to skillfully fabricate a particular factor, you don’t have to look at only the preceding factors on the path for help. Lessons can come from any direction, whether earlier or later in the standard description of the path.

Two, in terms of fabrication, the complex interrelationships among the factors illustrate the complex causal pattern that the Buddha says underlies all action, both on the external and internal levels. Although some people have complained about the complexity of the pattern, the act of trying to develop the path is where an understanding of the pattern shows its real utility. It’s because of the complexity of action that the path can arise and be developed in the first place; and it’s also because of the complexity of action that a fabricated path can become a noble path, by coming together in a fully developed form that leads to a noble, unfabricated goal.

Readings

The Discovery of the Path

§ 26. “Monks, I have known two dhammas through experience: discontent with regard to skillful dhammas and unrelenting exertion. Relentlessly I exerted myself, (thinking,) ‘Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.’ From this heedfulness of mine was attained awakening. From this heedfulness of mine was attained the unexcelled freedom from bondage.” — AN 2:5

§ 27. “Monks, I lived in refinement, utmost refinement, total refinement. My father even had lotus ponds made in our palace: one where red-lotuses bloomed, one where white lotuses bloomed, one where blue lotuses bloomed, all for my sake. I used no sandalwood that was not from Vārāṇasī. My turban was from Vārāṇasī, as were my tunic, my lower garments, & my outer cloak. A white sunshade was held over me day & night to protect me from cold, heat, dust, dirt, & dew.

“I had three palaces: one for the cold season, one for the hot season, one for the rainy season. During the four months of the rainy season I was entertained in the rainy-season palace by minstrels without a single man among them, and I did not once come down from the palace. Whereas the servants, workers, & retainers in other people’s homes are fed meals of lentil soup & broken rice, in my father’s home the servants, workers, & retainers were fed wheat, rice, & meat.

“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me: ‘When an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to aging, not beyond aging, sees another who is aged, he is repelled, ashamed, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to aging, not beyond aging. If I—who am subject to aging, not beyond aging—were to be repelled, ashamed, & disgusted on seeing another person who is aged, that would not be fitting for me.’ As I noticed this, the (typical) young person’s intoxication with youth entirely dropped away.

“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me: ‘When an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to illness, not beyond illness, sees another who is ill, he is repelled, ashamed, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to illness, not beyond illness. And if I—who am subject to illness, not beyond illness—were to be repelled, ashamed, & disgusted on seeing another person who is ill, that would not be fitting for me.’ As I noticed this, the healthy person’s intoxication with health entirely dropped away.

“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me: ‘When an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to death, not beyond death, sees another who is dead, he is repelled, ashamed, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to death, not beyond death. And if I—who am subject to death, not beyond death—were to be repelled, ashamed, & disgusted on seeing another person who is dead, that would not be fitting for me.’ As I noticed this, the living person’s intoxication with life entirely dropped away.” — AN 3:39

§ 28. Look at people in strife.

I will tell how

I experienced

terror:

Seeing people floundering

like fish in small puddles,

competing with one another—

as I saw this,

fear came into me.

The world was entirely

without substance.

All the directions

were knocked out of line.

Wanting a haven for myself,

I saw nothing that wasn’t laid claim to.

Seeing nothing in the end

but competition,

I felt discontent. — Sn 4:15

§ 29. “I, too, monks, before my self-awakening, when I was still just an unawakened Bodhisatta, being subject myself to birth, sought what was likewise subject to birth. Being subject myself to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, sought (happiness in) what was likewise subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement. The thought occurred to me, ‘Why do I, being subject myself to birth, seek what is likewise subject to birth? Being subject myself to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, why do I seek what is likewise subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement? What if I, being subject myself to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, were to seek the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke: unbinding? What if I, being subject myself to aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging… illness… death… sorrow… defilement, were to seek the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less, unexcelled rest from the yoke: unbinding?’

“So, at a later time, while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life—and while my parents, unwilling, were crying with tears streaming down their faces—I shaved off my hair & beard, put on the ochre robe, and went forth from the home life into homelessness.

“Having thus gone forth in search of what might be skillful, seeking the unexcelled state of sublime peace, I went to Āḷāra Kālāma and, on arrival, said to him: ‘Friend Kālāma, I want to practice in this Dhamma & discipline.’

“When this was said, he replied to me, ‘You may stay here, my friend. This Dhamma is such that an observant person can soon enter & dwell in his own teacher’s knowledge, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.’

“It was not long before I quickly learned that Dhamma. As far as mere lip-reciting & repetition, I could speak the words of knowledge, the words of the elders, and I could affirm that I knew & saw—I, along with others.

“I thought: ‘It isn’t through mere conviction alone that Āḷāra Kālāma declares, “I have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge.” Certainly he dwells knowing & seeing this Dhamma.’ So I went to him and said, ‘To what extent do you declare that you have entered & dwell in this Dhamma?’ When this was said, he declared the dimension of nothingness.

“I thought: ‘Not only does Āḷāra Kālāma have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, & discernment. I, too, have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, & discernment. What if I were to endeavor to realize for myself the Dhamma that Āḷāra Kālāma declares he has entered & dwells in, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.’ So it was not long before I quickly entered & dwelled in that Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge. I went to him and said, ‘Friend Kālāma, is this the extent to which you have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge?’

“‘Yes, my friend.…’

“‘This, friend, is the extent to which I, too, have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge.’

“‘It is a gain for us, my friend, a great gain for us, that we have such a companion in the holy life. So the Dhamma I declare I have entered & dwell in, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge, is the Dhamma you declare you have entered & dwell in, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge. And the Dhamma you declare you have entered & dwell in, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge, is the Dhamma I declare I have entered & dwell in, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge. The Dhamma I know is the Dhamma you know; the Dhamma you know is the Dhamma I know. As I am, so are you; as you are, so am I. Come friend, let us now lead this community together.’

“In this way did Āḷāra Kālāma, my teacher, place me, his pupil, on the same level with himself and pay me great honor. But the thought occurred to me, ‘This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, nor to unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.’ So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.”

[The Bodhisatta then went to study with Uddaka Rāmaputta, who taught the next higher level of formless concentration: the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. The Bodhisatta attained that level of concentration, and Uddaka offered him the sole position as teacher. But again, seeing that the this attainment was not the deathless, the Bodhisatta left.] — MN 26

§ 30. “In search of what might be skillful, seeking the unexcelled state of sublime peace, I wandered by stages in the Magadhan country and came to the military town of Uruvelā. There I saw some delightful countryside, with an inspiring forest grove, a clear-flowing river with fine, delightful banks, and villages for alms-going on all sides. The thought occurred to me: ‘How delightful is this countryside, with its inspiring forest grove, clear-flowing river with fine, delightful banks, and villages for alms-going on all sides. This is just right for the striving of a clansman intent on striving.’ So I sat down right there, thinking, ‘This is just right for striving.’

“Then these three similes—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me. Suppose there were a wet, sappy piece of timber lying in the water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll produce fire. I’ll make heat appear.’ Now what do you think? Would he be able to produce fire and make heat appear by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the wet, sappy timber lying in the water?”

“No, Master Gotama. Why is that? Because the timber is wet & sappy, and besides it is lying in the water. Eventually the man would reap only his share of weariness & disappointment.”

“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who does not live withdrawn from sensuality in body & mind, and whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, & fever for sensuality is not relinquished & stilled within him: Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving (for awakening), he is incapable of knowledge, vision, & unexcelled self-awakening. This was the first simile—spontaneous, never before heard—that appeared to me.

“Then a second simile—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me. Suppose there were a wet, sappy piece of timber lying on land far from water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll produce fire. I’ll make heat appear.’ Now what do you think? Would he be able to produce fire and make heat appear by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the wet, sappy timber lying on land far from water?”

“No, Master Gotama. Why is that? Because the timber is wet & sappy, even though it is lying on land far from water. Eventually the man would reap only his share of weariness & disappointment.”

“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who lives withdrawn from sensuality in body only, but whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, & fever for sensuality is not relinquished & stilled within him: Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving, he is incapable of knowledge, vision, & unexcelled self-awakening. This was the second simile—spontaneous, never before heard—that appeared to me.

“Then a third simile—spontaneous, never before heard—appeared to me. Suppose there were a dry, sapless piece of timber lying on land far from water, and a man were to come along with an upper fire-stick, thinking, ‘I’ll produce fire. I’ll make heat appear.’ Now what do you think? Would he be able to produce fire and make heat appear by rubbing the upper fire-stick in the dry, sapless timber lying on land?”

“Yes, Master Gotama. Why is that? Because the timber is dry & sapless, and besides it is lying on land far from water.”

“So it is with any contemplative or brahman who lives withdrawn from sensuality in body & mind, and whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, & fever for sensuality is relinquished & stilled within him: Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving, he is capable of knowledge, vision, & unexcelled self-awakening. This was the third simile—spontaneous, never before heard—that appeared to me.

“I thought: ‘What if I, clenching my teeth and pressing my tongue against the roof of my mouth, were to beat down, constrain, & crush my mind with my awareness?’ So, clenching my teeth and pressing my tongue against the roof of my mouth, I beat down, constrained, & crushed my mind with my awareness. Just as a strong man, seizing a weaker man by the head or the throat or the shoulders, would beat him down, constrain, & crush him, in the same way I beat down, constrained, & crushed my mind with my awareness. As I did so, sweat poured from my armpits. And although tireless persistence was aroused in me, and unmuddled mindfulness established, my body was aroused & uncalm because of the painful exertion. But the painful feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“I thought: ‘What if I were to become absorbed in the trance of non-breathing?’ So I stopped the in-breaths & out-breaths in my nose & mouth. As I did so, there was a loud roaring of winds coming out my earholes, just like the loud roar of winds coming out of a smith’s bellows.… So I stopped the in-breaths & out-breaths in my nose & mouth & ears. As I did so, extreme forces sliced through my head, just as if a strong man were slicing my head open with a sharp sword.… Extreme pains arose in my head, just as if a strong man were tightening a turban made of tough leather straps around my head.… Extreme forces carved up my stomach cavity, just as if a butcher or his apprentice were to carve up the stomach cavity of an ox.… There was an extreme burning in my body, just as if two strong men, grabbing a weaker man by the arms, were to roast & broil him over a pit of hot embers. And although tireless persistence was aroused in me, and unmuddled mindfulness established, my body was aroused & uncalm because of the painful exertion. But the painful feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“Devas, on seeing me, said, ‘Gotama the contemplative is dead.’ Other devas said, ‘He isn’t dead, he’s dying.’ Others said, ‘He’s neither dead nor dying, he’s an arahant, for this is the way arahants live.’

“I thought: ‘What if I were to practice going altogether without food?’ Then devas came to me and said, ‘Dear sir, please don’t practice going altogether without food. If you go altogether without food, we’ll infuse divine nourishment in through your pores, and you will survive on that.’ I thought, ‘If I were to claim to be completely fasting while these devas are infusing divine nourishment in through my pores, I would be lying.’ So I dismissed them, saying, ‘Enough.’

“I thought: ‘What if I were to take only a little food at a time, only a handful at a time of bean soup, lentil soup, vetch soup, or pea soup?’ So I took only a little food at a time, only a handful at a time of bean soup, lentil soup, vetch soup, or pea soup. My body became extremely emaciated. Simply from my eating so little, my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems.… My backside became like a camel’s hoof.… My spine stood out like a string of beads.… My ribs jutted out like the jutting rafters of an old, run-down barn.… The gleam of my eyes appeared to be sunk deep in my eye sockets like the gleam of water deep in a well.… My scalp shriveled & withered like a green bitter gourd, shriveled & withered in the heat & the wind.… The skin of my belly became so stuck to my spine that when I thought of touching my belly, I grabbed hold of my spine as well; and when I thought of touching my spine, I grabbed hold of the skin of my belly as well.… If I urinated or defecated, I fell over on my face right there.… Simply from my eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair—rotted at its roots—fell from my body as I rubbed, simply from eating so little.

“People on seeing me would say, ‘Gotama the contemplative is black. Other people would say, ‘Gotama the contemplative isn’t black, he’s brown.’ Others would say, ‘Gotama the contemplative is neither black nor brown, he’s golden-skinned.’ So much had the clear, bright color of my skin deteriorated, simply from eating so little.

“I thought: ‘Whatever contemplatives or brahmans in the past have felt painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost. None have been greater than this. Whatever contemplatives or brahmans in the future will feel painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost. None will be greater than this. Whatever contemplatives or brahmans in the present are feeling painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost. None is greater than this. But with this racking practice of austerities I haven’t attained any superior human state, any distinction in knowledge or vision worthy of the noble ones. Could there be another path to awakening?’

“I thought: ‘I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—I entered & remained in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to awakening?’ Then there was the consciousness following on that memory [sat’anusari-viññāṇa]: ‘That is the path to awakening.’ I thought: ‘So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful dhammas?’ I thought: ‘I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful dhammas, but that pleasure is not easy to achieve with a body so extremely emaciated. Suppose I were to take some solid food: some rice & porridge.’ So I took some solid food: some rice & porridge. Now, five monks had been attending on me, thinking, ‘If Gotama, our contemplative, achieves some higher state, he will tell us.’ But when they saw me taking some solid food—some rice & porridge—they were disgusted and left me, thinking, ‘Gotama the contemplative is living luxuriously. He has abandoned his exertion and is backsliding into abundance.’

“So when I had taken solid food and regained strength, then—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas, I entered & remained in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, I entered & remained in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain. With the fading of rapture I remained in equanimity, mindful & alert, and sensed pleasure with the body. I entered & remained in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain. With the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of joy & distress—I entered & remained in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two… five, ten… fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion: ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.’ Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details.

“This was the first knowledge I attained in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings. I saw—by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human—beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: ‘These beings—who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell. But these beings—who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views—with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in a good destinations, a heavenly world.’ Thus—by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human—I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

“This was the second knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of effluents. I discerned, as it had come to be, that ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress… These are effluents… This is the origination of effluents… This is the cessation of effluents… This is the way leading to the cessation of effluents.’ My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the effluent of sensuality, released from the effluent of becoming, released from the effluent of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, ‘Released.’ I discerned that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.

“This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose—as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.’” — MN 36

Supplementary Factors

§ 31. “Let an observant person come—one who is not fraudulent, not deceitful, one of a straightforward nature. I instruct him. I teach him the Dhamma. Practicing as instructed, he in no long time knows for himself, sees for himself: ‘So this is how there is the right liberation from bondage, i.e., the bondage of ignorance.’” — MN 80 [See also §45.]

§ 32. “Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of wrong view. Which two? The voice of another and inappropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of wrong view.”

“Monks, there are these two conditions for the arising of right view. Which two? The voice of another and appropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of right view.” — AN 2:123–124

§ 33. “Monks, when right view is supported by five factors, it has awareness-release as its fruit, awareness-release as its reward; has discernment-release as its fruit, discernment-release as its reward. Which five?

“There is the case where right view is supported by virtue, supported by learning, supported by discussion, supported by tranquility, supported by insight.

“When supported by these five factors, right view has awareness-release as its fruit, awareness-release as its reward; has discernment-release as its fruit, discernment-release as its reward.” — AN 5:25

§ 34. “Without abandoning these five dhammas, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhāna… the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna; incapable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry… the fruit of once-returning… the fruit of non-returning… arahantship. Which five? Stinginess as to one’s monastery (lodgings)… one’s family (of supporters)… one’s gains… one’s status, and stinginess as to the Dhamma. Without abandoning these five dhammas, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna; one is incapable realizing the fruit of stream-entry… the fruit of once-returning… the fruit of non-returning… arahantship.

“With the abandoning of these five dhammas, one is capable of entering & remaining in the first jhāna… the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna; capable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry… the fruit of once-returning… the fruit of non-returning… arahantship. Which five? Stinginess as to one’s monastery (lodgings)… one’s family (of supporters)… one’s gains… one’s status, and stinginess as to the Dhamma. With the abandoning of these five dhammas, one is capable of entering & remaining in the second jhāna… the third jhāna… the fourth jhāna; capable realizing the fruit of stream-entry… the fruit of once-returning… the fruit of non-returning… arahantship.” — AN 5:256–257

§ 35. “Monks, this is the forerunner, the harbinger of the rising of the sun, i.e., dawnrise. In the same way, this is the forerunner, the harbinger of the arising of the noble eightfold path in a monk, i.e., admirable friendship. It can be expected of a monk who has an admirable friend that he will develop the noble eightfold path, that he will pursue the noble eightfold path.…

“Monks, this is the forerunner, the harbinger of the rising of the sun, i.e., dawnrise. In the same way, this is the forerunner, the harbinger of the arising of the noble eightfold path in a monk, i.e., virtue-consummation… desire-consummation… self-consummation [according to the Commentary, this means being consummate in the training of the mind]… view-consummation… heedfulness-consummation… appropriate attention. It can be expected of a monk who has appropriate attention that he will develop the noble eightfold path, that he will pursue the noble eightfold path.” — SN 45:56–62

§ 36. Heedfulness. “Just as the footprints of all legged animals are encompassed by the footprint of the elephant, and the elephant’s footprint is reckoned the foremost among them in terms of size; in the same way, all skillful dhammas are rooted in heedfulness, converge in heedfulness, and heedfulness is reckoned the foremost among them.” — AN 10:15

§ 37. Heedfulness:

the path to the Deathless.

Heedlessness:

the path to death.

The heedful do not die.

The heedless are as if

already dead.

Knowing this as a true distinction,

those wise

in heedfulness

rejoice

in heedfulness,

enjoying the range of the noble ones. — Dhp 21–22

§ 38. “There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

“‘I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.’ This is the first fact that one should reflect on often.…

“‘I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.’ …

“‘I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.’ …

“‘I will grow different, separate from all that is dear & appealing to me.’ …

“‘I am the owner of my actions [kamma], heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.’ …

“These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging’? There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] youth’s intoxication with youth. Because of that intoxication with youth, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that youth’s intoxication with youth will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.…

“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness’? There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] healthy person’s intoxication with health. Because of that intoxication with health, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that healthy person’s intoxication with health will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.…

“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death’? There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] living person’s intoxication with life. Because of that intoxication with life, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that living person’s intoxication with life will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.…

“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I will grow different, separate from all that is dear & appealing to me’? There are beings who feel desire & passion for the things they find dear & appealing. Because of that passion, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that desire & passion for the things they find dear & appealing will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.…

“Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect… that ‘I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir’? There are beings who conduct themselves in a bad way in body…in speech…and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that bad conduct in body, speech, & mind will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker.…

“Now, a disciple of the noble ones considers this: ’I am not the only one subject to aging, who has not gone beyond aging. To the extent that there are beings—past & future, passing away & re-arising—all beings are subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.’ When he/she often reflects on this, the path takes birth. He/she sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it. As he/she sticks with that path, develops it, & cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the obsessions destroyed.

“And further, a disciple of the noble ones considers this: ‘I am not the only one subject to illness, who has not gone beyond illness’.… ‘I am not the only one subject to death, who has not gone beyond death’.… ‘I am not the only one who will grow different, separate from all that is dear & appealing to me’.…

“And further, a disciple of the noble ones considers this: “I am not the only one who is owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, who has my actions as my arbitrator; who—whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir. To the extent that there are beings—past & future, passing away & re-arising—all beings are owner of their actions, heir to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and have their actions as their arbitrator. Whatever they do, for good or for evil, to that will they fall heir.’ When he/she often reflects on this, the path takes birth. He/she sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it. As he/she sticks with that path, develops it, & cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the obsessions destroyed.” — AN 5:57

§ 39. Appropriate attention. “With regard to internal factors, I don’t envision any other single factor like appropriate attention as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the heart’s goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from the yoke. A monk who attends appropriately abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful.” — Iti 16 [See also §229, under Right Effort; and §269, under Right Mindfulness.]

§ 40. Admirable friendship. “With regard to external factors, I don’t envision any other single factor like friendship with admirable people as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the heart’s goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from the yoke. A monk who is a friend with admirable people abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful.” — Iti 17

§ 41. As he was seated to one side, Ven. Ānanda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues.”

“Don’t say that, Ānanda. Don’t say that. Having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

“And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path? There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops right resolve… right speech… right action… right livelihood… right effort… right mindfulness… right concentration dependent on seclusion… dispassion… cessation, resulting in letting go. This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the noble eightfold path.

“And through this line of reasoning one may know how having admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.” — SN 45:2

§ 42. “And what does it mean to have admirable people as friends? There is the case where a layperson, in whatever town or village he may dwell, associates with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are consummate in conviction, consummate in virtue, consummate in generosity, consummate in discernment. He talks with them, engages them in discussions. He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment. This is called having admirable people as friends.…

“And what does it mean to be consummate in conviction? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones has conviction, is convinced of the Tathāgata’s awakening: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the cosmos, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of devas & human beings, awakened, blessed.’ This is called being consummate in conviction.

“And what does it mean to be consummate in virtue? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking life, abstains from stealing, abstains from sexual misconduct, abstains from lying, abstains from taking intoxicants that cause heedlessness. This is called being consummate in virtue.

“And what does it mean to be consummate in generosity? There is the case of a disciple of the noble ones, his awareness cleansed of the stain of miserliness, living at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms. This is called being consummate in generosity.

“And what does it mean to be consummate in discernment? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising and passing away—noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress. This is called being consummate in discernment.” — AN 8:54

§ 43. “For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher’s message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this: ‘The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I.’ For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher’s message & lives to penetrate it, the Teacher’s message is healing & nourishing. For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher’s message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this: ‘Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.’ For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher’s message & lives to penetrate it, one of two fruits can be expected: either gnosis here-&-now, or—if there be any remnant of clinging/sustenance—non-return.” — MN 70

§ 44. “Monks, could a person of no integrity know of a person of no integrity: ‘This is a person of no integrity’?”

“No, lord.”

“Good, monks. It’s impossible, there’s no way, that a person of no integrity would know of a person of no integrity: ‘This is a person of no integrity.’

“Could a person of no integrity know of a person of integrity: ‘This is a person of integrity’?”

“No, lord.”

“Good, monks. It’s impossible, there’s no way, that a person of no integrity would know of a person of integrity: ‘This is a person of integrity.’

“A person of no integrity is endowed with dhammas of no integrity; he is a person of no integrity in his friendship, in the way he wills, the way he gives advice, the way he speaks, the way he acts, the views he holds, & the way he gives a gift.

“And how is a person of no integrity endowed with dhammas of no integrity? There is the case where a person of no integrity is lacking in conviction, lacking in shame, lacking in compunction; he is unlearned, lazy, of muddled mindfulness, & poor discernment. This is how a person of no integrity is endowed with dhammas of no integrity.”

“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in his friendship? There is the case where a person of no integrity has, as his friends & companions, those contemplatives & brahmans who are lacking in conviction, lacking in shame, lacking in compunction, unlearned, lazy, of muddled mindfulness, & poor discernment. This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in his friendship.

“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he wills? There is the case where a person of no integrity wills for his own affliction, or for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both. This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he wills.

“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he gives advice? There is the case where a person of no integrity gives advice for his own affliction, or for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both. This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he gives advice.

“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he speaks? There is the case where a person of no integrity is one who tells lies, engages in divisive speech, engages in harsh speech, engages in idle chatter. This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he speaks.

“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he acts? There is the case where a person of no integrity is one who takes life, steals, engages in sexual misconduct. This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he acts.

“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the views he holds? There is the case where a person of no integrity is one who holds a view like this: ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.’ This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the views he holds.

“And how is a person of no integrity a person of no integrity in the way he gives a gift? There is the case where a person of no integrity gives a gift inattentively, not with his own hand, disrespectfully, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come of it. This is how a person of no integrity is a person of no integrity in the way he gives a gift…

“Now, monks, could a person of integrity know of a person of no integrity: ‘This is a person of no integrity’?”

“Yes, lord.”

“Good, monks. It is possible that a person of integrity would know of a person of no integrity: ‘This is a person of no integrity.’

“Could a person of integrity know of a person of integrity: ‘This is a person of integrity’?”

“Yes, lord.”

“Good, monks. It is possible that a person of integrity would know of a person of integrity: ‘This is a person of integrity.’

“A person of integrity is endowed with dhammas of integrity; he is a person of integrity in his friendship, in the way he wills, the way he gives advice, the way he speaks, the way he acts, the views he holds, & the way he gives a gift.

“[These are the opposite of the corresponding attributes of the person of no integrity.]” — MN 110

§ 45. At that time Ven. Rāhula was staying at the Mango Stone. Then the Blessed One, arising from his seclusion in the late afternoon, went to where Ven. Rāhula was staying at the Mango Stone. Ven. Rāhula saw him coming from afar and, on seeing him, set out a seat & water for washing the feet. The Blessed One sat down on the seat set out and, having sat down, washed his feet. Ven. Rāhula, bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side.

Then the Blessed One, having left a little bit of the remaining water in the water dipper, said to Ven. Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see this little bit of remaining water left in the water dipper?”

“Yes sir.”

“That’s how little of a contemplative there is in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie.”

Having tossed away the little bit of remaining water, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see how this little bit of remaining water is tossed away?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rāhula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is tossed away just like that.”

Having turned the water dipper upside down, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see how this water dipper is turned upside down?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rāhula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is turned upside down just like that.”

Having turned the water dipper right-side up, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rāhula, “Rāhula, do you see how empty & hollow this water dipper is?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rāhula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is empty & hollow just like that.

“Rāhula, it’s like a royal elephant: immense, pedigreed, accustomed to battles, its tusks like chariot poles. Having gone into battle, it uses its forefeet & hindfeet, its forequarters & hindquarters, its head & ears & tusks & tail, but will simply hold back its trunk. The elephant trainer notices that and thinks, ‘This royal elephant has not given up its life to the king.’ But when the royal elephant… having gone into battle, uses its forefeet & hindfeet, its forequarters & hindquarters, its head & ears & tusks & tail & his trunk, the trainer notices that and thinks, ‘This royal elephant has given up its life to the king. There is nothing it will not do.’

“In the same way, Rāhula, when anyone feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie, there is no evil, I tell you, he will not do. Thus, Rāhula, you should train yourself, ‘I will not tell a deliberate lie even in jest.’

“What do you think, Rāhula? What is a mirror for?”

“For reflection, sir.”

“In the same way, Rāhula, bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.

“Whenever you want to do a bodily action, Rāhula, you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily action I want to do—would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction… it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do. [Similarly with verbal and mental actions.]

“While you are doing a bodily action, you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily action I am doing—is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to affliction of others, or both… you should give it up. But if on reflection you know that it is not… you may continue with it. [Similarly with verbal and mental actions.]

“Having done a bodily action, you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily action I have done—did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it… you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction… it was a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful dhammas. [Similarly with verbal actions.]

“Having done a mental action, you should reflect on it: ‘This mental action I have done—did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful mental action, with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful mental action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should feel distressed, ashamed, & disgusted with it. Feeling distressed… you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction… it was a skillful mental action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful dhammas.” — MN 61

The Path-factors & their Relationships

§ 46. The Blessed One said, “Now what, monks, is the noble eightfold path? Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

“And what, monks, is right view? Knowledge with regard to [or: in terms of] stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: This, monks, is called right view.

“And what, monks, is right resolve? Resolve for renunciation, resolve for non-ill will, resolve for harmlessness: This, monks, is called right resolve.

“And what, monks, is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from harsh speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.

“And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual intercourse: This, monks, is called right action. [DN 22 & MN 141 define this factor in this way: “And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, from stealing, & from sexual misconduct: This is called right action.”]

“And what, monks, is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This, monks, is called right livelihood.

“And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful dhammas that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful dhammas that have arisen. (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful dhammas that have not yet arisen. (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful dhammas that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.

“And what, monks, is right mindfulness? (i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, aware, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. (ii) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves—ardent, aware, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. (iii) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself—ardent, aware, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. (iv) He remains focused on dhammas in & of themselves—ardent, aware, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. This, monks, is called right mindfulness.

“And what, monks, is right concentration? (i) There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful dhammas—enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. (ii) With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance. (iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress—he enters & remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This, monks, is called right concentration.” — SN 45:8

§ 47. “Monks, ignorance is the leader in the attainment of unskillful dhammas, followed by lack of shame & lack of compunction. In an unknowledgeable person, immersed in ignorance, wrong view arises. In one of wrong view, wrong resolve arises. In one of wrong resolve, wrong speech.… In one of wrong speech, wrong action.… In one of wrong action, wrong livelihood.… In one of wrong livelihood, wrong effort.… In one of wrong effort, wrong mindfulness.… In one of wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration arises.

“Clear knowing is the leader in the attainment of skillful dhammas, followed by shame & compunction. In a knowledgeable person, immersed in clear knowing, right view arises. In one of right view, right resolve arises. In one of right resolve, right speech.… In one of right speech, right action.… In one of right action, right livelihood.… In one of right livelihood, right effort.… In one of right effort, right mindfulness.… In one of right mindfulness, right concentration arises.” — SN 45:1

§ 48. The Blessed One said: “Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors—right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness—is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.

[1] “Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one’s right view. And what is wrong view? ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no brahmans or contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.’ This is wrong view.

“And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions; there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? ‘There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.’ This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

“And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of dhammas as a factor for awakening, the path-factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right view.

[2] “Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong resolve as wrong resolve, and right resolve as right resolve. And what is wrong resolve? Being resolved on sensuality, on ill will, on violence. This is wrong resolve.

“And what is right resolve? Right resolve, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right resolve with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions; there is right resolve that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“And what is the right resolve with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on non-violence. This is the right resolve with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

“And what is the right resolve that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The thinking, directed thinking, resolve, (mental) fixity, transfixion, focused awareness, & verbal fabrications of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right resolve that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right resolve.

[3] “Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong speech as wrong speech, and right speech as right speech. And what is wrong speech? Lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, & idle chatter. This is wrong speech.

“And what is right speech? Right speech, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right speech with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions; there is right speech that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“And what is the right speech with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from harsh speech, & from idle chatter. This is the right speech with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

“And what is the right speech that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The abstaining, desisting, abstinence, avoidance of the four forms of verbal misconduct of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right speech that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right speech.

[4] “Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong action as wrong action, and right action as right action. And what is wrong action? Killing, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct. This is wrong action.

“And what is right action? Right action, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right action with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions; there is right action that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“And what is the right action with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? Abstaining from killing, from taking what is not given, & from sexual misconduct. This is the right action with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

“And what is the right action that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The abstaining, desisting, abstinence, avoidance of the three forms of bodily misconduct of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right action that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong action & to enter & remain in right action: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right action.

[5] “Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong livelihood as wrong livelihood, and right livelihood as right livelihood. And what is wrong livelihood? Scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, & pursuing gain with gain. This is wrong livelihood.

“And what is right livelihood? Right livelihood, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions; there is right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“And what is the right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abandons wrong livelihood and maintains his life with right livelihood. This is the right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

“And what is the right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The abstaining, desisting, abstinence, avoidance of wrong livelihood of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

“One makes an effort for the abandoning of wrong livelihood & for entering into right livelihood: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter & remain in right livelihood: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three dhammas—right view, right effort, & right mindfulness—run & circle around right livelihood.

“Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? In one of right view, right resolve comes to be. In one of right resolve, right speech comes to be. In one of right speech, right action.… In one of right action, right livelihood.… In one of right livelihood, right effort.… In one of right effort, right mindfulness.… In one of right mindfulness, right concentration.… In one of right concentration, right knowledge.… In one of right knowledge, right release comes to be. Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.” — MN 117

§ 49. “I do not envision any one other dhamma by which unarisen unskillful dhammas arise, and arisen unskillful dhammas go to growth & proliferation, like wrong view. When a person has wrong view, unarisen unskillful dhammas arise, and arisen unskillful dhammas go to growth & proliferation.

“I do not envision any one other dhamma by which unarisen skillful dhammas arise, and arisen skillful dhammas go to growth & proliferation, like right view. When a person has right view, unarisen skillful dhammas arise, and arisen skillful dhammas go to growth & proliferation.

“Just as when a nimb-tree seed, a bitter creeper seed, or a bitter melon seed is placed in moist soil, whatever nutriment it takes from the soil & the water, all conduces to its bitterness, acridity, & distastefulness. Why is that? Because of the evil nature of the seed.

“In the same way, when a person has wrong view, whatever bodily deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever verbal deeds… whatever mental deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever intentions, whatever determinations, whatever vows, whatever fabrications, all lead to what is disagreeable, unpleasing, unappealing, unprofitable, & stressful. Why is that? Because of the evil nature of the view.…

“Just as when a sugar cane seed, a rice grain, or a grape seed is placed in moist soil, whatever nutriment it takes from the soil & the water, all conduces to its sweetness, tastiness, & unalloyed delectability. Why is that? Because of the auspicious nature of the seed.

“In the same way, when a person has right view, whatever bodily deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever verbal deeds… whatever mental deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever intentions, whatever vows, whatever determinations, whatever fabrications, all lead to what is agreeable, pleasing, charming, profitable, & easeful. Why is that? Because of the auspicious nature of the view.” — AN 1:181–82, 189–90

§ 50. Visākha: “Is the noble eightfold path fabricated or unfabricated?”

Sister Dhammadinnā: “The noble eightfold path is fabricated.”

Visākha: “And are the three aggregates [of virtue, concentration, & discernment] included under the noble eightfold path, lady, or is the noble eightfold path included under the three aggregates?”

Sister Dhammadinnā: “The three aggregates are not included under the noble eightfold path, friend Visākha, but the noble eightfold path is included under the three aggregates.[1] Right speech, right action, & right livelihood come under the aggregate of virtue. Right effort, right mindfulness, & right concentration come under the aggregate of concentration. Right view & right resolve come under the aggregate of discernment.” — MN 44

Note

1. In other words, not every instance of discernment, say, would count as right view, even though right view counts as a form of discernment, and similarly with the other path-factors and aggregates.

§ 51. “Concentration nurtured with virtue is of great fruit, great reward. Discernment nurtured with concentration is of great fruit, great reward. The mind nurtured with discernment is rightly released from the effluents, i.e., the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance.” — DN 16

§ 52. “Brahman, just as one hand would wash the other hand, or one foot would wash the other foot, in the same way, discernment is well-washed by virtue, virtue is well-washed by discernment. Where there is virtue, there is discernment. Where there is discernment, there is virtue. A virtuous person has discernment; a discerning person, virtue. And further, virtue & discernment are reckoned as supreme in the world.

[The passage goes on to define virtue with a long list of virtues, sense restraint, mindfulness & alertness in one’s activities, contentment, and the abandoning of the hindrances. It defines discernment as the practice of jhāna together with the direct knowledges based on jhāna, culminating in the knowledge of the ending of the effluents.] — DN 4

§ 53. There’s

no jhana

for one with

no discernment,

no discernment

for one with

no jhana.

But one with

both jhana

& discernment:

he’s on the verge

of Unbinding. — Dhp 372