Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Importance of following the Noble Eightfold Path

S. M. Wijayaratne Kurunegala ‘Daily News’ Corr

All Buddhists all over the world are now getting ready to commemorate the 2600th anniversary of the Noblest Buddha’s attaining Enlightenment this year. Sri Lankan Government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa too is preparing very effective and meaningful programmes for fostering sublime human values in the minds of the people who live in Sri Lanka and abroad.

In order to create a generation with morally advanced attitudes, concrete steps should be taken to educate the general public on the timeless message of the Buddha.

The importance of understanding the noble Dhamma is pointed out by the Buddha as follows. “The gift of truth excels all other gifts. The flavour of truth excels all the other flavours.

The pleasure in truth excels all other pleasures. He who has destroyed craving overcomes all sorrow.”
Dhammapada 354)


Three kinds of gifts are mentioned in Buddhism, namely:

1. Amisa dana (The gift of material things)
2. Abhaya dana
The gift of life)
(Dhammadana the gift of truth)

Amisa dana or the gift of material things is practyised by people of all religions and is very common, food, clothes, houses and medicine are given to poor people or refugees through various religious and social organisations. It is, no doubt, a good thing to satisfy the hunger of the starved and the thirst of the thirsty. This type of donations is highly recommended in Buddhism and is called the Amisa Dana. (The donations of matierl things)

Next comes the Abhaya Dana, or giving life to those who are in danger of life caused by fire, water or enemies. Sometimes we hear of people who are on the verge of death due to lack of blood. To donate blood and save another human life is indeed a great thing. O30fhr02.sp

Donation of eyes and kidneys is also highly appreciated and they come under Abhaya Dana donation of life.

Dhamma Dana

The last one of the Dhamma Dana or the gift of truth or the doctrine is said to be the highest of all donations on the earth.

The gift of truth means to teach and explain the doctrine to the people, to deviate them from the wrong path and guide them on the right path, to introduce what is moral and immoral, to organise discussions and seminars on the Dhamma, to write and print books already written and to establish reading centres for the propagation of the Buddha’s teachings.

Four requisites

One may provide all disciples of the Buddha with the four requisites in the best possible way or give the people all material things. But to enlighten them on the Dhamma with a stanza of only four lines is said to be the best and the highest of all other donations. Rare are the people who can preach and enlighten listeners and convince them.

The most common custom of the day regarding the dead is to enshrine the ashes and put up monuments or to give alms on a grandscale on behalf of the dead to monks or to charitable organisations. As mentioned earlier, these become secondary to the gift of the doctrine or truth.

All human beings on the earth seek happiness and pleasure and hence they perform various types of activities to have permanent pleasure in their lives.


But it is only a delusion as nothing is permanent in this world. All attempts to enjoy ever lasting joy in our life are in vain.

Therefore, the Buddha through his perfect wisdom, preached us to have right understanding over the life and the worldly things with which we live as long as we say goodbye to this world.

The Buddha’s noblest doctrine is based on what we call ‘The Four Noble Truths.’ In plain language they are:

(1) All life knows sorrow (unhappiness or unsatisfactoriness)
(2) This sorrow has a cause.
(3) Sorrow can be brought to an end.
(4) The way to bring sorrow to an end.


Even an infant knows what sorrow is. If the baby is hungry or thirsty or too warm or too cold, it cries. That is its way of conveying unsatisfactoriness. Children at play soon find there is no game that does not have some disappointment. If there are winners, then there must be losers. Nobody can be a winner at all times. Sooner or later we are all losers in one way or other. When we are sick, that is sorrow. When we are disappointed, that is sorrow. There are so many ways to be unhappy. Even when we are happy, we know that the happiness will not last forever.


Nothing happens by accident. There is a reason for everything. The cause of sorrow is our ignorance which leads to desires. By “ignorance” we mean not knowing the true nature of life and not understanding the right way to live.

Sorrow (unsatisfactoriness) can be brought to an end. The Buddha mercifully taught us that whatever has a beginning must also have an ending. Until the Buddha came to teach us how to become free from ignorance, nobody knew the real cause of unsatisfactoriness or how to overcome it. The way to overcome sorrow and find true happiness is found in the fourth point.


The way to find happiness is like a road or pathway. In fact, it is called “The Noble Eightfold Path.” Everyone knows that a road or pathway is meant to be used for travelling. A path that cannot be used is of no value to us. The Buddha’s Noble Path is for our use everyday in our lives.

It is called the “Eightfold Path” because we must always remember eight things as we walk on this road of life. Let’s all try to remember these eight points, to understand them and use them. Here they are: (1) Right understanding, (2) Right aims, (3) Right speech, (4) Right actions, (5) Right livelihood (6) Right effort,

(7) Right mindfulness and (8) Right concentration.


Once there was a caravan route over a large desert. By day the sands were so hot that they were like burning charcoal. There was no water to drink and there were sharp stones and thorns to hurt the feet of those who strayed off the right path. Wise travellers carried with them plenty of water and food and always employed a very experienced guide who knew the right path and could lead the caravan safely through all the many dangers of the desert.

But a certain foolish traveller decided to cross the dangerous desert without a guide. Soon, he strayed off the right path.

The sharp stones cut his feet, the thorns scratched his body and he and his camels soon drank up all their water. Just when they were almost dead from thirst, heat and injury, they were rescued by wise travellers who had followed a good guide.

The desert is this world, the dangers are the troubles and sorrows that come to all of us.

The good guide is the Buddha of perfect wisdom, and the safe road across the desert is the Noble Eightfold Path.

May all beings be well and happy.

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