The 8-fold Path to Happiness—Mapping Modern Positive Psychology to 2500 Years of Buddhist Teaching

Buddha's Noble Eight-Fold Path

The Buddha mapped out the Noble 8-Fold Path to Enlightenment over 2,500 years ago, and included it in his most fundamental teaching: The Four Noble Truths.

The Four Noble Truths are, briefly: 1) Human Life is inherently fraught with “dukkha,” a Pali term that is loosely translated in the West to mean suffering (though it more closely resembles “unsatisfactory-ness” than suffering); 2) The cause of our suffering is some form of craving/ attachment (or aversion, craving/attachment’s “evil twin”); 3) There is a path that leads us reliably to the ultimate defeat of this univeral human suffering; 4) That path is the Noble Eightfold Path–a roadmap to the promised land.

So what are the Eight “Folds” of said Path? There are many translations. The one I like the best is offered by Lama Surya Das in Awakening the Buddha Within.

Lama Surya breaks it up into 3 categories: Wisdom Training (including Right View and Right Intention), Ethics Training (including Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood), and Meditation Training (including Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration). That’s a whole lotta “rights,” isn’t it? Makes me feel claustrophobic just thinking of it. So let’s make an alteration and substitute the word “Beneficial” for “Right.” It’s less judgmental and confining I think, and we can thus make a decision to do what is of benefit or not.

In the next eight posts, I’m going to attempt to unpack each of these eight Beneficial Trainings/Practices and map them to evolving Modern understandings of happiness flowing out of the Positive Psychological Literature, focusing upon the following eight areas (in no particular order other than the way they tend to show up on a list in my own head):

1) Mindful Living: The Benefits of Contemplative Practice and Savouring Experience

2) Gratitude: The Benefits of Noticing What Works, and What We Have Instead of What is Missing

3) Forgiveness: The Benefits of Living in Rumi’s Famous Field (Beyond Ideas of Right Doing and Wrong Doing)

4) Kindness: The Benefits of Practicing Compassion for Self and Other and Acting From That Place

5) Movement: The Benefits of Getting Off Our Butts

6) Relationships: The Benefits of Full-Contact Relating

7) Life Goals: The Benefits of Daring Greatly

8) Signature Strengths: The Benefits of Owning our Gifts with Humility, and Putting Them to Work in the World

Tune in next time to learn more about Beneficial View: The Wisdom of Clarity!

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