Chapter 1: The Eightfold Way
The Buddha said:
Those who follow the way are like unto warriors who fight single-handed with a multitude of foes. They may all go out of the fort in full armor; but among them are some who are faint-hearted, and some who go halfway and beat a retreat, and some who are killed in the affray, and some who come home victorious.
O monks, if you desire to attain enlightenment, you should steadily walk in your way, with a resolute heart, with courage, and should be fearless in whatever environment you may happen to be, and destroy every evil influence that you may come across; for thus you shall reach the goal.
Gautama the Buddha has no leaning towards abstraction, philosophy or metaphysics. He’s very practical, down-to-earth practical. He’s very scientific. His approach is not that of a thinker; the approach is existential. When he attained and became a buddha, it is said that the god of the gods, Brahma, came to him and asked him, “Who is your witness? You declare that you have become a buddha, but who is your witness?” Buddha laughed, touched the earth with his hand, and said, “This earth, this solid earth is my witness.”
He is very earthy; he made the earth his witness. He could have said so about the sky, but no; he could have said so about the sun or the moon or the stars, but no. He touched the earth and said, “This solid earth is my witness.” His whole approach is like that.
Before we enter into these sutras, his basic steps have to be understood.
Buddha’s way is called “the eightfold way.” He has divided it into eight parts. Those divisions are arbitrary, just utilitarian; the way is one. It is not really divided, it is divided so that you can understand it easily. And this is very fundamental: if you can understand these eight steps or eight divisions of the way, the way will open just in front of you. You are already standing on it, but not aware; your mind is wandering somewhere. The way is in front of you. So try to understand these eight steps as deeply as possible.
The first is: right view.
And all these eight steps are concerned with rightness - right view, right intention, right speech, right morality, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and the eighth, the ultimate, right samadhi. The word right has to be understood first because the Sanskrit word samyak is so meaningful, is so pregnant with meaning that it cannot be translated. “Right” is a very poor translation for it for many reasons.
First, the word right immediately gives the idea as if it is against the wrong. Samyak never gives that idea; samyak is not against the wrong. Buddha’s right is not against the wrong, because Buddha says, “Wrongs are many, right is one - so how can the right be against the wrong?” Health is one, diseases are many. There are not as many healths as there are diseases, so health cannot be against the diseases - otherwise there would be so many healths. Somebody is suffering from TB and then he becomes healthy, somebody is suffering from cancer and he becomes healthy, and somebody is suffering from flu and he becomes healthy. These three healths are not three healths. The diseases were different, but health is one, and one cannot be against the many.