Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path forms the core of the Buddha's teachings and shows the way by which man can free himself from the sorrowful wheel of rebirths (Sanskrit: संस्कार samskara) and no longer needs another earthly embodiment. This requires purification of the astral body, for it is the lower urges and desires of the astral body that become man's fate (karma) and drag him down again and again to new earthly births. In the course of purification of the astral body, it takes on an increasingly orderly form, in particular the organs of the astral body, the lotus flowers (chakras), are harmoniously formed, become active and begin to turn. The work on the astral body can start from different lotus flowers; the Noble Eightfold Path aims at the regulated formation of the sixteen-petalled lotus flower in the larynx region. The Noble Eightfold Path is divided into the following stages:
„This is the cause of suffering in the world - said Buddha - that something has remained from the previous incarnations about which man knows nothing. What he has from the previous incarnations, that is the cause why ignorance about the world spreads in him; that is the cause in man of suffering and pain, of sorrow and worry. But if he becomes aware of the powers which lie in his astral body and into which he can penetrate, then he can, if he wishes, acquire a knowledge which has remained independent of all that has gone before, a knowledge of his own.
The great Buddha wanted to transmit this knowledge to people. And he transmitted it to them in the so-called Eightfold Path. In it he wants to indicate those powers which man should train so that in the present cycle of humanity he can attain such knowledge, which is uninfluenced by the ever-recurring rebirths. Thus the Buddha himself, by the power he had attained, raised his soul to that which can be attained by the most intense powers of the astral body; and in the Eightfold Path he wished to indicate to humanity the way by which it may arrive at a knowledge uninfluenced by the samskara. He defined it thus:
Man comes to such knowledge of the world when he acquires a right opinion about things, an opinion which has nothing to do with sympathy or antipathy, or with being taken in, but by trying - purely according to what presents itself to him externally - to win the right opinion about each thing to the best of his ability. That is the first thing, the "right opinion" about a thing.
Secondly, it is necessary to become independent of what has remained from previous incarnations, to strive to judge according to our correct opinion, not according to any other influences, but only according to what is our correct opinion of a matter. So the "right judgement" is the second thing.
The third is that when we communicate ourselves to the world, we endeavour to express correctly what we want to communicate, what we mean correctly and have judged correctly, that we do not put into our words anything other than what is our opinion, and not only into our words, but into all expressions of the human being. This is the "right word" in the Buddha's sense.
Fourthly, it is necessary that we strive to carry out our deeds not according to our sympathies and antipathies, not according to what is stirring darkly within us as samskara, but that we let that become our deed which we have grasped as our right opinion, as our right judgement and as the right word. That, then, is the right deed, the "right way of acting".
The fifth thing that man needs in order to free himself from that which lives in him is to gain the right position, the right position in the world. We can best understand what Buddha meant by this if we say to ourselves: There are so many people who are dissatisfied with their task in the world, who think they could stand better in this or that place. But man should gain the possibility of getting the best out of the situation into which he is born or into which fate has brought him, that is, of gaining the best position. He who does not feel satisfaction in the position he is in, will not be able to draw from this position the strength that will bring him to the right activity in the world. This is what Buddha calls gaining the "right location".
The sixth thing is that we should take more and more care that what we acquire through right opinion, right judgement and so on, becomes a habit in us. When we are born into the world, we have certain habits. The child shows this or that inclination or habit. But man should strive not to keep the habits that come to him from samskara, but to acquire those habits which, from right opinion, right judgement, right word, and so on, gradually become entirely his own. These are the "right habits" that we are to acquire.
The seventh is that we bring order into our lives by not always forgetting yesterday when we are to act today. If we had to learn all our skills anew every time, we would never get anything done. Man must try to develop a memory of all the things of his existence. He must always make use of what he has already learned, must link the present to the past. So the "right memory" - that is how it is spoken in the Buddhist sense - has to be acquired by man on the Eightfold Path.
And the eighth is that which the human being gains by devoting himself purely to things, by immersing himself in them, and by letting only the things speak to him, without any preference for this or that opinion, without letting what he has left over from previous incarnations speak to him. This is the 'right contemplation'.“ (Lit.:GA 114, p. 66)
According to Rudolf Steiner, in the sixth cultural epoch (see also → world evolution), which follows our present one, a larger number of people will be so far advanced that they will independently draw the Eightfold Path from the depths of their souls and realise it in their lives without external knowledge of Buddhism.
„The Buddha had to be there once. From there emanated that power which people will gradually develop as the wisdom of the Eightfold Path. Then, after about three thousand years from now, they will have it as their own. Men will be able to develop this teaching themselves, not merely receive it from without, but develop it from within themselves and say to themselves: This Eightfold Path springs forth from us as the wisdom of compassion and love.“ (Lit.:GA 114, p. 184)
- Rudolf Steiner: Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten?, GA 10 (1993), ISBN 3-7274-0100-1 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Das Lukas-Evangelium, GA 114 (1985), S 66 ff., Dritter Vortrag, Basel, 17. September 1909 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.