When the Buddha gave his first sermon in the Deer Park, he began the ‘Turning of the Dharma Wheel’. He chose the beautiful symbol of the wheel with its eight spokes to represent the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha’s teaching goes round and round like a great wheel that never stops, leading to the central point of the wheel, the only point which is fixed, Nirvana. The eight spokes on the wheel represent the eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path. Just as every spoke is needed for the wheel to keep turning, we need to follow each step of the path.
1. Right View: The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha–with wisdom and compassion.
2. Right Thought: We are what we think. Clear and kind thoughts build good, strong characters.
3. Right Speech: By speaking kind and helpful words, we are respected and trusted by everyone.
4. Right Conduct: No matter what we say, others know us from the way we behave. Before we criticize others, we should first see what we do ourselves.
5. Right Livelihood: This means choosing a job that does not hurt others. The Buddha said, “Do not earn your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy.”
6. Right Effort: A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will toward others. This also means not wasting effort on things that harm others and ourselves.
7. Right Mindfulness: This means being aware of our thoughts, words, and deeds.
8. Right Concentration: Focus on one thought or object at a time. By doing this, we can be quiet and attain true peace of mind.
Following the Noble Eightfold Path can be compared to cultivating a garden, but in Buddhism one cultivates one’s wisdom. The mind is the ground and thoughts are seeds. Deeds are ways one cares for the garden. Our faults are weeds. Pulling them out is like weeding a garden. The harvest is real and lasting happiness.