The Buddha’s Program for Psychological/ Emotional and Social Transformation- The Eight Factor Path

The Buddha’s Program for Psychological/ Emotional and Social Transformation- The Eight Factor Path By Rodger R. Ricketts, Psy.D. As a chapter in the book, The Buddha’s Teachings: Seeing Without Illusion. Copyright Rodger Ricketts, 2014. Psychological Transformations The Buddha was very clear that Nibbāna was the goal of following the Eight-factor Path. Based on his own experience, he set out quite clear and effective guidelines and instructions to help us reach this goal. The Eight-factor Path, ultimately, is an experiential practice of psychological transformation and not only the acquisition of theoretical knowledge. It is through introspection, reflection, insight, and compassion that we have a lasting and profound psychological transformation of mind and reaches the goal of Enlightenment. The Eight-factor Path or Middle Way transforms and purifies our minds through the training of compassion, concentration, and insight. Even though enlightenment is not often thought of as a process of attainment, the Buddha clearly taught that the Middle Way is a graduated path towards the achievement of Nibbāna. Or, as Bhikkhu Bodhi stated, ‘The Buddha presents his teaching in the form of gradual training. Buddhist discipline involves gradual practice and gradual attainment. It does not burst into completeness at a stroke, but like a tree or any other living organism, it unfolds organically, as a sequence of stages in which each stage rests upon its predecessor as its indispensable foundation and gives rise to its successor as its natural consequent.’1 Indeed, at the highest level of the Buddhist discipline, the eight factors of the Path function simultaneously. This training can be accomplished within a person’s lifetime of day-to-day practice and more intensive periods of practice at a temple or retreat center removed from the demands and distractions of daily life. The Middle Way is a practical and gradual training; it is not mystical or metaphysical. It is Bhavana (mental culture or mental development) which aims through gradual psychological transformation or purification to cultivate qualities as concentration, awareness, volition, energy, confidence, happiness, tranquility, leading to the attainment of the highest wisdom – Nibbana – here and now, in this lifetime. In fact, Awakening is the psychological insight and understanding of emptiness, the unfettered experience without the subject-object dualistic interlude between the experience of the world, free from the ‘self’ concept. Therefore, since the Eight-factor Path is a prescription showing us how to achieve this experience of Awakening, we need to clearly understand the process.

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