Spiritual Community of The Followers of The Path Shown by The Blessed,Noble,Awakened One-The Tathagata
The Eightfold Path is best understood as a collection of personal qualities to be developed, rather than as a sequence of steps along a linear path. The development of right view and right resolve (the factors classically identified with wisdom and discernment) facilitates the development of right speech, action, and livelihood (the factors identified with virtue). As virtue develops so do the factors identified with concentration (right effort, mindfulness, and concentration). Likewise, as concentration matures, discernment evolves to a still deeper level. And so the process unfolds: development of one factor fosters development of the next, lifting the practitioner in an upward spiral of spiritual maturity that eventually culminates in Awakening.
The long journey to Awakening begins in earnest with the first tentative stirrings of right view — the discernment by which one recognizes the validity of the four Noble Truths and the principle of kamma. One begins to see that one’s future well-being is neither predestined by fate, nor left to the whims of a divine being or random chance. The responsibility for one’s happiness rests squarely on one’s own shoulders. Seeing this, one’s spiritual aims become suddenly clear: to relinquish the habitual unskillful tendencies of the mind in favor of skillful ones. As this right resolve grows stronger, so does the heartfelt desire to live a morally upright life, to choose one’s actions with care.
At this point many followers make the inward commitment to take the Buddha’s teachings to heart, to become “Buddhist” through the act of taking refuge in the Triple Gem: the Buddha (both the historical Buddha and one’s own innate potential for Awakening), the Dhamma (both the Buddha’s teachings and the ultimate Truth towards which they point), and the Sangha (both the unbroken monastic lineage that has preserved the teachings since the Buddha’s day, and all those who have achieved at least some degree of Awakening). With one’s feet thus planted on solid ground, and with the help of an admirable friend or teacher (kalyanamitta) to guide the way, one is now well-equipped to proceed down the Path, following in the footsteps left by the Buddha himself.