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The goal of Buddhism is to reach Nirvana and extinguish one’s flame. [1]The Noble Eightfold Path is the method of reaching Nirvana, thereby ending suffering caused by Samsara, the world of rebirth. An average person that does not have the goal of cessation can still benefit by taking the Noble Eightfold Path. The eight items discussed in the Noble Path can be interpreted in a non-Buddhist context simply as a means to improve one’s wellbeing. An individual can become a better all around person through proper wisdom, right conduct, and good concentration.

The first two items of the Noble Path are right views and right intention. Buddhist texts describe these items as the wisdom required to attain cessation. [2] This involves acquiring the mind set necessary to be a good person, and discovering unwholesome thoughts that do the opposite. An unwholesome thought that several people have is that wealth brings happiness. Money cannot buy happiness and this is why some of the richest people in the world are also some of the loneliest. Sakyamuni, the famous Buddha, was one of the first people to discover this.

He was unhappy with his life of luxury and upper class and he decided to turn to poverty. Poverty does bring misery as Sakyamuni discovered, thus causing him to accept the middle way[3]. Sakyamuni made a very important discovery and it is important for people in modern society to make that same discovery. A person would improve their life by accepting the middle way and realizing that money is not everything. Other examples of right views and intention are having good underlying thoughts. This would involve uncovering any ill thoughts towards others, and avoid having them.

Avoiding hatred towards others makes better people of everyone. Individuals would be better off spending less time hating others and choosing to see the good in others instead. Right views and right intention can be summarized as the knowledge required for making ethical decisions and performing good actions. Items three through five of the Noble Path are right speech, right action, and right livelihood. These items are summarized as the proper conduct or action required to attain cessation. [4] Right action involves not stealing, or harming others for example.

A person is much better off performing right action in modern time anyways as most of the wrong actions are illegal. Right speech involves not lying or gossiping. Wrong speech is not illegal but one can still benefit from it as seen in the following example relating to wrong livelihood. A person stands to benefit from choosing a right livelihood as they can avoid moral dilemmas. For example, a job as a defense lawyer is not good for one’s wellbeing because of the moral implications. Defense lawyers attempt to get some of the most heinous criminals a non-guilty verdict.

They may know their client killed someone but they will still do whatever they can to get the murderer freed. This occupation is not a right livelihood as it does not follow the requirement of right speech. Defense lawyers that know their client is guilty will lie or obscure facts in order to prevent a guilty verdict. A defense lawyer can improve their emotional well being by finding a new job that encompasses right speech and right action. The final three items of the Noble Path are right effort, right meditation, and right concentration.

These items are described as the concentration required to reach the cessation of suffering. [5] These involve ways to control our mind and the sorts of thoughts that we have. Meditation is a great skill that anyone can benefit from learning. Several professional athletes practice meditation in order to improve their concentration. “Meditation strengthens the mind, it comes under control and is able to provide effective guidance to the physical body to effectively execute all its projects”. As a result, studies have found a positive correlation between meditation or concentration techniques and athletic performance. 6] Athletes are not the only people that benefit from meditation. Anyone can benefit from meditation because there are several health benefits; there are psychological, physiological, and spiritual benefits that arise from meditation. More people are starting to recognize the benefits from meditation and consequently there is an increased popularity in activities such as yoga. Therefore, one could improve their wellbeing by acquiring the concentration of Buddhists. A person in modern society can improve their wellbeing by following the Noble Eightfold Path that Buddhists take in order to reach Nirvana.

An individual can become a better all around person through proper wisdom, right conduct, and good concentration. Although a person may not have the goal of Nirvana, he or she can have a better life by simultaneously improving their understanding, their actions, and their underlying emotional state. Therefore, an average person that does not have the goal of cessation can still benefit by taking the Noble Eightfold Path. ———————–

[1] “The Four Noble Truths,” in Keown, Damien. Buddhism, A Very Short Introduction (Oxfod:Oxfod University press, 1996), pp. 4 [2] “Four Truths,” in, Gethin, Rupert. The Foundations of Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 81 [3] Takagaki, Shingi C. Introduction to Buddhism, RLG206 Lecture 1. University of Toronto, Mississauga. 13 Sept. 2010. [4] “Four Truths,” in, Gethin, Rupert. The Foundations of Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 81 [5] “Four Truths,” in, Gethin, Rupert. The Foundations of Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 81 [6]  “Meditation… Its Benefits. ” Meditation: an Enrichment to Your Soul. Health and Yoga. Web. .

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