This article is the final part of an article series on Buddhist Insight Meditation that started with Meditation – Method, Effects and Purpose within Buddhism.

It is suggested by some that the eight factors of the Buddhist Nobel Eightfold Path are not objectives to be arrived at and then left behind but rather the path is a continuous program in which the eight factors of the Path are developed cumulatively. Neither is the path like rungs on a ladder with nirvana at the top.

Interestingly, the Buddha in his formulation of the Eightfold Path did not mention nirvana at all. Rather it is the lived experience of the path itself that constitutes nirvana. In following the Noble Eightfold Path we in fact act like a Buddha, and by acting like a Buddha we progressively become a Buddha. This is surprisingly similar to Aristotle’s suggestion ‘that it is through actions that dispositions develop, which in turn influence actions.’

It is sometimes said that the limbs of the path need to be developed consecutively. That for each limb to be attained the practice of the proceeding limbs also needs to be established. Thus by the time the limb of right meditation is attained it would imply the simultaneous attainment of all eight limbs. Whether this implies a sort of “completion” of the path or not is not clear. Perhaps at this point the limbs of the path are all fully in place and each progressively solidifies the other, allowing for a state that is through continued practice permanent and beyond the need to be grasped at.

At this point perhaps such people become what are called ‘stream-enterers’. There is support for this notion by some who describe the eightfold path as existing at two basic levels, the ordinary, and the transcendent. It is suggested that with each more refined development of the morality-meditation-wisdom sequence the Path spirals up to a higher level until the crucial transition of stream-entry is reached.

I’m sure it is easy for you to see the important role meditation takes within Buddhism. The very enlightenment of the Buddha himself occurred during intense meditation. It is little wonder he placed meditation within the Eightfold Path together with morality and wisdom in an ingenious self-reinforcing system. The story of the Buddha’s awakening is of his realization of ultimate reality and thus his attainment of liberation.

With this in mind it is interesting that the final step in gaining release occurs when even the Eightfold Path is set aside. At which point the mind experiences awakening. The implication of this statement that the mind experiences awakening is that the mind is the source of one’s bondage to samsara in that it is ignorant and not awake to reality. Insight meditation trains our mind in a process that removes the ignorance clouding it allowing us to see through to reality. Supported by morality and wisdom, meditation leads to the consummation of the entire Buddhist path – Liberation.

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