The Noble Eightfold Path for Shin Buddhists

The Buddhist Faith Fellowship stresses daily practice as the best skillful way to transform our muddy ice of delusions and suffering into the clear water of spiritual liberation.  Below is our condensed and adapted version of the Noble Eightfold Path as first taught by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni over 2,500 years ago. This contemporary Shin version integrates the traditional Buddhist tenets with Mahayana and classic Shin Buddhist teachings. This innovative version is designed to give Western Shin and other traditional Buddhists a clear, accessible and structured way to practice the Shin dharma in the 21st century.

Three Sections

The Noble Eightfold Path is divided into three major sections: wisdom, morality, and mental development teachings and practices. The wisdom teachings include Right Understanding and Right Thought. The morality teachings are Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. The mental development practices are Right Effort, Right Awareness and Right Concentration. Here, the word “right” does not mean right versus wrong; this does not refer to a moral judgement at all. Instead, it means practicing each point on the path at just the right tempo; not too much nor too little, just so right…This is the basis of the Buddha’s Middle Way of avoiding extremes and fanaticism.

A Sacred Circle Rather Than Steps

Walking the Buddha’s Noble Path is not a chronological one-way journey, in which the practitioner takes one step at a time, mastering each step, and then moving on and then finally reaching enlightenment. On the contrary, it is a spiritual path that is more akin to a circle or better yet, a sacred circle, in which you can join in at any point and by doing so you will immediately begin to practice the entirety of the Way. Each step on the Noble Eightfold Path is integrated with all of the other steps. Taking one step on the Buddhist Faith Fellowship’s Noble Eightfold Path for Shin Buddhists will immediately take you on the journey towards total spiritual transformation. Through diligence and deep hearing, the practitioner will quite naturally begin to embody the Buddhist teachings and the Nembutsu, and ultimately will experience a spiritual awakening (shinjin) in this very here and now, which is pure awakening itself.

This Noble Path is a practical and comprehensive guide for living our lives in the 21st century, in which we can be liberated from delusion and suffering (dukkha) by manifesting our inner potential of love, compassion, and understanding through the ceaseless activity of the Great Compassion.

Where Do I Begin?

We suggest that you print out our entire Noble Eightfold Path for Shin Buddhists and the Eightfold Daily Practices and Chants. Use both of them as skillful anchors for daily practice and adapt them to your life situation. If necessary, recite this Noble Path every morning or at some other convenient time during the day in order to promote the sedimentation process, which is the total conscious and unconscious integration of the teachings. Most importantly, you must practice the Noble Path with diligence. The Path is not to be used as a mere wall hanging or as a dogmatic creed. It was designed to be practiced and lived.

For Shin Buddhists, we recommend you enter the Sacred Circle by focusing on Right Understanding and Right Mindfulness. This will get you practicing deep awareness, trust, interdependence, and impermanence. Then, move on to Right Concentration etc.  Refer to our Recommended Shin Books web page for suggested books on the Eightfold Path and Shin Buddhism, which should be used as essential supplements to the below condensed and adapted Noble Path version.

1. Right Understanding

  • I will profoundly entrust in the Great Compassion of the universe that is the inconceivable life force of all that was, is, and will be. This Great Compassion is personified as Amida Buddha.
  • I will deeply accept my inherent finite and foolish nature (bonpu), knowing that these natural limitations are the reason why all sentient beings and I are the prime objects of the embrace and never-ending nurturing activity of the Great Compassion.
  • I will totally entrust myself to the ceaseless nurturing activity of Amida’s Primal Vow that will naturally transform my state of ignorance, foolishness, and suffering into the reality of awakening and boundless life.
  • I will understand and embody interdependence, impermanence, and non-self, and take heed to the reality of individual and collective karma.
  • I will embody the Four Noble Truths knowing that life is at times a bumpy road but that life is fundamentally good.
  1. First Noble Truth: Life is dukkha (dis-ease, suffering).
  2. Second Noble Truth: The cause is ego-centeredness and craving.
  3. Third Noble Truth: Life is hopeful and good; nirvana transcends dukkha.
  4. Fourth Noble Truth: The spiritual path of liberation (Eightfold Path).

2. Right Thought

Realizing that my thoughts shape my reality, I will develop positive habits of mind and eliminate negative patterns of thinking.

  • I will cultivate renunciation (no-harm): I abandon ill-will to others and myself, and I will forgive.
  • I will study the dharma on a regular basis knowing that words and concepts are not reality but skilful instruments to transform my delusion and self-centeredness into clarity and faith.

3.  Right Speech

  • I will communicate words of kindness and simple truth. I will avoid speaking about others when they are not present.
  • I will listen deeply to what others say in order to transform conflict into harmony.
  • I will lovingly share the Shin Buddhist teachings with others if they are interested in the path.
  • I will not just speak about Buddhism, I will truly live it.

4.  Right Action

  • I will consume with self control: this means eating, drinking, and purchasing in moderation; I will use only what my family and I need.
  • I refrain from mindless consumption and forgo using  products and services that unduly harm animals, plants, humans, and non-sentient life.
  • I will practice generosity (dana), for the good of the individual and the community. I will be conscious of my self-centered tendencies: giving what others truly need and avoiding any notion of personal self-aggrandizement.
  • I will practice the Buddha’s Five Ethical Precepts as guidelines to wholesome and joyful living. Buddhist ethics are based on non-harm and well-being to all beings and myself.

The Five Precepts are:

  1. I will practice love, I refrain from killing.
  2. I will practice generosity, I refrain from stealing.
  3. I will practice contentment, I refrain from sexual harm.
  4. I will practice mindful speech, I refrain from harmful speech.
  5. I will practice mindful consumption; I refrain from intoxicants & harmful substances that harm myself, society and the environment.

5. Right Livelihood

  • I will avoid professions and jobs that defile me and harm others or the environment.
  • My work is not divorced from my spiritual practice. I will strive to practice this Noble Path in my profession, job, schooling or career.
  • I will dedicate my labor for the health and vitality of my workplace and the world. During the course of my work day, I will consider whether my words and actions uplift or harm others and my environment.
  • In the workplace, in order to avoid conflict; I will not carry the dharma on my sleeve. Instead, I will practice this Noble Path in humbleness and thanksgiving without others even knowing about it. This is known as practicing the dharma without form.

6. Right Effort

  • By guarding the mind, I will nourish the wholesome and abandon the unwholesome in my thoughts, speech, actions. The unwholesome is such mental states like greed, hatred, cruelty, gossip, harsh speech, stealing, laziness, etc. The wholesome is non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion, devotion, and balance.
  • I will regularly take refuge in the Three Jewels and always practice mindfulness as the means to cultivate positive intention and energy while developing and stabilizing the wholesome.

The Three Jewels are:

  1. I take Refuge in the Buddha: The source of wisdom, faith & compassion.
  2. I take Refuge in the Dharma: The truth, teachings and the Way.
  3. I take Refuge in the Sangha: The community of practitioners and all beings.
  • I will always entrust in the Great Compassion, manifesting as Amida Buddha, voice and live the Nembutsu, and practice deep hearing (monpo) as the natural Way to awaken to the Ultimate Dimension, which is my true nature.

The Nembutsu is:

Namu Amida Butsu (I entrust in Amida Buddha)
or Na Man Da Bu in its shorten (mantra-like) form

7.  Right Mindfulness

  • I will practice voicing the Nembutsu as a natural response of being mindful of Amida Buddha; this practice is known as Buddha Remembrance (Buddhanusmirti). This remembering is really being aware of the Boundless Life force of awareness and compassion. This practice will naturally transform my forgetfulness and negative habit energies into awakening and gratitude, thereby, I may experience the Ultimate Dimension as the Nembutsu – Namu Amida Butsu.
  • By practicing deep hearing mindfulness (monpo), I can touch the phenomenal dimension very profoundly, and as a consequence naturally develop the insight into and trust in the Ultimate Dimension, unfolding as Amida Buddha. This insight/trust is known as shinjin and is directed not by my efforts but emerges from the depths of the Ultimate Dimension itself.
  • I will practice clear and unbiased awareness of my thoughts and emotions. I will try not to dwell in personal story telling and regret or anxiety and worry but instead I will inhabit this very present moment where true life is available to me and to my loved ones.
  • I will look deeply into my thoughts, speech, and actions to nourish the positive seeds of love, compassion and wisdom for myself, my society and the world.

8.  Right Concentration

  • I will fully commit myself to manifest my inner potential which is Buddhahood by living the Nembutsu and this Noble Path; I do so for the sake of all sentient and non-sentient beings throughout the cosmos.
  • I will meditate on a regular basis in order to cultivate mindfulness and insight. Learning to clearly see things as-they-are will grant me the insight and faith to do the right things that nourish a happier life and help make our world a better place to live for all of its inhabitants.
  • I will single-mindedly practice this Noble Path everyday and moment and refrain from non-buddhist teachings. I will attend a local sangha on a regular basis to learn more about the dharma, and get involved with social and/or environmental action in order to actualize my bodhisattva mission.