ariya aṭṭhaṅgika magga: [ariya aṭṭha+aṅga+ika magga] = noble eightfold path.
The expression and its factors (aṅgā) are explained in full detail at SN 45.8:
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is most famously introduced at SN 56.11 as the Middle Way (majjhimā paṭipadā), i.e. the path avoiding both hedonism and self-mortification:
Dve·me, bhikkhave, antā pabbajitena na sevitabbā. Katame dve? Yo c·āyaṃ kāmesu kāma·sukh·allik·ānuyogo hīno gammo pothujjaniko an·ariyo an·attha·saṃhito, yo c·āyaṃ attakilamath·ānuyogo dukkho an·ariyo an·attha·saṃhito. Ete kho, bhikkhave, ubho ante an·upagamma majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhu·karaṇī ñāṇa·karaṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati.
These two extremes, bhikkhus, should not be adopted by one who has gone forth from the home life. Which two? On one hand, the devotion to hedonism towards sensuality, which is inferior, vulgar, common, ignoble, deprived of benefit, and on the other hand the devotion to self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, deprived of benefit. Without going to these two extremes, bhikkhus, the Tathāgata has fully awaken to the Middle Way, which produces vision, which produces knowledge, and leads to appeasement, to direct knowledge, to awakening, to Nibbāna.
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is also introduced later on in that same sutta as the fourth ariya·sacca:
♦ As explained above at SN 56.11, the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is what leads to nibbāna. At SN 45.62, the former leads towards the latter just as the river Ganges slants, slopes, and inclines towards the east (seyyathāpi gaṅgā nadī pācīna·ninnā pācīna·poṇā pācīna·pabbhārā). At SN 45.86, the path is like a tree slanting, sloping and inclining towards the east (seyyathāpi rukkho pācīna·ninno pācīna·poṇo pācīna·pabbhāro) and that could only fall towards that direction if it were to be cut at the foot. It is also said to be the way leading to amata (amata·gāmi·maggo, SN 45.7), or to the unconditioned (a·saṅkhata·gāmi·maggo, SN 43.11).Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkha·nirodha·gāminī paṭipadā ariya·saccaṃ: ayam·eva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, seyyathidaṃ: sammā·diṭṭhi sammā·saṅkappo sammā·vācā sammā·kammanto sammā·ājīvo sammā·vāyāmo sammā·sati sammā·samādhi.
Furthermore, bhikkhus, this is the noble truth of path leading to the cessation of suffering: just this noble eightfold path, that is to say: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga has its own entire saṃyutta (SN 45), that is rich in similes and explanations.
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is given various designations. At MN 19, it is called 'The peaceful and safe path to be followed with exaltation' (khemo maggo sovatthiko pīti·gamanīyo). It is often said to be the brahmacariya (e.g. SN 45.6), at SN 45.35 it is ascetism (sāmañña), at SN 45.36 brahminhood (brahmañña). At SN 12.65, it is the ancient path, the ancient road traveled by the sammā·Sambuddhā of the past. At SN 35.191, it is like a raft to cross over from identity to 'the other shore', which stands for nibbāna. At SN 45.4, after Ānanda sees a brahmin on a luxurious chariot and calls it a 'brahmic vehicle' (brahma·yāna), the Buddha says that is actually a designation for the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga, along with the 'Dhamma vehicle' (dhamma·yāna) and the 'supreme victory in battle' (anuttara saṅgāma·vijaya). The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is also called rightness (sammatta, SN 45.21), kusalā dhammā (SN 45.22), the right way (sammā·paṭipada, SN 45.23) and right practice (sammā·paṭipatti, SN 45.31).
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is part of a set of 37 dhammas which are sometimes listed together (e.g. at AN 10.90, SN 22.81). They are sometimes called the bodhipakkhiyā dhammā, although this expression doesn't have a strict definition in the suttas and is loosely used to describe other sets.
♦ Each factor (aṅga) of the path is said to lead to the next:
A similar progression is also notably found at SN 45.1. AN 7.45 states that all the other seven factors of the path are the 'supports' (upanisa) and 'accessories' (parikkhāra) of sammā·samādhi. MN 117 further explains how the factors interact, according to the following pattern:AN 10.103
“sammattaṃ, bhikkhave, āgamma ārādhanā hoti, no virādhanā. kathañca, bhikkhave, sammattaṃ āgamma ārādhanā hoti, no virādhanā? sammādiṭṭhikassa, bhikkhave, sammāsaṅkappo pahoti, sammāsaṅkappassa sammāvācā pahoti, sammāvācassa sammākammanto pahoti, sammākammantassa sammāājīvo pahoti, sammāājīvassa sammāvāyāmo pahoti, sammāvāyāmassa sammāsati pahoti, sammāsatissa sammāsamādhi pahoti.
Having come to rightness, bhikkhus, there is success, not failure. And how, bhikkhus, is it that having come to rightness, there is success, not failure? For one of right view, right thought arises. For one of right thought, right speech arises. For one of right speech, right action arises. For one of right action, right livelihood arises. For one of right livelihood, right effort arises. For one of right effort, right mindfulness arises. For one of right mindfulness, right concentration arises.
“tatra, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi pubbaṅgamā hoti. kathañca, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi pubbaṅgamā hoti? micchāsaṅkappaṃ ‘micchāsaṅkappo’ti pajānāti, sammāsaṅkappaṃ ‘sammāsaṅkappo’ti pajānāti, sāssa hoti sammādiṭṭhi.
Therein, bhikkhus, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One understands wrong thought as wrong thought and right thought as right thought: this is one's right view.
so micchāsaṅkappassa pahānāya vāyamati, sammāsaṅkappassa upasampadāya, svāssa hoti sammāvāyāmo. so sato micchāsaṅkappaṃ pajahati, sato sammāsaṅkappaṃ upasampajja viharati; sāssa hoti sammāsati. itiyime tayo dhammā sammāsaṅkappaṃ anuparidhāvanti anuparivattanti, seyyathidaṃ sammādiṭṭhi, sammāvāyāmo, sammāsati.
One makes an effort to abandon wrong thought and to acquire right thought: this is one's right effort. One abandons wrong thought mindfully, and acquires and remains in right thought mindfully: this is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three things rotate and circle around right thought, that is, right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.
♦ The enumeration of each path factors is sometimes punctuated by four different formulas. The first one is found for example at SN 45.2 and is in fact mainly used with the bojjhaṅgas, and occasionally with (spiritual) indriyas or balas: 'based upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release' (viveka·nissita virāga·nissita nirodha·nissita vossagga·pariṇāmi).
The second formula can be found at SN 45.109 and says: 'which has the removal of avidity as its final goal, the removal of hatred as its final goal, the removal of delusion as its final goal' (rāga·vinaya·pariyosāna dosa·vinaya·pariyosāna moha·vinaya·pariyosāna).
The third one is found for example at SN 45.122 and says: 'which has the Deathless as its ground, the Deathless as its destination, the Deathless as its final goal' (amat·ogadha amata·parāyana amata·pariyosāna).
The fourth is found for example at SN 45.133 and says: 'which slants towards Nibbāna, slopes towards Nibbāna, inclines towards Nibbāna' (nibbāna·ninna nibbāna·poṇa nibbāna·pabbhāra).
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga, if unarisen, does not arise apart from the appearance of a Buddha (n·āññatra tathāgatassa pātubhāvā arahato sammāsambuddhassa, SN 45.14) or the Discipline of a Sublime one (n·āññatra sugata·vinaya, SN 45.15).
♦ At SN 55.5, the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is what defines sotāpatti, since sota (the stream) is the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga itself, and a sotāpanna is one who possesses it:
♦ At MN 126, the 8 factors of the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga are presented as a technology of the mind ('a proper method for procuring fruit': yoni hesā phalassa adhigamāya) whose results do not depend on making wishes, but instead rely solely on the laws of nature, which is illustrated by how one gets sesame oil by using the right technique (pressing seeds sprinkled with water), how one gets milk (by milking a recently calved cow), butter (by churning curd), or fire (by rubbing a dry, sapless, piece of wood with a proper fire-stick).SN 55.
— “‘soto, soto’ti hidaṃ, sāriputta, vuccati. katamo nu kho, sāriputta, soto”ti?
— It said: 'The stream, the stream', Sāriputta. What now, Sāriputta, is 'the stream'?
— “ayameva hi, bhante, ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo soto
— Bhante, the stream is just this noble eightfold path
— “‘sotāpanno, sotāpanno’ti hidaṃ, sāriputta, vuccati. katamo nu kho, sāriputta, sotāpanno”ti?
— It said: 'A stream-enterer, a stream-enterer', Sāriputta. What now, Sāriputta, is 'a stream-enterer'?
— “yo hi, bhante, iminā ariyena aṭṭhaṅgikena maggena samannāgato ayaṃ vuccati sotāpanno
— Bhante, whoever is possessed of this noble eightfold path is called a stream-enterer
♦ At AN 4.237, the 8 factors of the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga constitute 'kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither-dark-nor-bright result, that leads to the destruction of kamma' (kammaṃ a·kaṇhā·sukkaṃ a·kaṇhā·sukka·vipākaṃ, kamma·kkhayāya saṃvattati).
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is not seldom augmented to become a tenfold set, with the addition of sammā·ñāṇa and sammā·vimutti. SN 45.26 seems to indicate that these two factors are relevant only for the arahant, as they are what makes the difference between a sappurisa and someone who is better than a sappurisa (sappurisena sappurisataro).
♦ Ten phenomena are said to be the precursors for the arising of the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga, the first seven according to the following simile:
In each case, it is said that when a bhikkhu satisfies the condition, 'it is expected that he will develop the noble eightfold path, that he will cultivate the noble eightfold path (pāṭikaṅkhaṃ ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāvessati, ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bahulīkarissati).sūriyassa, bhikkhave, udayato etaṃ pubbaṅgamaṃ etaṃ pubbanimittaṃ, yadidaṃ, aruṇuggaṃ; evameva kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno ariyassa aṭṭhaṅgikassa maggassa uppādāya etaṃ pubbaṅgamaṃ etaṃ pubbanimmittaṃ...
This, bhikkhus, is the forerunner and foretoken of the rising of the sun, that is, the dawn. In the same way, bhikkhus, for a bhikkhu this is the forerunner and foretoken of the arising of the noble eightfold path...
1. Mentioned most often is kalyāṇa·mittatā (with the above sunrise simile at SN 45.49). It is most famously said at SN 45.2 to be the entire brahmacariya (sakalam·ev·idaṃ brahmacariyaṃ), since it can be expected from one who develops it that he will practice the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga, all the more that as we have seen earlier (e.g. at SN 45.6), brahmacariya is also defined as the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga itself. We find as well a formula reminiscent of the suttas found at the beginning of AN 1:
2. Sīla is also mentioned a few times independently from the sunrise simile, in the context of which it is introduced at SN 45.50 as accomplishment in virtue (sīla·sampadā). Such examples include the following:SN 45.77
nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi, yena anuppanno vā ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo uppajjati, uppanno vā ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo bhāvanāpāripūriṃ gacchati, yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, kalyāṇamittatā.
I do not see even one other thing, bhikkhus, because of which the unarisen noble eightfold path arises and the arisen noble eightfold path goes to the plenitude of its development so much, bhikkhus, as because of favorable friendship.
seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ye keci balakaraṇīyā kammantā karīyanti, sabbe te pathaviṃ nissāya pathaviyaṃ patiṭṭhāya evamete balakaraṇīyā kammantā karīyanti; evameva kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sīlaṃ nissāya sīle patiṭṭhāya ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāveti ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bahulīkaroti.
Just as, bhikkhus, whatever actions are to be performed with strength are all performed on dependence on the earth, supported by the earth; in the same way, bhikkhus, it is on dependence on virtue, supported by virtue, that a bhikkhu develops the noble eightfold path, that he cultivates the noble eightfold path.
3. Appamāda is also mentioned a few times independently from the sunrise simile, in the context of which it is introduced at SN 45.54 as accomplishment in assiduity (appamāda·sampadā). Such examples are found at SN 45.139 and SN 45.140.SN 45.150
seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ye kecime bījagāmabhūtagāmā vuḍḍhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjanti, sabbe te pathaviṃ nissāya pathaviyaṃ patiṭṭhāya evamete bījagāmabhūtagāmā vuḍḍhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjanti; evameva kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sīlaṃ nissāya sīle patiṭṭhāya ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāvento ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bahulīkaronto vuḍḍhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ pāpuṇāti dhammesu.
Just as, bhikkhus, whatever kinds of seed and plant life come to development, growth, and plenitude, all come to development, growth, and plenitude on dependence on the earth, supported by the earth; in the same way, bhikkhus, on dependence on virtue, supported by virtue, a bhikkhu developing the noble eightfold path, cultivating the noble eightfold path, comes to development, growth, and plenitude in [wholesome] mental states.
4. Sammā·diṭṭhi (AN 10.121) or accomplishment in view (diṭṭhi·sampadā, SN 45.53), are mentioned with the sunrise simile as precursors of the path, without surprise since as we have seen above, each path factor leads to the next, and sammā·diṭṭhi stands first.
5. Accomplishment in desire (chanda·sampadā) is mentioned with the sunrise simile at SN 45.51. The Commentary explains it as desire for kusalā dhammā. In a related meaning, the word chanda appears notably in the sammā·vāyāma formula.
6. Accomplishment in self (atta·sampadā), mentioned with the sunrise simile at SN 45.52. The commentary explains the expression as sampanna·citta·tā (accomplishment in mind), which suggests the attainment of samādhi (see adhi·citta·sikkhā). The expression 'atta·ññū hoti' (one who knows himself) may explain the term. At SN 7.68, it is explained as knowing oneself to have saddhā, sīla, learning (suta), cāga, paññā and understanding (paṭibhāna).
7. Accomplishment in appropriate attention (yoniso·manasikāra-sampadā), mentioned with the sunrise simile at SN 45.52.
8, 9 & 10. Vijjā followed by hiri and ottappa (anva·d·eva hir·ottappa) is said to be the forerunner (pubb·aṅgama) in the entry upon kusalā dhammā (kusalānaṃ dhammānaṃ samāpatti) at SN 45.1 and AN 10.105.
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is said at AN 4.34 to be the highest (agga) of saṅkhatā dhammā and to bring the highest vipākā.
♦ As we have seen above at SN 56.11, the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga produces ñāṇa·dassana and leads to upasama, sambodhi and Nibbāna. Between SN 45.161 and SN 45.180, it is also said to lead to the direct knowledge (abhiññā), full understanding (pariññā), complete destruction (parikkhaya), and abandoning (pahāna) of various phenomena: the three discriminations (vidhā), i.e. 'I am superior' (‘seyyo·ham·asmī’ti), 'I am equal' (‘sadiso·ham·asmī’ti), 'I am inferior' (hīno·ham·asmī’ti); the three searches (esanā), i.e. the search for sensuality (kām·esanā), the search for [a good] existence (bhav·esanā), the search for the brahmic life (brahmacariy·esanā); the three āsavā; the three bhavā; the three sufferings (dukkhatā), i.e. the suffering from pain (dukkha·dukkhatā), the suffering from Constructions (saṅkhāra·dukkhatā), the suffering from change (vipariṇāma·dukkhatā); the three akusalamulā; the three types of vedanā; kāma, diṭṭhi and avijjā; the four upādānā; abhijjhā, byāpāda, sīla·bbata parāmāsa and adherence to [the view] 'This [alone] is the truth' (idaṃ·sacc·ābhinivesa); the seven anusayā; the five kāma·guṇā; the five nīvaraṇā; the five upādāna·kkhandhā; the ten saṃyojanā.
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga also leads to the cessation (nirodha) of phenomena: MN 9 lists all the twelve links of paṭicca·samuppāda, the four āhārā and the three āsavā; AN 6.63 additionally speaks of the cessation of kāma and kamma; SN 22.56 mentions the cessation of each of the five upādāna·kkhandhā.
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is the tool to remove akusalā dhammā. In that respect, MN 3 directly mentions all the 16 upakkilesā (with dosa in place of byāpāda). A number of similes illustrating this point are given in the Magga Saṃyutta: at SN 45.153, akusalā dhammā are given up by the mind like a pot turned upside down 'gives up' its water; at SN 45.156, they are disintegrated like a cloud providing rain disintegrates a dust storm; at SN 45.157, they are dispersed like a strong wind disperses a great cloud giving rain; at SN 45.158, they are like the ropes on a ship that rot under inclement weather.
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga gives strength to the mind, as explained in SN 45.27's simile, where it is compared to the stand of a pot that makes it difficult to get knocked over. At SN 45.160, people, powerful or not, wishing to convince a bhikkhu cultivating the ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga to abandon monkhood by offering him wealth will be no more successful than people wishing to change the direction of the Ganges, because his mind is inclined to seclusion.
♦ The ariya aṭṭh·aṅg·ika magga is also said at SN 45.155 to develop the 37 bodhi·pakkhiya·dhammā.
“seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, āgantukāgāraṃ. tattha puratthimāyapi disāya āgantvā vāsaṃ kappenti, pacchimāyapi disāya āgantvā vāsaṃ kappenti, uttarāyapi disāya āgantvā vāsaṃ kappenti, dakkhiṇāyapi disāya āgantvā vāsaṃ kappenti, khattiyāpi āgantvā vāsaṃ kappenti, brāhmaṇāpi āgantvā vāsaṃ kappenti, vessāpi āgantvā vāsaṃ kappenti, suddāpi āgantvā vāsaṃ kappenti; evameva kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bhāvento ariyaṃ aṭṭhaṅgikaṃ maggaṃ bahulīkaronto ye dhammā abhiññā pariññeyyā, te dhamme abhiññā parijānāti, ye dhammā abhiññā pahātabbā, te dhamme abhiññā pajahati, ye dhammā abhiññā sacchikātabbā, te dhamme abhiññā sacchikaroti, ye dhammā abhiññā bhāvetabbā, te dhamme abhiññā bhāveti.
Suppose, monks, there is a guest-house. Travelers come from the east, the west, the north, the south to lodge here: nobles and Brahmans, merchants and serfs. In the same way, monks, a monk who cultivates the Noble Eightfold Path, who assiduously practices the Noble Eightfold Path, comprehends with higher knowledge those states that are to be so comprehended, abandons with higher knowledge those states that are to be so abandoned, comes to experience with higher knowledge those states that are to be so experienced, and cultivates with higher knowledge those states that are to be so cultivated.
“katame ca, bhikkhave, dhammā abhiññā pariññeyyā? pañcupādānakkhandhātissa vacanīyaṃ...
What, monks, are the states to be comprehended with higher knowledge? They are the five groups of clinging...
katame ca, bhikkhave, dhammā abhiññā pahātabbā? avijjā ca bhavataṇhā ca...
What, monks, are the states to be abandoned with higher knowledge? They are ignorance and the desire for [further] becoming...
katame ca, bhikkhave, dhammā abhiññā sacchikātabbā? vijjā ca vimutti ca...
And what, monks, are the states to be experienced with higher knowledge? They are knowledge and liberation...
katame ca, bhikkhave, dhammā abhiññā bhāvetabbā? samatho ca vipassanā ca.
And what, monk, are the states to be cultivated with higher knowledge? They are calm and insight.