More Right Concentration
    A Free Supplement to
Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas
  Right Concentration     More  

The Gradual Training and The Eightfold Path

The quite strong correspondence between the Gradual Training and the Eightfold Path is apparently seldom noticed and certainly is almost never mentioned or taught. Yet the correspondence is quite striking. Consider the following table:

            Gradual Training         Eightfold Path
    Hearing the true Dhamma, gaining confidence  Right View
    Keeping the precepts         Right Intention, Right Action, Right Speech, Right Livelihood
    Guarding the senses         Right Intention, Right Effort
    MindfulnessRight Mindfulness
    Being content with little Right Intention
    Abandoning the hindrancesRight Effort
    Practicing the Jhānas         Right Effort, Right Concentration
    Gaining InsightRight View
    Overcoming the āsavas, Liberation         Right Effort, Right View

Hearing the true Dhamma and gaining confidence is the first step of the Gradual Training and also provides the initial glimpse of Right View. Keeping the precepts requires the Right Intentions of renunciation, of non-ill-will, and of harmlessness. The precepts also specifically address Right Speech and Right Action (i.e., to refrain from killing, to refrain from taking what is not given, and to refrain from sexual misconduct). And the bulk of the discussion of morality in the Gradual Training is about Right Livelihood which means not earning one's livelihood in a way that involves breaking any precept.

Guarding the senses requires the Right Effort of preventing the arising of unwholesome mental states as well as involving all three Right Intentions. Mindfulness as explicitly stated in the Gradual Training is one of the Satipaṭṭhāna practices given for mindfulness of the body.1 Being content with little is a practice of the Right Intention of renunciation.

Abandoning the hindrances is the Right Effort of overcoming arisen unwholesome mental states and preventing new ones from arising. Right Concentration is defined as the four jhānas; entering and abiding in the jhānas are the Right Efforts of producing unarisen wholesome mental states and maintaining arisen wholesome mental states.

Gaining Insight         leads to a more profound Right View. Overcoming the āsavas requires the Right Efforts of overcoming arisen unwholesome mental states and preventing new ones from arising, and Liberation results in the ultimate Right View.

It is interesting that the Eightfold Path is often subdivided into three sections of morality, concentration and wisdom but with the wisdom section surprisingly coming first rather than at the end:

    Right ViewWisdom
    Right Intention
    Right Speech
    Right ActionMorality
    Right Livelihood
    Right Effort
    Right MindfulnessConcentration
    Right Concentration  

Could it be that the order of the Eightfold Path is actually a reflection of the Gradual Training? Notice in the table at the beginning of this appendix that the order in which each element of the Eightfold Path appears as one progresses through the Gradual Training is the usual order in which the Eightfold Path is given, other than Right Speech and Right Action being swapped. Of course there is no hard evidence that this speculation about the ordering of the Eightfold Path is correct – but the correspondence between the Gradual Training and the Eightfold Path is quite striking indeed.

1. DN 22.4 and MN 10.8

Back to More Right Concentration