The Noble Eightfold Path - as explained by Ananda Tara Shan
Eight fundamental steps towards Right Human Relations:
1. Right Belief, Right Values, Right Idealism
To gain strength and courage you must believe in something higher than yourself, something that becomes an ideal to reach, something that changes materialistic values into higher values, something that stimulates the growth of your soul.
Right Belief gives birth to Right Values which give birth to Right Idealism. If you have Right Belief then you seek other values in life. You cannot have Right Values in life if you do not have right ideals to look towards, such as Krishna, the Christ, Buddha.
Right Idealism is part of Right Values. It is to be ready to work for a cause without expecting materialistic gain, e.g., voluntary work done by people of goodwill at the Salvation Army and similar humanitarian organisations.
2. Right Effort, Right Endeavour, Right Aspiration
When you have Right Belief then you are willing to make an effort to gain Right Values and live for Right Idealism. Right Effort means you will do anything to reach your ideal. Right Effort gives birth to Right Endeavour. This is the way you show your effort. Right Endeavour gives birth to Right Aspiration. If you have no belief, you have nothing to work towards.
3. Right Meditation, Right Prayer, Right Concentration
You do not start on meditation/prayer without an ideal.
You can pray for more money, more fame; but whenever you ask for anything for you alone, you draw negative energy towards you (selfishness).
Right Prayer leads to Right Happiness.
Right Concentration leads to Right Peace.
Right Meditation leads to Right Joy, a soul quality.
Right Joy leads to Inspiration, Devotion and Intuition.
4. Right Action, Right Conduct, Right Humanitarian Intention
Right Action is to do with control of the lower mental body, and to live lives of harmlessness.
Right Conduct: to teach people how to conduct themselves will not really develop the quality of Right Conduct, but it is a start. Right Conduct is a discipline which takes lives to develop, for Right Conduct must come as a knowledge of what is Right Conduct from the inner self.
The soul teaches Right Conduct by letting the lower expression (the body and mind) experience many lives of difficulties and hardships.
Of course, this happens within all the steps of learning; however, with Right Conduct it is not a superficial manner of acting and behaving, but something that must be acted out from the heart.
All the steps are interwoven. Your conduct towards yourself and your fellow human beings will change once you work within the first three steps of Right Belief, Right Effort and Right Meditation.
Right Conduct leads to Right Humanitarian Intention.
You do not intend to help humanity if you have not progressed very far on the Path because you are not really interested in helping others.
You do not intend to help humanity if you have not been through the first three steps.
Right Conduct is when you yourself decide to act in a better way.
Everything which is right has to come from within you.
5. Right Thought, Right Thinking
Right Thought and Right Thinking are not the same. Right Thinking has another energy to it. Meditate on it.
You will not have Right Thought until you have changed rather drastically.
Right Thought relates to the soul thinking through you. It is one of the last steps on the Path.
If the personality cannot control its negative thoughts, those thoughts will come to permeate the entire personality and could take control of the mind.
To think rightly comes very late in development because it has to do with the higher mental body and the soul taking over.
Right Thought and Right Thinking lead to harmlessness in action, thought and speech.
6. Right Speech
You cannot speak rightly without thinking rightly.
If you think wrongly, something wrong will always come out in your speech. Thought is continued by speech.
Learn to speak only when speech is needed.
7. Right Mode of Living, Right Means of Livelihood
Right Mode of Living is the way of living by the Divine Principles. You cannot utilise the Divine Principles if you have not been through the other steps. Right Mode of Living teaches a balanced sexual life, and it teaches to eat and drink correctly.
To force oneself to live as a vegetarian or to live by rigid moral codes may create insurmountable problems in an individual who is not ready. This is a paradox, as much Divine Teaching is to the novice, for many first learn by having the principles enforced upon them; then, in time, they become the principles and are then initiates.
One day you will learn to love the Divine Principles for the Light and Love they create within you.
By Right Means of Livelihood is meant that you, as a spiritually developing being, must not live by selling, for example: meat, alcohol, weapons, and so forth.
8. Right Memory, Right Understanding, Right Discrimination
By Right Memory is meant that, at a certain stage of development, you start to see the past and the future and learn by it. At that stage you may not be correct in your interpretations of your memories. Therefore, for Right Memory you need the help of a therapist, the energy of another person to help you. Then, at the next stage you have learnt discrimination.
The Noble Eightfold Path leads to illumination of mind and enlightenment of soul, thus dispelling glamour and illusion. Illumination of mind comes when you start to understand and live the Divine Wisdom. Enlightenment of soul starts when the soul is slowly being initiated into the Light.