The eightfold path lists eight human qualities leading to liberation: 1. correct view. 2. correct thought. 3. correct speech. 4. correct action. 5. correct livelihood. 6. correct effort. 7. correct mindfulness. 9. correction meditation.

Since this list is a translation from Sanskrit, it is a little ambiguous. It’s worth looking at the Sanskrit and then discuss possible meanings. In Sanskrit, the list reads: 1. samyag drsti; 2. samyag samkalpa; 3. samyag vac; 4. samyak karmanta; 5. samyag ajiva; 6. samyag vyayama; 7. samyag smrti; 8. samyag samadhi.

Samyag (the Korean pronunciation is samyak, it shows up in our chants) can be translated as correct/complete/perfect/right. Drsti means view, in the sense of point-of-view — seeing reality for what it is. Samkalpa is translated as thought or intention— what is the direction of our action? what is the immediate goal or plan? Vac is speechKarmanta is action (the attentive reader will note the word karma within the word karmanta). Ajiva is livelihood, and you can have lively arguments about what professions fall within the purviews of correct livelihood. Vyayamais effortSmrti is mindfulness— paying attention. Samadhi is — well, it’s samadhi, but that’s not an English word, so it’s usually translated as concentration or meditation— the particular sort of highly focused hyper-aware object-less concentration that can happen during meditation, different from the highly focused hyper-aware concentration that can happen when you are deeply absorbed in a purposeful activity — art, music, sports, cooking…

As with the four noble truths, Zen teaching tends towards dissolution: correct view is no view, correct intention is no intention, and so on.

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