Meditation-concentration is the main way to Nirvana. In practicing the Eight-Fold Path, we have researched, studied the Suffering that is an argument from which we get the judgment and the thought. The Extinction of Suffering seems abstract, and studying it is also to get reasons. The Noble Path of Nirvana is the practical stage. We begin to practice Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, all of those is also a talk. It doesn’t matter whether or not any of us can take the practice. However, if we don’t take practice of Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, we can never understand what they are.
We have learned the basic Dharma, the Four Noble Truths: from the Suffering to the Noble Path of Nirvana, then the Eight-Fold Path. Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration are the three final stages in the practice of the Eight-Fold Path, and also the top of the Dharma, which we are going to. But the top is very abstract and very difficult to understand. There is nothing normal we can realize in our daily life.
Our Buddhists who have the great determination to attain the top of Buddhism, which is meditation-concentration, should pay much attention to this stage, beginning here: Right Effort.
Someone once asked the Buddha: “There are four Rewards of Sainthood: Sotapanna, Sakadagamin, Anagamin and Arahant. Reaching to Arahant is to attain Enlightenment. That is what You said. And if people don’t practice Your teachings but take another’s practice, can they attain the four Rewards or not?”
Our Buddha kindly and cleverly said: “Where there is the Eight-Fold Path, where there are the four Rewards of Sainthood.” The Buddha didn’t say whether people should follow Him or should take practice with another.
Thus, the Eight-Fold Path is the perfect system of practice that the Buddha did teach us. Nevertheless, we should be careful, because we might not fully understand His meaning. In the perfection, the Eight-Fold Path is classified into the two parts:
First part is from Right View to Right Livelihood.
Second part is from Right Effort to Right Concentration.
The five stages are Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Karma and Right Livelihood aiming to create a noble life. The three final stages are Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration aiming to strive for practice of meditation-concentration. To base on the Eight-Fold Path, we can sum up the process of practicing Buddhism as following:
In the first phase, practitioners need to clean up the lives, to live the noble life. This is the first requirement.
In the second phase, practitioners can go deep into meditation-concentration.
The two phases of practicing Buddhism support one another. It means that from living the noble life, practitioners can have enough blessings to go deep into meditation-concentration. And from staying deep into meditation-concentration, practitioners can build up the noble life. The relation between living the noble life and practicing meditation-concentration is very close. That’s a reason why our Buddhists, monks, nuns or believers, should be parallel living the noble life and practicing meditation-concentration. The two practices always support one another. We can’t say that “I will live the noble life before I practice meditation.” Meditation-concentration helps us control ourselves to live the noble life. We can’t also suppose that we only need to practice meditation, focus our minds on concentration to attain Enlightenment without caring the life, because we consider the life as temporary and unreal. If we think that we misunderstand the guideline of Buddhism. If we don’t live the noble life, we can never complete our practice of meditation-concentration. These are the two clear interacted criteria. We can base on the criteria to value practitioners’ practice of Buddhism if they take a right way or a wrong way.