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Fundamentals of Buddhism

Today we are going to complete our survey of the
Noble Eightfold Path. In the last two weeks, we have
looked at good conduct and mental development.
Today, we have the third group to look at, and that is the
wisdom group. Here we have an interesting situation
which we attended to sometime ago when we discussed
the Four Noble Truths. When one sees the Noble
Eightfold Path listed in sequence, one begins with Right
Understanding and yet in the context of the three fold
division of good conduct, mental development and
wisdom, wisdom comes at the end. One tries to explain
this by using the analogy of climbing a mountain. When
one sets out to climb a mountain one has the summit in
view and it is the sight of the summit that gives
direction to one’s path. In that sense, even when one
begins to climb the mountain, one has one’s eyes on the
summit. As such, right understanding is necessary right
at the beginning of the path. Yet in practical terms one
has to climb the lower steps, scale the intermediate
ridges before one reaches the summit, the attainment of
wisdom. In practical terms, therefore, wisdom comes at
the end of one’s practice of the path.
Wisdom is described as the understanding of the
Four Noble Truths, or the understanding of dependent
origination and so forth. What is meant by this is that
when we speak of the attainment of wisdom, we are
concerned with transforming these items of the doctrine
from simple intellectual facts to real personal facts. We
are interested in changing this knowledge from mere
book learning to real living experience. And the way