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It's clear right view is the foremost factor as without the right view one would not go for practicing the noble eightfold path at all. But when the rest is considered, is there a real sequence? My physical actions are generally good and my speech is fine but needs to be improved as I'm vulnerable to idle chatter. But controlling speech the action is difficult to me. But when I realize that idle chatter(rather idle communication, not just idle chatter alone) leads to more dukkha I am abstaining from it. It's kind of right concentration. Am I following the noble eight foldpath correctly in that scenario?

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Right view is the leader ('forerunner') of the path.

When you realize idle chatter leads to more dukkha, this is right view leading your speech.

When the mind maintains right speech in communication, this is right mindfulness.

In actually practising the path, right view & right mindfulness work together, as described below:

Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong speech as wrong speech and right speech as right speech.

One makes an effort for the abandoning of wrong speech & for entering right speech: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort & right mindfulness — run & circle around right speech.

Maha-Cattarisaka Sutta: The Great Forty

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Some sequence at the beginning of the practice would be helpful. Please see Ven. Bodhi's excellent "The Noble Eightfold Path", especially the sequence of practice described in Chapter2.

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Just as the paths of Stream entry, Once returner, Non-returner , and Arahantship must be passed through and attained in sequence to reach full Purification and emancipation. There is a sequence to the complete understanding of the Noble Eightfold Path. But it does NOT mean that it is to advance step by step in the sequence of the enumeration (one after the other) until “Samma Samadhi’. The process starts in sequence and (the full completion of each step) ends in sequence though.

1 .Right Understanding (sammâ ditthi) Right understanding is seeing things as they really are – seeing things as impermanent, as dependently originated, as not-self, as impersonal, as seeing the Four Noble Truths. When we understand in all these various ways, all these descriptions are opposed to ignorance, to bondage, to entanglement in the cycle of birth and death.

2. Right Thoughts (sammâ samkappa) Clear vision or right understanding leads to clear thinking or Right Thoughts. Thought has an immense influence on one’s behavior. The cause of suffering is described in terms of desire, ill-will and ignorance. Right Understanding removes ignorance. Right Thought removes desire and ill-will. To remove desire and greed we need to cultivate renunciation or detachment. To remove ill-will, we need to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion. Nekkhamma, Avydpdda, Avihimsa are the three-fold Right thoughts.

3. Right Speech (sammâ vâcâ) Right thoughts lead to right speech, the third factor. It speech involves respect for truth and respect for the welfare of others. Right speech means to avoid lying, to avoid back biting or slander, to avoid harsh words, and to avoid idle talk. Always be truthful and trustworthy and seek the good. Idle talk refers to malicious gossips, diverting oneself, entertaining oneself, recounting the faults and failings of others.

4. Right Action (sammâ kammanta) This leads to Right Action. Right action entails respect for life, respect for property, and respect for personal relationships. Respect for personal relationship means to avoid adultery, to avoid sexual misconduct. These three evil deeds are caused by craving and anger, coupled with ignorance.

5. Right Livelihood (sammâ âjîva) Right livelihood is an extension of the rules of Right Action. It is very important to remember that dealing in intoxicants violates the principle of respect for the welfare of others. This contributes to the insecurity, to the suffering and discord in society. The practice of good conduct creates within the individual an inner sense of peace, of stability, of security and of strength. Once he has created that inner peace, he can then fruitfully and successfully practice the other steps of the path. He can cultivate and develop meditation. He can achieve wisdom only when he has created both inwardly and outwardly in his relationships with others and in himself the necessary foundation of good conduct.

6. Right effort (sammâ vâyama) Right effort is the first of the three steps in the mental development group. Together these three steps encourage and enable one to be self reliant, attentive and calm. Right effort (enthusiasm) means cultivating a positive attitude towards our undertakings. It means undertaking our tasks with energy, and a will to carry them through. J ust like the strings of the lute, effort should never become too tense, too extreme, and similarly, it should never become too slack. Right effort is a controlled, sustained, enthusiastic, cheerful determination.

7. Right Mindfulness (Sammâ Sati) Mindfulness is awareness or attention, avoiding a distracted and clouded state of mind. Mindfulness acts as a rein upon our mind. At almost every moment of our life, our minds are running after objects of the senses, may they be sounds, or sights. The mind is never concentrated or still. This guard against unwholesome thoughts is mindfulness. It simply entails being aware and attentive, watching your mind, seeing where it is going, seeing what it is doing with regards to body, with regards to feelings, with regards to moments of consciousness, and with regards to objects.

8. Right Concentration (sammâ samâdhi) Right concentration is the practice of focusing the mind single pointedly on a object, be it physical or mental. When total single-pointed ness of the mind is achieved through concentration, the mind is totally absorbed in the object to the exclusion of all thoughts, distractions, wavering, agitation, or drowsiness. When one’s ability in this kind of meditation is developed, it has two principal benefits. Firstly, it leads to mental and physical well-being, comfort, joy, calm, tranquility. Secondly, it turns the mind into an instrument capable of seeing things as they really are. It prepares the mind to attain wisdom.

In order to turn our understanding of the Four Noble Truths from book knowledge into direct experience we have to achieve one-pointed ness of the mind. It is at this point that mental development is ready to turn its attention to wisdom. It is at this point that we see the role of concentration in Buddhism. This is similar to sharpening the pencil to write with, or sharpening of the axe which we use to cut off the roots of greed, hatred and delusion. When we achieve single-pointed ness of the mind, we are then ready to conjoin tranquility with penetrative understanding, meditation and wisdom. Wisdom is described as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, or the understanding of the dependent origination and so forth.

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I am only going to address the first part of your question. The Noble Eightfold Path is paradoxical because it begins with Right View, which follows immediately after the pre-path "grade" of dharma follower (which in turn follows after faith follower). The nun Dhammadina came up with a threefold classification that the Buddha accepted, consisting of Virtue, Meditation, and Wisdom, in that order. This then raises the question of sequence, since the sequence of the NEP - without which the Buddha said there is no authentic dharma practice - is clearly Wisdom, Virtue, Meditation. Although some religious Buddhists discount the order of the NEP, suggesting that the stages can be achieved simultaneously or in any order (and it is certainly true that the Buddha taught all sorts of meditations to different people at different stages of development), noted Pali scholar Peter Masefield has suggested that the order of the NEP is important, and my own comparative researches in the Pali Canon confirm this. The apparent discrepancy is resolved by regarding the threefold classification as being in order of importance, which has also been suggested by Buddhist scholar Hirakawa Akira. However, the paradox remains. How can the first step of the path be identical with the attainment of wisdom, which the Pali Canon makes clear is the salvific principle itself? The attainment of wisdom makes one a stream enterer, beyond which salvation is certain - it's just a matter of time. Some religious Buddhists have suggested that Right Wisdom is simply a kind of formal religious or intellectual assent, much as some Christians associate "repentance" (metanoia) with a kind of formal catechism, but the word samma means 'perfect.' Thus, each step of the path must perfected. Others might regard Right View as formal entry to the sangha in the sense of monastic community, but the inclusion of Right Livelihood in the NEP militates against this interpretation too, since monastics are not permitted to earn a livelihood. It is also true that many Buddhist monastics were and are puthujjana monastics and not enlightened at all. From this it follows that the path is also open to householders, as is clearly shown in the Pali Canon itself (difficult, but not impossible). It follows therefore that entry to the NEP in itself represents an advanced spiritual attainment, and is not merely a matter of intellectual assent or even conversion, which clearly pertains to the two pre-path stages aforementioned.

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  • Thus, each step of the path must perfected. Is it possible that the process is iterative? E.g. that it does start with a more-or-less right view, then includes or attempts the subsequent steps, and then repeats, starting with a slightly more correct right view, and so on?
    – ChrisW
    Aug 5, 2016 at 16:02
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    It may very well be pursued that way in practice. Obviously one can pursue right livelihood before one has right view, but one cannot really be said to be perfect in the subsequent steps before one is perfect in the previous steps. I will find the passage in the Pali Canon that says this, and post it in the comments when I do.
    – user4970
    Aug 6, 2016 at 1:53
  • He declares the Seven Requisites of Concentration, viz., 1. Right View; 2. Right Thought; 3. Right Speech; 4. Right Action; 5. Right Livelihood; 6. Right Effort; and 7. Right Mindfulness. The similarity to the Noble Eightfold Path is obvious. I would note the strong emphasis on the sequence of the Seven Requisites for Concentration, which clearly correspond to the stages of the Noble Eightfold Path. Each requisite establishes the necessary basis for the next, so the requisites clearly must be attained in order. (DN 18)
    – user4970
    Aug 11, 2016 at 2:37
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MN117 clearly explain the sequence.and the sequence is not linear. The sutta start by buddhas intention to teach ariya sammāsamādhi.

“ariyaṃ vo, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhiṃ desessāmi saupanisaṃ saparikkhāraṃ.

“monks, I will teach you noble right undistractible-lucidity with its vital conditions and its prerequisites.

Looking at the arrangement of these 8 words buddha says

Tatra, bhikkhave, sammādiṭṭhi pubbaṅgamā hoti.

In this context, right view comes first.

And then buddha defines right view . and at the end puts this refrain.

So micchādiṭṭhiyā pahānāya vāyamati, sammādiṭṭhiyā, upasampadāya, svāssa hoti sammāvāyāmo.

They make an effort to give up wrong view and take up right view: that’s their right effort.

So sato micchādiṭṭhiṃ pajahati, sato sammādiṭṭhiṃ upasampajja viharati, sāssa hoti sammāsati.

rememberfully they give up wrong view and take up right view: that’s their right remembering.

Itiyime tayo dhammā sammādiṭṭhiṃ anuparidhāvanti anuparivattanti, seyyathidaṃ—sammādiṭṭhi, sammāvāyāmo, sammāsati.

So these three Dharmas keep running and circling around right view, namely: right view, right effort, and right remembering.

Here buddha clearly says right view comes first. But there are two other pillars.They are right effort and right mindfulness. Buddha clearly says that these 3 works in communion around right view. We can say that these 3 together is active right view. or right view in action.

Then after buddha visits remaining 4 limbs of Eightfold paths and puts the same refrain after them.

Remaining 4 are constantly churned by these 3 wings of right view and purified.These four are resolve, livelihood, speech and action. In fact Even wrong view gets churned out by active right view.

The last is samadhi. it arrives on its own.. However when it comes on the foundation of right view as above. then its is right samadhi.

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Let's use some helpful analogies.

When you first learn to drive a car, do you learn how to start the car on one day, how to accelerate on the second day, how to brake on the third day, how to turn the steering wheel to the left on the fourth day and how to turn the steering wheel to the right on the fifth day? No. It doesn't make sense. You have to learn and develop these steps altogether in tandem, and practise them together.

Another example is this. When you learn to cook, would you learn to cut vegetables on one day, then learn how to wash ingredients on another day, then learn to boil on another day, then learn to simmer on another day and so on? No. Instead, you learn and practise them altogether at once by trying to cook a certain recipe. By practising them together, you slowly deepen your cooking skills. You would then expand to add frying, broiling, baking, steaming, poaching, sauteeing etc. to your techniques, but you would practise them together in one recipe.

Similarly, in the case of the Noble Eightfold Path, you would have to first cultivate Right View (the forerunner of the path) by learning the Buddha's teachings (the Dhamma). Then you would start developing Right Resolve, and decide to take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and practise the five precepts (which form the core part of the virtues - Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood).

As you deepen your progress into Right View by studying more of the Dhamma, you then increase your knowledge of the virtues (Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood) and try to practise them with more fervour. That's more of Right Resolve and Right Effort being applied.

As you deepen your contemplation of the teachings, you start cultivating Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, and then go into the meditation practices. These meditation practices would then lead you to better understanding of the Dhamma through first hand experience, which is improving the Right View once again. If you stumble into the five hindrances during meditation, you may need to deepen your practice of the virtues once again. This of course again is applying Right Resolve and Right Effort towards making progress in meditation and cultivation of wisdom.

So, every step helps the other. You can't practise only one of them at a time. But of course, learning the Dhamma and practising virtues tend to come before meditation, in general. This is just as in the case where you need to start a car and accelerate, before braking, but you would anyway do them in one session of driving, with repetition of all the steps as needed, to take you to your destination.

Even if you have not tried to meditate, if you continually reflect and ponder upon the teachings (that you have studied) and see how they match your experiences in life, you would still begin to understand the teachings from first hand experience. Then meditation could still progressively come later.

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