Points of Controversy

20.5. Of the Ariyan Path

Controverted Point: That the Path is fivefold only.

Theravādin: But was not the Path pronounced by the Exalted One to be eightfold—namely, right views, right purpose, right speech, action, and livelihood, right effort, mindfulness, and samādhi? And did he not also say:

“Of all the means the Eightfold Path is best,
And best of all true things the Stages Four;
Best state of mind disinterestedness,
And of all bipeds best the man-who-sees.”

Surely, then, the Path is eightfold.

But you tell me that though these three—right speech, right action, right livelihood—are factors of the Path, nevertheless they are not path, while the other five are both factors of the Path and Path. Why this distinction?

Mahīsāsakas: But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“For him who has hitherto been quite pure in karma of deed and of word and of livelihood, this Ariyan Eightfold Path will go to perfection of development.”

Hence surely the Path is fivefold.

Theravādin: But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“In whatsoever doctrine and discipline, Subhadda, the Ariyan Eightfold Path is not found, neither in it is there found a saintly man of the first, or of the second, or of the third, or of the fourth degree. And in whatsoever doctrine and discipline, Subhadda, the Ariyan Eightfold Path is found, in it is such a saintly man found. Now in this doctrine and discipline, Subhadda, is found the Ariyan Eightfold Path, and in it, too, are found men of saintliness of all four degrees. Void are the systems of other teachers, void of saintly men.”

Hence surely the Path is eightfold.