Journal of Philosophy of Life

An international peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the philosophy of life, death, and nature, supported by the Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life, Osaka Prefecture University


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Liberation through Compassion and Kindness
: The Buddhist Eightfold Path as a Philosophy of Life

William Irwin

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.3, No.1 (January 2013):68-82



In this essay I offer my interpretation of the Buddhist Eightfold Path as a philosophy of life, beginning with discussion of right views concerning suffering, liberation, compassion, and kindness. Compassion and kindness are virtues that direct us away from ourselves and our craving, and thus free us from suffering. The goal of right thought is to have only the kinds of thoughts we want to have. Right speech is practiced in words that express compassion and kindness. Right action calls us to be slow to react, and thoughtfully do the next right thing. Right livelihood means that any work that directly or indirectly causes others to suffer is work to avoid. Right effort recognizes that we live well only with effort. Right mindfulness is doing one thing and thinking only of it. Right concentration — clearing the mind in meditation — is both the culmination and the second beginning of the Eightfold Path. No one graduates from the Eightfold Path; living well is an ongoing process.

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