The whole reason for becoming Buddhist is to achieve happiness and become "enlightened." In order to do this, you must follow the Eightfold Path. Once you have accomplished all eight steps, you are officially enlightened:
- Right Knowledge: Strive to comprehend the first three Noble Truths. This might seem a bit circular, but language is a tricky thing, and the Great Seer wanted to make sure you had all your bases covered. The Noble Truths perhaps aren't as straightforward as they may seem at first. So you must strive to fully comprehend them.
- Right Thinking: Consciously dedicate yourself to a life in harmony with the Noble Truths elucidated by the Buddha.
- Right Speech: No gossiping, lying, backbiting, and harsh language. If you don't have anything valuable to say, keep your big yapper shut. Always good advice.
- Right Conduct: For lay Buddhists (meaning Buddhists who aren't monks), Right Conduct means following the Five Precepts (see below). If you're a monk, there are some more rules for conduct, but don't worry about them until you're ready to become a monk.
- Right Livelihood: Go peacefully into the world and do no harm. So choose a profession that's harmless to living things, and refrain from killing people.
- Right Effort: Conquer the flow of negative thoughts, replacing them with good thoughts.
- Right Mindfulness: Achieve an intense awareness of your body, emotions, and mental states. Quiet the noises in your head and dwell in the present.
- Right Concentration: Learn about (and practice) various kinds of meditation, an important booster rocket on the launch pad to enlightenment. Read this article for a full introduction to Meditation. An online course in meditation is also available.
The Five Precepts
The Five Precepts are the basic rules of conduct for lay Buddhists-as opposed to monks and nuns, who have 227 and 311 rules to follow respectively. The Five Precepts aren't commandments given to you by an angry God who threatens you if you disobey; rather, they are guidelines meant to improve your karma and help you along the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. These few rules keep you out of the worst kinds of trouble, ultimately making you happier:
- Don't kill
- Don't steal
- Don't lie
- Don't cheat (on your loved one)
- Don't take drugs or drink booze
Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it?