The Eightfold Path can be looked at in many different ways. It is common for The Eightfold Path to be presented in a linear way according to the Sutrayana path of renunciation. In that paradigm the path is split into three aspects of development: wisdom, virtue, and concentration. View and intention are connected with the development of wisdom. Communication, activity, and vocation are connected with the development of virtue. Effort, mindfulness, and presence are connected with the development of concentration.
In this way The Eightfold Path represents the entire path of Sutrayana. The eight strands of the path can be seen as a rope woven together. The rope cannot function as effectively if it loses a strand or if some strands are weaker than others. We may focus on different strands at different times, but gradually we strengthen each strand until the separate strands merge into an undivided experience – the path of the warrior.
Dzogchen offers a non-linear approach to The Noble Eightfold Path. From the perspective of the Ulukhamukha Sutra, all aspects of the path are instantaneously realised through the spontaneous arising of view. In terms of Dzogchen, view is non-dual recognition. Emptiness and form are undivided in the experience of rigpa. From this perspective the form of the path cannot be isolated from its emptiness, and the emptiness of the path cannot be isolated from its form. The Eightfold Path arises as view, meditation, and action. It manifests as the opportunity for direct introduction to rigpa. It manifests as remaining in rigpa without doubt. It manifests as continuing in the state of rigpa. Each aspect of The Eightfold Path is spontaneously present. View inevitably encompasses all the other seven aspects of the path. Congruent effort inevitably encompasses congruent attention, motivation, conduct, etcetera. Congruent intention simultaneously manifests as congruent communication, action, presence, etcetera. The eight aspects of the path cannot exist separately, but only as a simultaneous expression of the Dzogchen pathless path of self-liberation.7
Ngak’chang Rinpoche comments with respect to self-liberation,
Gangshar rangdröl does not mean liberation of the self, for the self, by the self.
The word ‘rang’ in Tibetan is not adequately translated by the word ‘self’.
Rang means ‘of itself’ – so this is not the self of the self-cleaning oven.
The self-cleaning oven gets rid of cooking residues which are not part of the oven.
In terms of self-liberation there is nothing to remove – nothing to change.
‘That which arises’ is simply self-recognised as the non-dual efflorescence of the natural state.
The Eightfold Path constantly aligns us with method and view. Awareness, understanding, and active memory of the path enable us to check ourselves. In this way we can authenticate our existence as warriors in the world. We can discover the liberated energy of realisation that naturally engages in manifesting for the benefit of everyone and everything everywhere.
7. Self-liberation: Gangshar rangdröl (gang shar rang grol) (Tibetan).