It is strange that the word appearing most frequently in the context of the Noble Eightfold Path is also the one that gets the least attention: the word “right.” (Meng might joke in response, “I know, right?”)
The Pali word translated to right is sammā. Sammā also means correct, complete, whole, proper, perfect. It’s a wonderful word. The path teaches us how to see and live correctly. But what is it that says what is right and what is wrong? That must be something deeper than doctrine. What is the source of correct doctrine?
The definitive Buddhist answer is that what leads to suffering is wrong, and what leads to the end of suffering is right. However, in Buddhism, we are not satisfied with a definition given in words. We strive to realize it, to know for ourselves what makes right right. What is it about the path that makes it sammā: right, correct, complete, whole, proper, perfect?
Practicing the path enables us to answer these questions. They are not answered with mere words. They are answered with our lives.