If the five ascetics to whom the words were addressed once admitted this implication, logic would drive them also to admit all that followed.

The threefold division of craving at the end of the second truth might be rendered "the lust of the flesh, the lust of life and the love of this present world." The two last are said elsewhere to be directed against two sets of thinkers called the Eternalists and the Annihilationists, who held respectively the everlasting-life-heresy and the let-us-eat-and-drink-for-tomorrow-we-die-heresy.[4] This may be so, but in any case the division of craving would have appealed to the five hearers as correct.

The word translated "noble" in Noble Path, Noble Truth, is ariya, which also means Aryan.[5] The negative, un-Aryan, is used of each of the two low aims. It is possible that this rendering should have been introduced into the translation; but the ethical meaning, though still associated with the tribal meaning, had probably already become predominant in the language of the time.

The details of the Path include several terms whose meaning and implication are by no means apparent at first sight. Right Views, for instance, means mainly right views as to the Four Truths and the Three Signs. Of the latter, one is identical, or nearly so, with the First Truth. The others are Impermanence and Non-soul (the absence of a soul) - both declared to be "signs" of every individual, whether god, animal or man. Of these two again the Impermanence has become an Indian rather than a Buddhist idea, and we are to a certain extent familiar with it also in the West. There is no Being, there is only a Becoming. The state of every individual is unstable, temporary, sure to pass away. Even in the lowest class of things, we find, in each individual, form and material qualities. In the higher classes there is a continually rising series of mental qualities also. It is the union of these that makes the individual. Every person, or thing, or god, is therefore a putting together, a compound; and in each individual, without any exception, the relation of its component parts is ever changing, is never the same for two consecutive moments. It follows that no sooner has separateness, individuality, begun, than dissolution, disintegration, also begins.

There can be no individuality without a putting together: there can be no putting together without a becoming: there can be no becoming without a becoming different: and there can be no becoming different without a dissolution, a passing away, which sooner or later will inevitably be complete.

Heracleitus, who was a generation or two later than the Buddha, had very similar ideas;[6] and similar ideas are found in post-Buddhistic Indian works.[7] But in neither case are they worked out in the same uncompromising way. Both in Europe, and in all Indian thought except the Buddhist, souls, and the gods who are made in imitation of souls, are considered as exceptions. To these spirits is attributed a Being without Becoming, an individuality without change, a beginning without an end. To hold any such view would, according to the doctrine of the Noble (or Aryan) Path, be erroneous, and the error would block the way against the very entrance on the Path.

So important is this position in Buddhism that it is put in the forefront of Buddhist expositions of Buddhism. The Buddha himself is stated in the books to have devoted to it the very first discourse he addressed to the first converts.[8] The first in the collection of the Dialogues of Gotama discusses, and completely, categorically, and systematically rejects, all the current theories about "souls." Later books follow these precedents. Thus the Kathā Vatthu, the latest book included in the canon, discusses points of disagreement that had arisen in the community. It places this question of "soul" at the head of all the points it deals with, and devotes to it an amount of space quite overshadowing all the rest.[9] So also in the earliest Buddhist book later than the canon - the very interesting and suggestive series of conversations between the Greek king Menander and the Buddhist teacher Nāgasena. It is precisely this question of the "soul" that the unknown author takes up first, describing how Nāgasena convinces the king that there is no such thing as the "soul" in the ordinary sense, and he returns to the subject again and again.[10]

After Right Views come Right Aspirations. It is evil desires, low ideals, useless cravings, idle excitements, that are to be suppressed by the cultivation of the opposite - of right desires, lofty aspirations. In one of the Dialogues[11] instances are given - the desire for emancipation from sensuality, aspirations towards the attainment of love to others, the wish not to injure any living thing, the desire for the eradication of wrong and for the promotion of right dispositions in one's own heart, and so on. This portion of the Path is indeed quite simple, and would require no commentary were it not for the still constantly repeated blunder that Buddhism teaches the suppression of all desire.

Of the remaining stages of the Path it is only necessary to mention two. The one is Right Effort. A constant intellectual alertness is required. This is not only insisted upon elsewhere in countless passages, but of the three cardinal sins in Buddhism (rāga, dosa, moha) the last and worst is stupidity or dullness, the others being sensuality and ill-will. Right Effort is closely connected with the seventh stage, Right Mindfulness. Two of the dialogues are devoted to this subject, and it is constantly referred to elsewhere.[12] The disciple, whatsoever he does - whether going forth or coming back, standing or walking, speaking or silent, eating or drinking - is to keep clearly in mind all that it means, the temporary character of the act, its ethical significance, and above all that behind the act there is no actor (goer, seer, eater, speaker) that is an eternally persistent unity. It is the Buddhist analogue to the Christian precept: "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."