Tenfold Path, Right Knowledge, Right Liberation

In several places in all four Nikāyas, especially the Aṅguttara, we have an extended list of the Noble Eightfold Path, a ‘Tenfold Path’ (a term not to be found in the suttas). Here, after sammā samādhi, we have 9. sammā ñāṇa (right knowledge) and 10. sammā vimutti (right liberation). Unfortunately there is no detailed exposition of these in the suttas.

Table of Contents 1. Interpretation 1. Free available resources and articles 1. Sutta References 1. Relevant SuttaCentral topics and discussions

1. Interpretation

A question that regularly occurs is if the last two limbs happen ‘automatically’ without deliberate practice and are for that reason not part of the standard version of the Noble Eightfold Path. Another frequent suggestion is that the last two limbs are fruits and results of someone who already attained arahantship.

2. Free available resources and articles

Rod Bucknell. The Buddhist Path to Liberation: An Analysis of the Listing of Stages

Bucknell argues in this article from 1984 that Right Knowledge and Right Liberation are not automatic developments on the path and have to be practiced. Relying on MN 27 he further argues that Right Knowledge consists of the three supernormal knowledges:

  1. the knowledge of the recollection of past lives
  2. the knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings
  3. the knowledge of the destruction of the taints

He concludes with remarking that next to the eightfold and tenfold versions of the path there are many other variations to be found in the suttas.

##3. Sutta References

This is a probably not exhaustive list of suttas mentioning the tenfold path:

4. Relevant suttacentral topics and discussions


Hey Gabriel, well done, this is a nice start for a wiki.

I’ve made a few changes, namely:

  1. Restructured the order of the parts. Typically a wiki article puts an introduction first, a paragraph or two to summarize the topic. This is a place for people to just grab the gist of the idea, if that’s what they want; it’s also what would appear in a search result summary. So it’s not the place for discussion or interpretation, which I have moved further down.
  2. There’s no need for a heading at the beginning of the topic, the post title does that.
  3. I have marked up the Table of Contents as I did for the “rapture” post, I am not sure if this is a good idea or not. (Remember, with markdown lists it doesn’t matter what numbers are used at the beginning of list item, it is just interpreted as “numbered list item”. So it is easiest to simply use a sequence of 1’s, so if the order is changed later it doesn’t need re-editing.)
  4. I made sure each paragraph starts with two line breaks, and a couple of other formatting tweaks.
  5. Previously I left off numbers for the headings. in a perfect world, these would be added automatically and coordinated with the ToC numbers. this is, however, not a perfect world, so I’m not sure what is best here.

I am quite curious how tenfold path became eightfold. It has a deep significance and meaning for how I practiced intuitively knowing that the ultimate goal of the path is right knowledge and right liberation. I wonder if the Eightfold path nomenclature was somehow borrowed from similar sounding Astanga Yoga by Patanjali . Patanjali - Wikipedia

Wonder if the Tenfold Path appears in the ‘Visuddhimagga’?

The two extra factors are a result of the unification of the eight links of the path, and do not exist independently, so there is no “Tenfold Path.”

“In one of right concentration, right knowledge… In one of right knowledge, right release comes into being. [4] Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.”—MN 117

The converse is also true, when concentration is developed from wrong view, wrong knowledge results:

“In a person of wrong concentration, wrong knowledge.”—AN 10.103

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I guess your argument is that limbs 9 and 10 are ‘merely’ results. But following that logic there is no path at all, because according to your quoted AN 10.103 one would only have to establish right view and all other limbs would be merely results: “(1) “For one of right view, (2) right intention originates… [etc]” (also AN 10.105-107; 121).

Can you clarify your argument?


"In a person of right view, right resolve comes into being. In a person of right resolve, right speech. In a person of right speech, right action. In a person of right action, right livelihood. In a person of right livelihood, right effort. In a person of right effort, right mindfulness. In a person of right mindfulness, right concentration. In a person of right concentration, right knowledge. In a person of right knowledge, right release. [1]”—-AN 10.103

This is what is meant. But right view has two forms, the established and the developing. Before answering further, I would like you to say which of the two the above refers to.

I’m not as well-versed in Pali suttas, but I often see the pair “right knowledge and right liberations” in stock passages of Chinese Agamas describing an arhat’s liberation. I would suspect that this tenfold path may simply be a fusion of that trope with the eightfold path. Maybe it was listed nearby in some passages and later was fused as a logical extension representing liberation. There also seems to have been a desire to create lists of 10 at some point in Buddhist history as well, like the 10 powers and paramitas. Many of those lists have evidence of earlier versions that were shorter and got expanded to round out a perfect set of 10.


Some fusion might well have taken place. But the eightfold list isn’t unproblematic either. The main issue being that the 8fold path leads to samadhi and not to liberation. In that respect it doesn’t fit the claim of the 4NTs. One has to make assumptions in order to make it work - like ‘from the 4th jhana liberation is on auto-pilot’. But this would be a problematic claim in that I don’t think it’s justified by the suttas. So 9 and 10 could have been added to fix the issue.

This is less convincing to me as there are so many differently numbered lists, and even the ‘odd’ seven bojjhaṅgās remained untouched. So for that argument I think one would have to find other lists that were artificially enlarged to 10.

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It’s more clear when you compare different versions of the full lists of 10 across traditions. Usually the middle parts are random and sometimes don’t even share the same items. I was noticing that with the 10 powers this month. The first two and the last three are consistent across Buddhist traditions, but the middle five are all over the place, which suggests to me that it started out as five powers and then was expanded later,


Thank you @Gabriel for the wiki, and thanks for sharing how MN 117 has helped you. I recently listened to Ajahn Sona’s talk about the 9th and 10th factor. I have the feeling that he makes a convincing argument. I specifically like the idea of seeing the many feedback loops one has to go through to progress, like climbing a spiral stair case. Is there not also a clear link to DO because right knowledge will eliminate delusion thus leading to liberation? The noble eightfold path is the path LEADING to the cessation of suffering, i.e. liberation. It is convincing that this is a step by step process bolstered by sila, sati and right samadhi.
Oh, how beautiful the Buddha’s teaching is.