ccharles wrote:Is there a specific sequential order in which one must pratice/learn the dhamma in order to reach the final goal? If so, what is this order?
there are many answers to this question. unfortunately there is not so much as one solid answer to be found in the suttas as they are arranged by length, not by progression of training. however i believe the eightfold path is a progression:
1 right view: learn to see things in terms of the truths (and by extension anicca, dukkha and anatta). doing this makes one motivated to seek more knowledge. we also circle back here once we reach the end as this is also the step involved in developing wisdom.
2 right intention (or right thought): intention to complete the training. thoughts of non ill will, thoughts of renunciation, and so on. getting your mind straight and on the right path keeps pushing you along. also for developing wisdom.
3 right speech: this is morality obviously. perfecting the way one speaks, no harsh speech, lies, gossip or curse words, etc. saying pleasant things and helpful things. perfecting your speech will make everything in your life go smoother making practice easier and even promoting it.
4 right action: again, morality (seeing the progression?), no harming any sentient being in any way. also no hurting yourself, this includes intoxicants. helping others. same as above, doing good, taking care of your health and mind will make you ready for further practice.
5 right livelihood: if you work it cannot be a job that makes you break any of these other rules. specific no nos are: poison trader, meat trader, living being trader, weapons trader and intoxicants trader. making sure you have an appropriate job will make the whole path much more fruitful.
6 right effort: making the time and effort to do the things in the path. helping others. meditating. going to see your teacher. planning out time to read suttas. stuff like that and a lot more. actually getting down to business! you are moving right along into the far reaches of the practice.
7 right mindfulness: paying attention to what you are doing mindfully as prescribed in the suttas, also applies to meditation. practicing this is crucial to the path and it's ten times stronger and easier if you're working on fulfilling the previous steps.
8 right concentration: jhana meditation and some say access concentration or other types of meditation but jhana is the most common definition given by the buddha. infinitely easier if you have fulfilled all the other steps! if you're a drug dealing, drug addict, thief who cusses people out at random and refuses to even consider the four noble truths (ie: breaking almost all of the rules above...) then when you sit down to meditate you will have SERIOUS difficulty. however if you've fulfilled all of the above you will slide right along!
so this really is a progression on it's own. the eightfold path is all inclusive and you can just keep adding to each step as everything can be put under one of the headings. the main choices are what meditation subjects and stuff like that.