The Fourth Noble Truth: The Way
To get to nirvana, you must traverse the Noble Eightfold Path. This path can be divided into three sections: morality (sila; right speech, right action, right livelihood); meditation (samadhi; right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration); and wisdom and insight (prajna; right view, right thought). This is an entirely self-sufficient path. No outside intercessor is required to reach this salvation. Indeed the gauntlet is thrown down for you to work out your own salvation.
Buddhism is religion in action rather than belief. It is also practical rather than intellectual, as is reflected in the metaphor the Buddha used of the man shot by an arrow. Humanity is like the man, wounded by an arrow, and the arrow is dukkha. Intellectual pursuits over practical application would be akin to hesitating to withdraw the arrow before you find out what kind of wood it was made out of, who shot the arrow, and at what angle the arrow entered your body. What matters most in that moment is getting medical help — the healing dharma found through meditation, not philosophical speculation.
“This, O Monks, is the Truth of the Path which leads to the cessation of suffering. It is this Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of (1) Right View, (2) Right Resolve, (3) Right Speech, (4) Right Action, (5) Right Livelihood, (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Mindfulness, (8) Right Meditation.” — The Truth of the Path (Magga)
The fifth-century Buddhist teacher Buddhoghosa calls morality and meditation the two “legs” upon which wisdom leading to liberation stand. Morality is the foundation for meditation and meditation is the foundation for wisdom. Each builds on the other and you can't get to wisdom without the other two.
This is known as “the Middle Way.” It does not promote excessive sensual pleasure or excessive self-denial. It is a moderate path that avoids extremes. The Eightfold Path is a plan of action for realizing nirvana. The Noble Eightfold Path will be covered in detail in the following chapter.