Buddhism is a fascinating system of beliefs. First, a little background on the story of Buddha. He was born a prince, Siddhartha Gautama, in Nepal during the 6th century B.C. His father wanted to keep the young boy from having to experience the pain and suffering of the outside world. So instead of allowing him to experience the miseries of the human condition the king built a palace for the boy and showered him with all the luxuries available to royalty during the 6th century B.C. When the prince reached his late twenties he did like most men do, and ventured into the world outside his splendor and lavish palaces. As you might expect, the young man soon encountered the horrors of poverty, old age, disease, famine, and all the other savagery and shit that comes along with mortality.
The prince, now a grown man, decided to leave his life of opulence behind. Siddhartha did this to endure the true, painful nature of the world and existence. He suffers for years, then had an awakening. Thereby becoming the Buddha we all know and love today. I’ve always found Buddhism to be fascinating. In my opinion, which is oftentimes incorrect, Buddhism is less a religion than it is a system of beliefs. At the core of Buddha’s teachings are The Four Noble Truths. The truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.
The First Truth
To me, the truth of suffering in Buddhism- known as Dukkha- shows us that we are incapable of satisfaction. Even when we are able to find satisfaction it is fleeting. In other words this truth shows us life sucks, sounds pessimistic doesn’t it? Not exactly, accepting this truth is neither pessimistic or optimistic, but realistic. The denial of this truth, in my experience, can play a significant role in addiction. By rejecting the truth that our existence is rooted in suffering I unwittingly hitched a ride on the hedonic treadmill, an endless pursuit of pleasure. The recognition that suffering (life) is neither good or bad was one of life’s most important lessons.
The Second Truth
The truth of the origin of suffering- known as Samudāya- looks to explain where all this suffering comes from. (Earth shattering surprise right?) At first glance you might think you’ve got a pretty good understanding of the cause behind the suffering in your life, but human nature tends to complicate things. I had thought the root of my suffering was drugs, being a drug addict and all, but it wasn’t. As they say, drugs are just a symptom to the disease of addiction.
The Buddha taught that all suffering comes in three forms- he called them the Three Roots of Evil- and they are: Greed and desire; Ignorance or delusion; and Hatred and destructive urges. In the example of my developing drug habit, the root of suffering encompassed all three Roots of Evil. Mainly ignorance to Buddha’s First Truth, but also greedily pursuing the release of endorphins through external stimuli to go along with an abundance of self-hate.
The Third Truth
While suffering is rooted in our inherent desires, cravings, and selfishness along with our propensity for destruction; we continuously experience suffering because we constantly look for fulfillment externally. According to the Buddha our attachment to the things we desire is what perpetuates suffering. The truth of the end of suffering- known as Nirodha- teaches the way to end suffering is to release ourselves from attachment. This isn’t suggesting you forfeit all earthly possessions in your pursuit of happiness. It’s saying to be mindful of the difference between pleasure and happiness, to recognize that true happiness comes from within rather than external means.
The Fourth Truth
The Path that leads to the End of Suffering- known as Magga- offers the Buddha’s roadmap on how to end suffering. This roadmap is a set of principles known as the Eightfold Path. This is where Buddhism takes on a bit of a religious feel rather than simply being a system of beliefs. Anyways, here are the Buddha’s steps for the Eightfold Path:
The eight stages are not to be taken in order, but rather support and reinforce each other:
Right Understanding (Sammā ditthi) Accepting Buddhist teachings. The Buddha never intended his followers to believe his teachings blindly, but to practice them and judge for themselves whether they were true.
Right Intention (Sammā san̄kappa) A commitment to cultivate the right attitudes.
Right Speech (Sammā vācā) Speaking truthfully, avoiding slander, gossip and abusive speech.
Right Action (Sammā kammanta) Behaving peacefully and harmoniously; refraining from stealing, killing and overindulgence in sensual pleasure.
Right Livelihood (Sammā ājīva) Avoiding making a living in ways that cause harm, such as exploiting people or killing animals, or trading in intoxicants or weapons.
Right Effort (Sammā vāyāma) Cultivating positive states of mind; freeing oneself from evil and unwholesome states and preventing them arising in future.
Right Mindfulness (Sammā sati) Developing awareness of the body, sensations, feelings and states of mind.
Right Concentration (Sammā samādhi) Developing the mental focus necessary for this awareness.– Found at BBC.co.uk