Even in our contemporary world, the messages of the Buddha are still relevant to our present condition. As we begin to study the four noble truths of Buddhism, the truths about how to end our suffering can help us to find peace in our lives and in our world.
Although these teachings are thousands of years old, they are still equally relevant today as all those years ago. The human condition stays constant even with the trappings of modernity around us. We are still thinking, feeling beings looking to understand the meaning of life and how we fit into it.
The Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths are the foundational beliefs in Buddhism, and the basis of the teachings that can help us understand the reality of our lives.
The Four Noble Truths Explain:
2. The Cause of Suffering
3. The End of Suffering
4. The Path
Suffering is the human condition. We all suffer from sickness, old age and death. In the modern times, there are more things that can cause us suffering than that. But, essentially the truth remains the same. The more we suffer, the more pain we feel. It is hard to find that we cannot escape our suffering.
The cause of suffering is craving. When we expect a certain outcome, then we become attached to those expectations about what will happen. We have the illusion of having control over our lives. The truth is though, we never have control over our circumstances, and events may not turn out the way that we plan. It is when our expectations go unmet that we suffer.
However, if we follow the Buddha's teachings we can find an end to suffering in our lives. In order to end our suffering and free ourselves from the cycle of death and rebirth, we can follow the eightfold path that the Buddha laid out for us.
The Eightfold Path
In order to end our suffering and break the cycle of death and rebirth to find inner peace, we need to live an exemplary life. As we live our lives in the best way possible, we release our cravings and expectations for the way that we are going to live our lives. We allow things to unfold, and in this peace, we find an end to our suffering.
According to Lion's Roar, the eightfold path consists of:
1. RIGHT VIEW
A true understanding of how reality and suffering are intertwined.
2. RIGHT RESOLVE
The aspiration to act with correct intention, doing no harm.
3. RIGHT SPEECH
Abstaining from lying, and divisive or abusive speech.
4. RIGHT ACTION
Acting in ways that do not cause harm, such as not taking life, not stealing, and not engaging in sexual misconduct.
5. RIGHT LIVELIHOOD
Making an ethically sound living, being honest in business dealings.
6. RIGHT EFFORT
Endeavoring to give rise to skillful thoughts, words, and deeds and renouncing unskillful ones.
7. RIGHT MINDFULNESS
Being mindful of one’s body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities.
8. RIGHT CONCENTRATION
Practicing skillful meditation informed by all of the preceding seven aspects.
By following this belief system, we can attempt to live with kindness and compassion for others. As we cultivate the right mindset through the practice of meditation, followed by right actions, then we make the world a better place not just for ourselves and others.
Eventually, if we follow this path all our lives, we can achieve enlightenment through a meditative practice that becomes central to our lives. We may not achieve enlightenment in one lifetime, it may take a series of many lifetimes to reach this goal. However, it is possible to break this cycle if we work towards releasing our cravings.
According to Stanford,
He [the Buddha] realized that neither luxury nor starvation would lead to enlightenment and instead decided to follow a moderate path or the Middle Way. He went to a village called Bodh Gaya where he became awakened to a true understanding of life. The moment of his enlightenment took place while he was seated in meditation under a tree. In his enlightenment, he gained the power to see his former lives, the power to see death and rebirth of all types, and finally the realization that he had eliminated all desires and ignorance within himself. He had become a Buddha, a title meaning “awakened one.”
The Buddha was born as a prince, and lived a lavish lifestyle for many years. This was before he ever saw someone who was sick, old or dying. Once he saw these things, he pursued a spiritual life of asceticism.
Before achieving enlightenment, the Buddha had spent years in meditation and self-deprivation as an ascetic. After living this way for 6 years, he realized that this was not the path to enlightenment, and went about finding a "middle way."
This is why Buddhism is referred to as the middle way. It is a balance between a lavish lifestyle, and one of complete asceticism. Buddhism is a path towards living in the world with a spiritual focus in all that you do.
To learn more about how you can incorporate the Buddhist practices of Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga you can read more in my ebook "Practicing Buddhism in Everyday Life."