Buddha the enlightened one was born in India between 5th to 4th BCE. He is recognised as the founder of Buddhism. His teachings are based around duhkha (suffering), its origin, progression and finally how to end it and achieve Nirvana. Buddha attained Nirvana under the Bodhi tree, which means he broke out of the cycle of rebirth.
Buddha taught a spiritual path that included ethical training and meditative practices. His teachings are referred to as Dharma, which show the righteous path of living and attaining Nirvana.
The Three Universal Truths
One day Buddha sat down in the shade of a tree and noticed how beautiful the countryside was. Flowers were blooming and new leaves grew on trees, but around all this beauty, he saw suffering. A farmer was beating his ox in the field. A bird pecked at an earthworm, and then an eagle hunted the bird. Troubled by this sight, he asked, “Why does the farmer beat his ox? Why must one creature eat another to live?”
When he reached enlightenment, he found answer to these questions, now referred to as the ‘Three Universal Truths’:
- Nothing is lost in the universe – every being is a part of this universe. Every being follows its life cycle, and when it comes to an end, it becomes a part of the universe. Dried leaf falls and becomes part of sol, out of which a new tree grows. Our ashes become a part of the soil, which give birth to vegetation, which is eaten by us in one form or the other for nourishment.
We are made of what is around us, we are same as everything. If we destroy something, we destroy ourselves, if we harm someone, we harm ourselves.
- Everything changes – life is like a river, flowing ever so smoothly. Sometimes it moves fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes it flows on even planes, sometimes rocky mountain beds. Nothing remains in one form for ever. If we think our state of happiness or suffering will stay forever, we are living in ignorance.
Live each moment to the fullest, and remember there will always be better times or worse.
- Law of cause and effect – better known as Karma. Nothing happens unless we deserve it. We receive what we earn through our deeds in this life or past. Our thoughts and actions can steer our life in a positive or negative way, hence we should always have a positive outlook and do good deeds.
The Four Noble Truths
No one can escape unhappiness, we must always strive to maintain an equanimous state in any condition. This will reduce our suffering and bring us closer to realising the true meaning of life. The Four Noble Truths are:
- There is suffering and it is common to all – Everyone suffers from – birth, sickness, old age and death.
- Cause of suffering – we are the cause of every state in our body and surroundings. We create our own suffering from ignorance and greed. We do things for pleasure or momentary satisfaction, which harms our body and peace of mind.
- End of suffering – stop expecting things and accept the reality. We must change our views and live a more natural and peaceful life. Once we remove desires and attachments from our life we can move a step closer to Nirvana.
- Path to end suffering – follow the Noble Eight Fold Path.
The Noble Eight Fold Path:
- Right view – see the world with wisdom and compassion
- Right thought – clear and kind thoughts build good and strong character
- Right speech – speaking kind and helpful words
- Right conduct – no matter what we say, how we behave shapes how others look at us.
- Right livelihood – earn your living which doesn’t hurt others.
- Right effort – doing our best all the times and having good will towards others.
- Right mindfulness – being aware of our thoughts, words and deeds
- Right concentration – focus on one object or thought at a time. This way we can attain true peace of mind.
Buddha’s teachings are simple and easy to adopt in our daily lives. These simple teachings can be understood by a 5 year old but even a 80 year old doesn’t do it. Try changing small things in your life and you’ll see yourself making big impact to people and world around you.