Let him admonish, let him instruct, let him restrain from the impure. He becomes beloved of the good and hated by the evil.Buddha, “The Wise Man”
Buddhism has been a favorite personal interest of mine ever since I came to learn about it sometime in high-school. My world religions class taught me that many religions were very similar in that they worship an inhuman deity and that they teach the path to spiritual fulfillment could only be discovered through the strict obedience to an established doctrine with blind obedience. Often, these religions also valued faith in their belief systems and traditions rather than accepting critical assessment of their teachings or logic. However, Buddhism stood out to me among the sea of crowded religious philosophies and for very practical reasons.
For anyone who doesn’t know too much about it, Saddhartha Gautama is the name of the man who later became known as the Buddha. He was the first man to find enlightenment, a prince who knew a world full of comforts and later a world with no comforts at all, giving up all of his worldly possessions on his spiritual journey. Yet, neither path brought him the answers that he had been searching for and when he eventually did find such a path in between those two extremes he named it, rather creatively, the middle path.
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the story of Saddhartha or Buddhist philosophy, I highly recommend watching a movie called “Little Buddha” where Saddhartha is played by the least Indian actor you could possibly imagine. Keanu Reeves. Enjoy. 🙂
Now back to the philosophy…
The philosophy shared by Siddhartha Gautama sometime between the years of 564-483 BCE was that there were Four Noble Truths that we must know in order to be able to minimize our own suffering in life. These truths are as follows:
- Life is Painful.
- Ignorant desire leads us astray, our own attachments and delusions cause us to suffer.
- We can be released from pain and suffering by overcoming egocentricity.
- The way to salvation is by following the Noble Eight-fold Path.
So, what is the Noble Eight-Fold path you ask?
- Having the right outlook to know the origin of suffering and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.
- Having the right intention to renounce the material world and to do no harm .
- Having the right speech to abstain from lies, slander, blaming and tattle.
- Having the right action to abstain from taking life, stealing, and from lust.
- Having the right livelihood by which you support yourself to the exclusion of wrong types of livelihood.
- Having the right effort to to look inward, to find those bad qualities inside and work endlessly to minimize them until you can keep them away forever, while fostering those best of qualities and to grow them, and then perfect them.
- Having the mindfulness to truly realize what your body is–feelings are–what your heart is–and what your mental states are. The beggar dwells enthusiastically, alert and mindful, in freedom from the wants and discontents which affect any of these things.
- Having the right level of concentration, separated from lusts and wrong dispositions. The beggar develops and dwells in zest and satisfaction, a state bred of distance, but not separate from observation and reflection. Then, by giving up observation and reflection, he develops an inward serenity and focuses on the heart and satisfaction in another ecstasy separate from the observable world. He is divorced from observation and reflection and bred of concentration enough to eventually reach the third and fourth ecstasies.
So what is the way of Buddha in a nutshell?
There is no escaping pain in life. Suffering is caused by our wants and desires. Suffering is also caused by fearing too much for the future or lamenting for the past. Suffering is caused by chasing our own egos and desiring wealth or social status or other worldly vanities. Suffering is caused by not being present and living in this moment, the only true moment, because the past and the future are only constructions of our imagination.
And the way to salvation is by knowing the above truths about life. Having the awareness to reject blindly chasing the material things that do not actually matter, refraining from doing harm, working on yourself effortlessly, finding full awareness of your being through meditation and being able to separate your mind and soul from this world almost entirely so that you can separate your inner spirit from your ego. In that way you can identify with the Universe around you more than your own little identity.
I hope that makes a little more sense. Personally, I love Buddhist philosophy and I find it fascinating, especially because it is one of the few religions that do not tell you to take it’s wisdom on blind faith. Buddha believed that in order to know the truth of these words one must rigorously test this theory and come to their own conclusions.
Now I would just like to leave you with a few quotes from Buddha shared at his first sermon at Benares:
If on a journey (a traveler) does not meet his better or equal let him firmly pursue his journey by himself; there is no companionship with a foolSaddhartha Gautama, “First Sermon at Benares”
One should not associate with friends who are evil-doers nor with persons who are despicable; associate with friends who are virtuous, associate with the best of men.Saddhartha Gautama, “First Sermon at Benares”
As a solid rock is not shaken by the wind, so wise men are not moved amidst blame and praise.Saddhartha Gautama, “First Sermon at Benares”
If a person who sees a wise man who reproaches him (for his faults), who shows what is to be avoided, he should follow such a wise man as he would a revealer of hidden treasures. It fares well and not ill with one who follows such a man.Saddhartha Gautama, “First Sermon at Benares”
From meditation springs wisdom; from lack of meditation there is loss of wisdom. Knowing this two-fold path of progress and decline, a man should place himself in such a way that his wisdom increases.Saddhartha Gautama, “First Sermon at Benares”
Cut out the love of self as you would an autumn lily with the hand. Cherish the path to peace, to nirvana…Saddhartha Gautama, “First Sermon at Benares”
I believe that there is a lot of truth to the wisdom of the Buddha, particularly that we each have the ability to be able to find happiness and it comes down to us looking inwardly and working on how we react to the world around us. Because that’s all we really have the power to control in life. Nothing else stands a chance of creating a more permanent sense of well-being than by ironing out those wrinkles in our own ways of thinking.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!