Gautama Buddha was born a prince. Like many who are born with a silver spoon–or perhaps even a golden spoon–in their mouths, Gautama Buddha was shielded, protected and sheltered from suffering.
Has the world really changed since Buddha’s time? I think not.
Academics talk endlessly about ending world poverty and hungry in an attempt to eradicate the suffering that exists in the world. Buddha was born into a life where all his material needs were met; but still, he encountered suffering… and he lived his life looking for ways to end it.
Those of us who have the good fortune to be born into a materially comfortable existence are not spared from the pain that life brings. According to statistics by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 U.S adults experience mental illness each year; with 50% of all lifetime mental illness beginning by the age 14.
Mental suffering is different from physical suffering. Its signs may not show, but it is there; hidden behind-the-scenes as it wrecks havoc in our lives.
Buddha accepted suffering as a fact of life. Through his journey, he learned that there are three forms of mental suffering:
- Separation from the people one loves
- Contact with people one dislikes
- Frustration of desires
People naturally tend to feel sad, lonely and depressed when they lose someone they love and care about due to separation, death or departure. Human beings feel irritated, annoyed and perhaps even anxious in the company of people whom they dislike or find unpleasant. It is the reason why so many cite public speaking as one of their greatest fears. People suffer whenever they are unable to satisfy their needs and wants.
It is not so much that happiness does not exist. It does. It is more that happiness is an impermanent and transient state. When we lose something or someone we cherish, we suffer.
Gautama Buddha was not a God or Deity. He never claimed to be one. His journey on the path of Enlightenment was catapulted forward by his quest to find a solution to the cause of suffering. In order to remove suffering, Buddha, much like a good doctor, believed that people must first discover its root causes. Eventually, Gautama Buddha came to the conclusion that craving and ignorance are the two main causes on suffering.
We humans crave the sensory pleasures of the earth. But these pleasures are fleeting and when they end, people quickly become restless and dissatisfied. We humans have even waged war and turned to violence to satisfy our ceaseless desires and our quest for more, more and more. Buddha believed that once we remove ignorance by discovering the Truth, we would attain the wisdom we need to end our own suffering.
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path is the antidote that Buddha discovered to cure the suffering of the mind. Out of these eight, there are three that are particularly relevant to those who are looking for mental peace. They are:
- Right Effort — to earnestly do one’s best in the right direction
- Right mindfulness — to be aware and attentive
- Right concentration — to train the mind to be steady and calm in order to realise the true nature of phenomena that we experience.
Following these steps is like entering a dark room with a little light in one’s hand. No matter how dark the room is, a little light of wisdom will light your path and guide your way.
On the surface, this all seems so simple. Where most of us struggle is actually applying these teachings to our daily lives and practising it. Instead of earnestly taking action in the right direction, we pour our precious resources into the wrong places, people and projects. Instead of being mindful and aware; our attention lingers to the past, the future and priorities that we incorrectly think are larger-than-life. And lastly, we make decisions based on fear, desire, anger and hatred instead of steadying and calming our mind before we take action.
It is called The Noble Eightfold Path because it is one that we need to walk upon; and not one that we merely read about to sound learned and wise. We need to practise what we claim to preach.
So hear these words that have come down to us through the ages and start walking on the path. Even if you have just a little light as your companion, I assure you that you will find it most illuminating.
At Mith Books, we believe in a world where words are used to heal. Our mission is to cultivate a community that strengthens interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue in order to empower souls on their quest on planet earth. We do that by creating educational programs, partnering with authors from all around the world and providing souls with the tools they need for spiritual ascension. We provide a range of services. To work with us, kindly contact us here.