The first thing I ever learnt about Buddhism is the 4 Noble Truths. I was 12 years old, stubborn, rebellious and with an easily bruised ego. The more I try to establish my own identity , the more troubles I made. Family wasn’t well to do and both parents were busy making a living. I remembered watching the Bill Cosby show and always wondered why my family cannot be happy. Tension of earning an income often resulted in domestic quarrels between my folks.
One day I picked up a free buddhist book and brought it home. The four Noble truths goes like this
The Truth of Suffering – it is a prevalent condition in life
The cause of Suffering – Craving plus ignorance
The End of Suffering – Enlightenment
The path leading towards the End of Suffering – Noble Eightfold path
At that time, I understood the 1st one and a bit of the 2nd one, the rest was lost. However in my young mind, it struck a cord.
You see, I had just received a thrashing from my mother for some mischief and was confined to my room. She had work to finish and I must have pranked my younger brother and he would then brawled, followed by frustrated crying and tantrums (ear splitting level) I remembered it was with tears in my eyes when I read the sentence Life is Suffering, Wow. Truth! (Now that I think back, it was funny)
Fast forward to today. The same message has more depth for me. Majority of us would have experienced some form of physical or mental suffering in life. The media is always telling us we need this or that to be better. The very fact that we need food to survive would mean we need to find food or earn a living. (WORK STRESS) Even if we are financially sound and can have all that we want in life, mental dissatisfaction will still persist. Not to mention physical suffering such as aging, illnesses and death and many more. If you just sit back and list it down, it can be very depressive and pessimistic. Nobody wants to talk about such things. Everyone prefers to drown out awareness of such imperfection in life with booze and music. Even the pain of failed love becomes beautiful by listening to Adele’s song plus a bottle of red wine….
So I think to be a Buddhist, we need GUTS! We look at our life. see the problem with it and be willing to try and fix it.
The second truth basically explain the causes of these sufferings. I think it basically says that we are the one causing the problem! Again this is not what we want to hear. The world has changed a lot physically, but I think the root cause of suffering does not change. We crave for various sensual and mental gratification. With more advancement in technology we become more egoistic. I remember a song in the 80s that says Everybody wants to rule the world. Even for me, I am trying to make my opinion heard through this blog. We are constantly fighting for something to satisfy our ego our self. We have thousands of products to make us look young, we spend money to change the way we look, explore new flavours in food, we just look around our society yah?
I think, in order for the second truth to make sense, we have to adopt a willingness to reflect inwards in all honesty. (some people call it the Naked Truth) With the understanding of 1 and 2, we basically see the nature of ourselves and the nature of our environment and the dynamics between the two.
After making us look at the condition of our existence, the 3rd truth talks about a state of happiness. A state where all suffering cease. This is a bit of the problem because we have not tasted such happiness before. If we expect this kind of suffering to be similar to having a good time at the movie or great sex or being in an enjoyable party, then we are greatly mistaken. A good anecdote relates to a person who have never tasted the sweetness of mango trying to find similarity of the mango’s sweetness to other form of food. You don’t get it until you actually tasted it.
However, the state of Enlightenment can be grasp in little bits as we embark on our spiritual journey. As we progress in our spiritual journey, we get glimpse of it when we progress. Personally, I would not recommend getting too worried over it.
Instead, I would recommend focusing on the last one.
We can examine this method and using our logical deduction, figure out if it will cause us problem in life. If not, then we can probably try practicing them and experience the results ourselves. ( a little at a time) When we progress in our practice, we begin to catch glimpse of the state of happiness attained by Buddha.
When someone asked the Buddha if Enlightenment is limited to Buddhist only, Buddha said Enlightenment can be achieved as long as one practices the Noble Eight fold path
|Good Conduct:||Right Speech
|Mental Development:||Right Effort
This is the openness of Buddha’s message that attracted me. Strip away the cultural packaging, the sectarianism etc and we will see that this Noble teaching of Buddha can be practiced anywhere, anytime and by anyone. WORLD PEACE.