Buddhism is one of the major global religions with an interesting history and philosophy of life. Many believe that Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains evident injustice and inequality in the world, and it provides a way of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness. Buddha has taught and written many scriptures, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be presented by the Four Noble Truths.
The four noble truths told by Buddha are:
1. Suffering exists
The viewpoint is that life consists of suffering and dissatisfaction. This suffering is called dukkha. Humans are imperfect, as is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death. This means you are never able to keep permanently what you strive for. Happy moments pass by, and soon we all will too.
2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
The cause of suffering is called samudaya or tanha. It is the desire to have and control things, such as craving for sensual pleasures. For example, if you desire money or fame, you will surely suffer disappointment and perhaps even cause suffering for others.
Attachment to material things creates suffering because attachments are fleeting and loss is inevitable. Thus suffering will necessarily follow.
3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
The end to suffering is called nirodha. It is achieving Nirvana or liberation, which is the final freedom from suffering. The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation, and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving. It is to attain dispassion.
Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, and ideas. It is difficult for all of us to comprehend, who have not attained it.
4. Eightfold path
There are eight attitudes or paths you must follow to find freedom from suffering. These are the "right" or correct things to do in your life:
- Right view
- Right intention
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
This is the way to reach Nirvana.
Buddha’s diagnosis of suffering or dukkha, that is part of life and human existence rings absolutely true to me, some people might have a different view of it.
They may present few arguments to support their own point. Here I am explaining a reasonable perspective of these teachings.
As given by the first two noble truths suffering is an inevitable part of our lives. As we are on earth, we are bound to face challenges and problems.
The reasons are:
- I agree with the first and second Noble Truths that our sufferings are inevitable in human life and are due to our attachment or clinginess to the things and the people. For example, if my child has to appear in an exam, I would have an expectation that her result should come as in a certain way. And for that expectation, I would have some anxiety. Here, As I am expecting a kind of result, I am already attached to that result even before it has actually happened. If my child's result comes as I expected then I would be happy, but if the result is not as expected then I might have the feeling like, “why that happened?” or I may cling to this feeling and blame myself or my child. Then, further, if I keep on clinging to this feeling, it might result in low confidence and apprehensions in mind of my child or myself about her performance, which can become the reason for my sufferings or Dhukkha.
- Buddha's teaching also tells us about the way of eliminating these sufferings. If we detach ourselves from the output or results of our actions, then we can lessen these sufferings. It does not say that we should not work or do not seek pleasure, in fact in Buddhism, our Karma(our ideas and actions), is our Dharma, means our foremost duty. But we can choose to avoid or handle any negative emotion effectively with right view, right action and right effort (eightfold path).
- If we go back to the example, looking mindfully (as per the Buddha's teachings) to the whole situation like Socratic thinking, which is used in many psychotherapies, we can acknowledge that the situation can be handled effectively to learn the lesson from the mistakes and improving further. In the example, as we can see, I am not realizing at that time, the impermanence of the situation and may keep suffering due to it. I am not realizing that this result is just a small part of her life and even its effect can be as I choose it to be. One option can be that I keep brooding over it again and again, and keep suffering or another option can be that I learn a lesson from our mistakes and try to improve, in short making this small failure ladder for future successes.
Also, in my opinion, Buddha’s teachings are not a rebellion of science and reason, but they run parallel to it and beyond. To support this, two more reasons from my side are:
- Buddha's teachings came into the time when humans were not hunters but were already settled into modern civilizations in cities and villages. At that time our e The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. evolutionary emotions like rage and anxiety, did not serve the same purpose as in the forest or hunters' groups. To manage such emotions in those times and after that, humans needed some guidance to handle these feelings. So, that they should not become the cause of our own sufferings. These teachings are necessary to guide us more as the technology is advancing. In this era of the virtual world, spirituality can only give us an anchor to hold our emotions steady.
- Buddha’s teachings not only guided us in our daily life but also had a purpose of liberating or enlightening us. Which was never on evolution’s agenda. This enlightenment can provide us with absolute happiness, not in this birth but in every all rebirths and ultimately we can achieve liberation.
Thus, I completely find this diagnosis of suffering and liberation given by four noble truths as true. The concepts put forward by Buddha are not Religiously aimed. Following them would just make us a better person, leading a peaceful life in this world of chaos.