Universal Lessons From The Teaching Of The Buddha

Life contains an unavoidable  element  of uncertainty and stress. Life contains both happiness and misery, pleasure and pain. Some happiness can be found in life. Having more of what we want and getting rid of experiences we do not like gives some rewards and happiness. But these rewards and the happiness that arises are not enduring. That is because no experience will give us a stable, secure sense of satisfaction because everything is constantly changing and nothing is going to last ultimately.

If our happiness is dependent on  certain circumstances, it is a fragile happiness. Everything is temporary in the sense that because everything is destined to change. Hence we suffer when we cling to anything, when we try to hold on to what cannot last or fight against our experience which is not to our liking.

Hence, life is uncertain and unreliable. We can appreciate the happiness of the moment, but when the situation inevitably changes we suffer if we try to hold on to the past we long for or push away the present we wish to be different that it is. We do not suffer if we can learn to let go and be at peace with the ever-changing flow of life.

This suffering in our lives has a cause. This cause is usually translated as desire or craving. It is not that all desires are bad. There are wholesome desires like the desire to understand what dharma is and how we can get out of suffering. But often we want certain situations, certain people and certain things which we think will make us happy and want to avoid others that will make us unhappy. So we cling to things and push away things because of a particular kind of desire: craving. But with wholesome desire we are inspired to seek what is beneficial and good for ourselves and others.

This suffering can be ended by non-clinging. We can learn to ride the waves, navigating life’s inevitable ups and downs with balance and grace. We can learn to let go of our suffering and live peacefully with quiet minds and open hearts in the midst of all that life gives us.

To cultivate wholesome qualities of our hearts and minds, the Buddha developed a system. This system is called the Noble Eightfold Path which consists of right understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration. All religions have these components in some form or the other to form a holistic system where each factor is necessary for and dependent upon all others. You need right understanding and intention to gain the wisdom to understand where you are aiming so that you can reach your goal. You need the meditation practices to calm your mind so that the Divine can be realised in yourself and the world. And your mind cannot settle down in meditation if you are mistreating others or embroiled in conflict, so you need to establish a foundation of virtue: right action, speech and livelihood.

So you can see that all these elements are essential components of any spiritual discipline no matter what it is based on. The above framework can help us as a path towards the Divine.

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