SAT CHIT ANAND
Buddhism is a religion, philosophy of living, and science of mind. Buddhism is very practical - it teaches a way of living and being that leads to greater happiness, freedom and peace of mind.
THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS
Everybody is looking for happiness – this is the most important quest in life. Some people are looking for worldly happiness, and others are seeking spiritual happiness / enlightenment / God. The direction of the search may differ, but the end result is that everybody wants happiness.
Most people are looking outside – to relationships, career, money and material possessions. They might find fulfillment and happiness, but the problem is that it is always temporal – because it exists in time, it will be lost in time. So people spend their lives chasing one desire after another, never achieving lasting happiness. The Buddha said this is like being thirsty and trying to quench your thirst with salt water – it only makes you more thirsty.
Rather than looking outside, we should direct our attention inwards – the Kingdom of Heaven is within. You are the source of supreme happiness and bliss. Hidden within you is a jewel waiting to be discovered. This priceless jewel is your Buddha nature / divine essence.
We want to find this Ultimate happiness that is eternally present and everlasting, and until we find it the search will continue. The jewel of our true nature has to be uncovered. Buddhism lays down a path, which is like a map given by one who knows the way, and can then show it to others.
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
After the Buddha got enlightened, the first teaching he gave is called the Four Noble Truths. They are like a summary of the whole Buddhist path. They are called Noble because they lead to a noble and enlightened way of living. They are Truths because they apply universally.
The teachings of Buddhism apply to everybody, no matter what your religion, culture or custom. Buddhism teaches the path to Ultimate happiness. Below is a brief summary of the Four Noble Truths. For a deeper understanding of Buddhist philosophy, read books, attend teachings, meditate and do retreats.
Life is a journey. The Four Noble Truths show us how to navigate the journey from Samsara (the suffering of cyclic existence) > Nirvana (heaven / peace / freedom / bliss).
1st NOBLE TRUTH: as we are, there is suffering
At the moment, we are on the shore of suffering. We want to reach the shore of peace and happiness. We want to go from here to there. This journey represents our yearning, our longing for heaven.
The main reason why we suffer is because we don’t understand our true nature, and we misidentify with our false nature. Our true nature is pure awareness / consciousness, but we identify with our body and mind as being ourselves. We forget our true nature and become entangled in suffering.
We loose ourselves in our roles and identities. We become a prisoner of our minds – our thoughts and emotions – and think this is who I am. We create a seemingly very solid and real separate “self” or ego, which becomes our prison walls that keep us trapped in suffering.
2nd NOBLE TRUTH: understanding how we create suffering
Meditation teaches a path of awareness, of becoming more conscious, more mindful. Mindfulness means being present, so that we know what is happening, while it’s happening (externally and internally). Mindfulness teaches how to deal with our thoughts and how to manage our emotions.
We see how karmic patterns are created, and we start to exercise freedom of choice, instead of blindly or unconsciously following our thoughts. Thought becomes > word becomes > deed. This is how karma is created – through our actions of body, speech and mind.
We are all creators and we are busy creating our world and our experience of it each and every moment. We stop creating negative karma that causes suffering, and we start creating positive karma that brings happiness.
We are the creator of both. In Buddhism you have to take personal responsibility. You can’t wait for anybody to save you. A teacher teaches how, but you have to do it yourself. You have to save / free yourself by transforming your own mind. This is what leads to freedom and the end of suffering and unhappiness.
3rd NOBLE TRUTH: how to stop creating suffering
The good news is that the end of suffering is possible – it is the destination. It is possible to be in heaven here and now – this is the state of Nirvana. When we reach it, then we can finally be happy here and now … which is what we have always wanted, which is what everybody wants.
Fortunately, we can transform, we can learn to work with our minds. This is why meditation is so important – getting to know your own mind, and discovering the connection between skilful states of mind that bring peace and happiness; and unskillful states of mind that agitate and disturb us and destroy our happiness and peace of mind.
Our minds are very powerful – they shape and create our experience of life. Samsara and Nirvana, heaven and hell are not external places. They are not states of existence, but states of mind. All our happiness and all our misery comes from our own minds. Everything depends on our mind. If our mind is positive, then heaven; and if our mind is negative, then hell!
Through meditation we learn how to be present – be here and now – not lost in the past or in the future. We learn how to utilize the power of now so that the suffering of Samsara is transformed into Nirvana (peace, happiness, freedom). This happens moment by moment, choice by choice, till eventually we see and experience heaven all around us. We don’t have to die to get there.
4th NOBLE TRUTH: the path to happiness
According to Buddhism, the mistaken belief in a separate self (ego) is the root cause of all suffering. We grasp at a fixed, solid, permanent, separate self, which doesn’t exist. The ego is not real – it is a powerful illusion.
In reality, there is ‘no-separate-self’ because everything is interconnected and an indivisible part of the whole. There is ‘no-fixed-self’ because everything, including ourselves, is changing all the time.
To attain ultimate happiness and freedom, we must realize our true nature. When we realize this, we stop identifying with the small limited self / ego and step into the vastness of our Buddha nature / divine essence. Then we can experience the bliss of the Buddhas. Namaste to you, Buddha-to-be!