By Richard Daley
Together we will be exploring the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the man who later became known as the Buddha. There are over 10,000 suttas within the Sutta Pitaka, which is the earliest known textual record of the discourses given by the Buddha and his contemporary disciples. These teachings are referred to as the Dhamma, and they are accessible by anybody, regardless of any individually defining characteristic. Siddhartha Gautama—the Buddha—was a human being just like you and I; therefore the path he walked is accessible to all.
As we begin to come to terms with the human condition in which we find ourselves, we tend to accept the fact that there are these unavoidable challenges that come along with the package.
Unfortunately, even knowing this truth, many tend to ignore or deny it. With optimism—and this was my aim—the goal of this series is to provide a framework on letting go of these fantasies we grasp onto that drag us down, and that hold us back from finding true happiness in the here and now. Providing a glimpse through the suttas of how the Buddha overcame suffering and stress, and the path he followed to get there, may very well help us on this journey.
The truth of suffering and dissatisfaction has been established.
Thankfully for us, the Buddha teaches us that there is an ending to this stress and dissatisfaction. That although it exists, and it may be part of our existence no matter what achievements we manage to squeeze out of this life; fortunately it can be overcome with some work. We may not find enlightenment today or tomorrow, or a permanent ending to our stresses, but we can develop a path that will inevitably lead to more peace and happiness.
Let’s revisit something I mentioned in Part 1. The Buddha would often use a word “ehipassiko” in Pali, which translates to something like “come and see for yourself.” He never told us to believe what he taught on blind faith. He encouraged inquiry and investigation.
“And what, friends, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress? The remainderless fading and cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, and letting go of that very craving. This is called the noble truth of the cessation of stress.”
So, here it is! The 3rd of the Four Noble Truths. Although this truth doesn’t go as in depth as the others—and it is really just a “to the point” kinda thing—the verbiage of it is something I truly enjoy.
How many times in our lives has something stressed us out, or bothered us for some time, and eventually we come to the realization that it truly doesn’t matter?
Whether through our own efforts, or the help of others, we come to terms with something that has been a hindrance, and we just let it go. Most of us have experienced this in one way or another.
We let go through the nonacceptance of beliefs we hold onto. Our opinions, views, ideas, or habits are things we accept. If we choose to reject them, or to not hold onto them or own them as “me or mine,” they dissolve. Through non-identification with these things, we are able to experience a profound peace of mind. We can still vote for the candidate we like, or see a movie that appeals to us, but we shouldn’t cling to them. Through this process we are able to experience this cessation, this fading and melting away of craving for things to be a certain way.
These truths culminate in a path that we are able to follow and develop: The Noble Eightfold Path. This is the 4th Noble Truth—there is a path leading to the cessation of stress and suffering.
“And what, friends, is the noble truth of the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress? Just this very noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.”
The Buddha compares his discovery of the The Noble Eightfold Path to discovering a beautiful ancient city.
“It’s just as if a man, traveling along a [route through the wilderness], were to see an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by people of former times. He would follow it. Following it, he would see an ancient city, an ancient capital inhabited by people of former times, complete with parks, groves, & ponds, walled, delightful.”
The Buddha continues …
“In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones (Buddhas) of former times. And what is that ancient path, that ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times? Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.”
The Noble Eightfold Path provides a sturdy chassis for us to develop into a vehicle that will provide us not only transportation through this life, but safety and security. It provides us the tools to respond properly to life as life unfolds. It provides vision into the nature of reality, and a compass to find direction in a world that is not always easy to navigate.
Through the cultivation of this path, we are able to develop eight aspects of our lives and practice that guide on the road to happiness.
In the next segment we will look at these eight path factors, and how we can implement them in daily life.
Editor: Dana Gornall