In Buddhist practice we study the Dhamma or as it is pronounced in some lineages, Dharma. The teachings of the Buddha are said to lead to enlightenment, which is liberation from suffering/happiness.
The Buddha asserted what we call, the 4 noble truths.
Buddhism’s four truths are called noble because they liberate us from suffering. They are the Buddha’s basic teaching.
Life always involves suffering, in obvious and subtle forms. Even when things seem good.
2. The Cause of Suffering
The cause of suffering is craving and fundamental ignorance. We attach to things and all things that exist are impermanent.
3. The End of Suffering
Suffering can end because our awakened mind is always available to us.
4. The Path
By living ethically, practicing meditation, and developing wisdom, we can take the same journey to enlightenment and freedom from suffering that the buddhas (awakened ones) do. We too can wake up. This path is the 8 Fold Path.
THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
- Right understanding
- Right thought
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
Having put that out there, I want to make a point. My nature causes me to suffer. Human nature leads me to suffering. We will suffer. We will hurt. We will fall ill, lose loved ones, fail at love, harm others unintentionally, etc. If we practice an ethical and compassionate life we can often mitigate our suffering but if you are participating in this thing called life, things will happen.
Our untrained, unmindful thoughts are usually leading to disaster. But mindfulness does not end suffering. The 8 Fold Path is not the end of suffering.
Monks train constantly to think, speak and act mindfully. They practice mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. Monks eliminate most of the distractions and attachments which cause suffering or limit happiness. These same attachments for a lay person lead to great joy at times, great suffering at others.
I do not chase enlightenment but instead simply try to live in the moment. I can do many things Buddhist monks can do. I can chant in the Pali language, recite the blessings, study the scriptures and teachings, go without jewelry, and more. But I live in the world, seeking companionship, friendship, financial security and love. I enjoy pleasure, accept pain. I try to not resist a change of circumstances or fortune, especially one that is unwelcome or unpleasant. Rather, I have a dedication to the development mindfulness and skill, wisdom and compassion. I do not expect the elimination of difficulties or attachments. I have learned to moderate and mitigate suffering and to navigate the type of difficulties that can rob a person of peace.
The past few years have been littered with difficulties and blessings. I would have been crushed under the weight of my own insecurities, fears and low self-esteem. But now I recognize that I am not my thoughts and feelings. They are the story I generally tell myself but which I can alter and improve upon by acting in a skillful, wholesome and kind manner.
Monastic life has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is that it is a simpler life generally without the complications and the challenge of paying rent, buying food and clothing and raising daughters. I would if I could but I cannot I know. I can live more simply but I will always be encumbered by the responsibilities and distractions of a non-monastic life. It beats the old way though by a significant margin. It is a life of service, free from intoxicants and a recognition that I can be in the moment when all my fears and insecurities are pulling me back to the pain of the past or anxiety of the future.
“If you just walk with me
And let me walk with you
I’m on a journey
I don’t wanna walk alone” Pearl Jam.