The story of the Buddha’s life, like all
of Buddhism, is a story about confronting suffering. He was born between the sixth and fourth century
B.C., the son of a wealthy king in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal. It was prophesied that the young Buddha — then
called Siddhartha Gautama — would either become the emperor of India or a very holy
man. Since Siddhartha’s father desperately wanted
him to become the former, he kept the child isolated in a palace. Young Gautama had every imaginable luxury:
jewels, servants, lotus ponds, even beautiful dancing women. For 29 years, Gautama lived in bliss, protected
from the smallest misfortunes of the outside world But then, he left the palace for short excursions. What he saw amazed him: first he met a sick
man, then an aging man, and then a dying man. show these kind of people in India—add them
to the same image one by one He was astounded to discover that these unfortunate
people represented normal—indeed, inevitable—parts of the human condition that would one day
touch him, too. Horrified and fascinated, Gautama made a fourth
trip outside the palace walls—and encountered a holy man, who had learned to seek spiritual
life in the midst of the vastness of human suffering. Inspired by the holy man, Gautama left the
palace for good. He tried to learn from other holy men. He almost starved himself to death by avoiding
all physical comforts and pleasures, as they did. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it did not bring him
solace from suffering. Then he thought of a moment when he was a
small boy: sitting by the river, he’d noticed that when the grass was cut, the insects and their eggs were trampled and destroyed. As a child, he’d felt a deep compassion for
the tiny insects. Reflecting on his childhood compassion, Gautama felt a profound sense of peace. He
ate, meditated, and finally reached the highest state of enlightenment: Nirvana It refers to the “blowing out” of the
flames of desire. With this, Gautama had become the Buddha,
“the awakened one”. The Buddha awoke by recognising that all of
creation, from distraught ants to dying human beings, is unified by suffering. Recognising this, the Buddha discovered how
to best approach suffering. First, one shouldn’t bathe in luxury, nor abstain from food and comforts altogether. Instead, one ought to live in moderation . The Buddha called this the middle way This allows for maximal concentration on cultivating
compassion for others and seeking enlightenment Next, the Buddha
described a path to transcending suffering called The four noble
truths The first noble truth is the realisation that
first prompted the Buddha’s journey: that there is suffering and constant dissatisfaction
in the world. The second is that this suffering is caused
by our desires. As the Buddha said, “attachment is the root of all suffering.” The third truth is that we can transcend suffering
by removing or managing these desires. The Buddha thus made the remarkable claim that we must change our outlook, not our circumstances. We are unhappy not because we don’t have
enough money, love or status but because we are greedy, vain, and insecure. By re-orienting
our mind we can grow to be content. The people become happier—superimpose smiles
or use a second image of their face With the correct behaviour and what we now
term a mindful attitude, we can also become better people. We can invert negative emotions
and states of mind, turning ignorance into wisdom, anger into compassion, and greed into
generosity. The fourth and final noble truth the Buddha
uncovered is that we can learn to move beyond suffering through what he termed the noble
eightfold path. The eightfold path involves a series of aspects
of behaving “right” and wisely: right view, right intention, right speech, right
action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. What strikes the western observer is the notion
that wisdom is a habit, not merely an intellectual realisation. One must exercise one’s nobler
impulses on a regular basis, as one would train a limb. The moment of understanding
is only one part of becoming a better person. After his death, The Buddha’s followers
collected his “sutras” (sermons or sayings) into scripture, and developed texts to guide
followers in meditation, ethics, and mindful living. The monasteries that had developed during
the Buddha’s lifetime grew and multiplied, throughout China and East Asia. For a time, Buddhism was particularly uncommon
in India itself, and only a few quiet groups of yellow-clad monks and nuns roamed the countryside,
meditating quietly in nature. But then, in the 3rd century B.C., an Indian
king named Ashoka grew troubled by the wars he had fought and converted to Buddhism. He sent monks and nuns far and wide to spread the practice. Buddhist spiritual tradition spread across
Asia and eventually throughout the world. Buddha’s followers divided into two main
schools: Theravada Buddhism which colonised Southeast Asia, and Mahayana Buddhism which took hold in China and Northeast Asia. Today, there are between a half and one and
a half billion Buddhists in both East and West following the Buddha’s teachings and
seeking a more enlightened and compassionate state of mind. Intriguingly, the Buddha’s teachings are
important regardless of our spiritual identification. Like the Buddha, we are all born into the
world not realising how much suffering it contains, and unable to fully comprehend that
misfortune, sickness, and death will come to us too. As we grow older, this reality often feels
overwhelming, and we may seek to avoid it altogether. But the Buddha’s teachings remind us of
the importance of facing suffering directly. We must do our best to liberate ourselves
from the grip of our own desires, and recognise that suffering can be viewed
as part of our common connection with others, spurring us to compassion and gentleness.

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