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Buddhism, an offshoot of Hinduism is seen as panacea to modern ills that possess the spirit. While Hinduism may seem a tad esoteric to the common man, Buddhism displays the teachings of Hinduism in a more simplistic manner.  

Eons ago, a prince was born in Nepal that was a part of India then. The prince named Gautama was born with a silver spoon literally and shielded from the roughness, complexities and harshness that life spoke of. When Gautama’s father learnt that the prince would one day renounce the world and become a hermit, he ensured that Gautama was protected from the harsh realities of life, by cloistering him in luxury and joy.

Gautama even married and fathered a son, yet, when he set out of the comforts of his palace, all the harsh realities of the world swam before his eyes. The first sight to meet his eyes was a sick man. The sufferings of the sick man made Gautama realize that the body that preserved the soul would one day be weakened and would perish. He saw a toothless, old hag and realized that youth-hood that we cherish will change into infirmity and the firmness of the skin, the zest of the spirit and the glint in the eyes will soon give way to a ravished body. And the last sight that moved him completely was that of a corpse. Until then, Gautama who never knew about death witnessed the passing away of the body-the body which we cherish and protect would one day perish and we fritter away life by neglecting the subtle soul and pay attention to this gross soul.    

The 4 noble truths 

He soon realized that the basis of sufferings stemmed from the preoccupation of the self. The narcissistic ‘I’ was the culprit alienating the soul from the truth. Attachment leads to desire because the ego has to be fulfilled. Old-age, sickness, death are all sufferings and we are caught in the mire of all these bonds that further distances us from the true purpose of our lifetime here. The ‘aham’ or the ego that demands immediate gratification separates us from our path. He learnt some truths that are now known as the 4 noble truths. These were: 'the noble truth of suffering...the origin and causes of suffering...the cessation of suffering and   finally, the noble truth that leads to the cessation of suffering'  

Unfulfilled passions urge the soul to assume another form, when the time on earth is over. While fulfilling earlier pleasures, new needs and wants surface and thus continues the cycle of birth and death.  

A persistent feeling of dissatisfaction and despair with life, created a dull void in Gautam’s life that could not be filled by the ordinary pleasures of life. When he saw a holy man devoid of attachments, he left the palace grounds in pursuit of the truth. For six years, he observed severe penance, and indulged in self-mortification. He initially thought that little self-consumption would result in scant self-preservation, as wants would be limited.  Yet, he did not get what he sought.

He then realized that the body was the temple of the soul and must never be abused. From this, emerged the middle path that Buddhism is famous for.

The first of the eightfold path 

1.   Right view 

Much can be changed if our view about life is changed. The foremost thing for man to understand is the transient nature of all and everything. Everything changes and this is what is explained in the Tao. People grow rich from rags and riches turn into rags too. Yesterday’s best pals may become today’s sworn enemies and love and attachment grow into frustrations and longings. Nothing is permanent and only change is permanent.  

When we are inside a framework, we often stay focused and immersed in the self. The first of the eightfold path suggests that if we get out of that frame, we will be able to observe the mind and action as an onlooker. Our feelings, emotions etc seem gross and manageable when we assume the stance of an onlooker.  

2.   Right intention 

When we observe that the ego is the root cause of all misery, we got to act in the right spirit. Ego can be calmed when attachment for something is shed. One cannot say, “Stop loving or let go off attachments.” But, this change can be brought about with compassion- Compassion for ourselves and for others. When we view ourselves compassionately, we will be enabled to view others compassionately. Compassion for the self and others resists temptation and the pull of desires. This also ensures that we curb violence and fosters empathy. Love and hate are two sides of the same coin. Love frees, but attachment binds. When in crimes of passion, ditched lovers destroy the object of their desire, they are acting, out of the bond that attachment creates. Love only creates empathy and the practice of right intention fosters love.

Right Speech 

Speech has the power to make a friend of an enemy and an enemy of a friend. Right speech advises not only gentleness in speech, but also the practice of the truth. Lies and deceit only further confusion and attachment. Flattery also amounts to lie. Speech that is indulged in, to tarnish someone’s image, idle speech that amounts to gossip or complain, will all lead to more sufferings.  

Right action 

Right action stems from courage- the courage to defy the ego and act for the common good. This includes not willfully taking what is not yours. What is not given to you should not be taken as that amounts to stealing, adultery and culminates into more sufferings. To take away that which you cannot create, is taking away life one’s own or others’ leads to sufferings as well.    

Right Livelihood 

Leading a decent life that aims in restoring harmony and not just amassing wealth is of great importance. Being in a profession that gives life and not that takes away life, ensures that one leads a hassle and guilt free life. Raising animals for slaughtery, dealing with weapons that destroy, selling of poison or liquor, meat and flesh trade will certainly bode karmic debt accumulation that will prove costly in rebirths. 

Right Effort 

The human being is an energy field and the efforts taken by man, is the sublimation of energy. Energy cannot be destroyed, but is transformed from one form to another. Efforts taken in the right direction to curb attachment and serve love will ensure the cessation of sufferings. Wisdom acknowledges imperfections. Compassion helps in forming a safe vent to longings and helps sublime hidden imperfections. Efforts to embrace the good in the self and to transform the gross by avoiding unpleasant circumstances will mitigate sufferings.  

Right mindfulness 

Mindfulness is a term coined in Buddhism that motivates us to act dispassionately. The mind segregates things into good and bad, either through experience or through the words and dogmas of others. When we form a perception of something, we are either attracted to it or repelled by it. The practice of mindfulness, instead focuses on your perceptions and feelings and not on the external stimulus. 

What you feel, you attract. When our feelings of something are negative, our reaction to it is negative too. And when we react with hostility, it only breeds more hostility. Be a calm onlooker of the sea of life.  

Right concentration 

The mind that is capricious flips from one to another, lacking focus. Meditation that is held a sacred action by Buddhists, help in leading the wandering mind to apply itself to an object. When all our energies are concentrated on this object, there is no energy left to concentrate on anything else. Sustaining this focus is necessary to maintain that all the above seven paths are followed! The eyes see many enchanting objects, but it’s up to the mind to discern what needs to be appreciated and left and what needs to be cherished. While being with one person, the mind engages in acts with another, leading to unfulfilled passions, desires, fuelling the need for immediate gratification and ultimately unsettling all the above seven paths.

Following the above eightfold path, lead to nirvana or salvation-liberation from recurrent births and deaths. That is a sure-shot panacea to worldly ills!      


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