The Wisdom of the Buddha

The Wisdom of the Buddha May 24, 2022

Most are somewhat familiar with the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha, but few really grasp their meaning. What follows is a very brief discussion of each with the goal of providing my readers with clear definitions that allow for the application of each principle in your life.

Four Noble Truths

  • Ku-Tai-We often see this expressed as the truth that life is suffering. A better understanding is that life, for the unenlightened soul, is substantially marked by anxiety, discontent and pain. These natural experiences of the material world should point us to a solution. This doesn’t mean there is no joy in life. There clearly is. It simply points out that life is punctuated by suffering of various forms.

  • Jit-Tai-We suffer when we don’t have what we think will satisfy our discontent, we suffer when we do have those things, and we suffer when we try our best to avoid the natural experiences of life. It is a truth that we suffer primarily because we torment ourselves looking for peace and fulfillment in material things.

  • Met-Tai-The Law of Cause and Effect is witnessed to as a universal truth. All action and inaction have an effect on both us and our environment. Our thoughts, attitudes and actions can render negative results for us. However, this also means the problem of our discontent can be remedied.

  • Do-Tai-The primary way we overcome the discontent in our lives is to let go of our illusions; those fallacious presuppositions we have, the patterns of behavior and self-defeating and limiting thoughts, attitudes and actions that cloud our vision and keep us from being the realized person we desire to be. This means we should follow the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path, rightly understood, provides a means for changing old patterns of thought and gradually coming to enlightenment-a fulfilling life. 

  • Sho-Ken-A correct mindset. You have to first understand that Truth is absolute and objective. It isn’t subjective. In other words, there is no “your truth-my truth”. There is just Truth, and it is universal. Recognize the truths of life and be consciously aware of the universal laws, keeping yourself attuned to what is real.

  • Sho-Shi-Yui-Correct thinking. Becoming consciously aware of your thoughts and taking charge of the mind, not being moved about by its ever-wavering desires. Focus your mind firmly on what is important to see and know. 

  • Sho-Go-Correct Speech. Speak truth regardless of whether it is popular or not. By speaking Truth you’re always affirming the Path and reminding yourself, as well as others, of what is real.

  • Sho-Go-Correct Action. Action follows speech, which follows thought. Enlightenment and peace don’t just magically happen. They’re not going to manifest because you love yourself, or because you meditate and pray. You must put in some serious effort to achieve that which you seek. It won’t be comfortable, and it will challenge you on many levels, but the goals are worth it.

  • Sho-Myo-Correct living. If you want to change, then you must understand that all change begins with you. You and you alone are responsible for your environment. Take responsibility for your inner change, and external change will follow. Don’t cheat yourself with easy pop-spirituality and epithets.

  • Sho-Sho-Jin-Correct effort. You must be diligent in your pursuit of enlightenment. Spiritual life isn’t something you can develop sitting around in internet chat rooms, reading books, or generally being lazy or a loner. Only you can make the effort to achieve that which you seek. No one else can do it for you.

  • Sho-Nen-Be consciously aware of every moment, since each experience holds the potential to bring you lessons that advance you on the Path. 

  • Sho-Jo-Correct concentration. Be fully present here and now. Be present in every conversation, every touch, every scent, everything the senses and mind engage. You’ll find that lessons will be all around you, and people will genuinely enjoy your presence.

Jake Davila (Nur ibn Yaqub) is a Theologian and Philosopher who has contributed to programming for CNN, The Travel Channel, National Geographic and others. He is of the Traditionalist School of the Philosophia Perennis and is firm in his belief that we can gain knowledge of God, and that all revelations, despite their differences, share a common Source. His approach to spiritual life is inspired by such teachers as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Rene Guenon, Ibn Arabi, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Isa Nur ad-Din. You can read more about the author here.

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