Buddhism, to those who follow it, is more than simply a religion, but rather is experienced as a philosophy or a way of life. It is considered a philosophy because the etymology of philosophy means “love of wisdom." The Buddhist path can be summarized as 3 key things: Leading a moral life, to be mindful and aware of our thoughts and actions, and to continually develop wisdom and understanding.
The Buddha was a renunciate holy man named Siddhartha Gotama, who was born into a royal family of Nepal in 563 BC. He stepped outside of the mainstream Indian religion and the wealth of his family to seek the keys to happiness.
After 6 years of study and meditation, he found what he called “The Middle Path”, and became enlightened. He then spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism, called the Dhamma, or truth, until he died at the age of 80. The purpose, as he described it, was Nirvana, or the end of human suffering.
Suffering, Buddha said, is the inevitable result of the way in which the individual instinctively builds up the ego by grasping at what is pleasant and reacting against what is unpleasant. By fully appreciating the impermanent flow of experience, and knowing everyone dies in the end, one develops an awareness.
This awareness understands that who we really are is beyond all of the thoughts of who we think we are. The Buddha is especially known for teaching the 4 Noble Truths. These are as follows.
The First Noble Truth is that life brings suffering, meaning life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness, frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment, and anger.
The Second Noble Truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect others to conform to our expectations. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness.
The Third Noble Truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained. Also, true Happiness and Contentment are possible if we are willing to give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time. This will lead to Nirvana.
The Fourth Noble Truth is that the 8-Fold Path is the path that leads to the end of Suffering.
The Noble 8-Fold Path is the path of Morality. It focuses the mind on being fully aware and developing wisdom by understanding the 4 Noble Truths. This helps develop compassion for others.
Through Spiritual Cultivation and Practice, we will reach nirvana by the “blowing out” of the three dark fires of greed, hatred, and delusion. This causes the complete change within a person from neurotic egoism to a state of blissful peace. At death, nirvana is the spiritual rebirth into a new life.