The Buddha’s teaching can be simply summed up into three parts:
- Four Dharma Seals
- Four Noble Truths
- Noble Eightfold Path
The Four Dharma Seals reflect the genuine teachings of the Buddha, just as a legal document is stamped with the royal seal. They can be simply explained by using the following terms:
Everything in life, our feelings and thoughts, people, animals, plants, bacteria and countries are always changing and reacting. Without change, there could be no life, no flowers, no grandparents, and no happiness.
People suffer because they want things to be permanent when they are not. They cling to things that are ending and try to avoid things that are unpleasant. But thanks to change, we can change suffering into happiness.
Nothing lives on its own, not even you or me. We are alive due to our parents, air, food, water, and everything around us. We cannot even remain the same for two moments. We are born, grow old, get sick and die. There is nothing that can be called a permanent “I” or a soul. That which carries on to our next life is our life force, or karma. The concept of “me” and “mine” is an illusion we create with our minds.
Nirvana (true peace)
By accepting and understanding that change is a part of life, we can be content with what we have and who are. We can reach the state of Nirvana, a state of complete selflessness. The word nirvana means to blow out a candle. It is not a place, like heaven, but more a state of being in harmony with the universe, and is beyond words.
After he became enlightened, the Buddha first taught the Four Noble Truths to five hermits in Deer Park near Benares. They became the first Buddhist monks, the beginning of the Buddhist order called the sangha. The Four Noble Truths are:
- The First Noble Truth is that life is full of unhappiness. No one can stay happy for long. We become sad when we cannot get what we want or when we lose something that we prize, or a loved one dies.
- The Second Noble Truth is that suffering and unhappiness are a result of unfulfilled desire. No matter how good or how much we receive, we never seem to have enough. And we certainly don’t want things we do not like.
- The Third Noble Truth is that we can end suffering, but we have to give up wanting what we don’t have and stop being envious of what others have. This is not easy to do. It takes a good deal of diligence and self-discipline.
- The Fourth Noble Truth is the Buddha taught that the way to conquer feelings of greed and selfishness is to follow the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path covers eight of the most important things in our lives—from the way we think and speak to how mindful we are of others. By carefully following the Eightfold Path, we can live a life of virtue and find peace of mind and enlightenment. Sometimes these eight steps are called the Middle Path. Life should not be too hard or too easy.
- Right View: Developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths.
- Right thoughts: Thinking kind thoughts about others, beginning with ourselves.
- Right speech: Speaking in a kind way, free from lies and angry words.
- Right action or conduct: Protecting the rights and feelings of others–also caring for the natural environment.
- Right work: Earning an honest living, careful not to harm the environment or any person or animal.
- Right effort: Developing a positive attitude and changing our bad habits,
- Right mindfulness: Being aware of our feelings and alert to what is going on, not daydreaming.
- Right concentration: Focusing on one thought at a time, to be calm and peaceful.