You are on page 1of 7

Reymer 1

Liliya Reymer Philosophy 1010 April 30, 2014

Gautama Buddha

When visiting New Mexico in the summer of 2013, I happened to strike up a conversation with an elderly woman about our existence on earth and what we both thought it meant. We began to talk about the Christian God and Jesus; both expressing what we perceived them to be. The woman said she followed Jesus as she followed Buddha, saying they were both extremely wise and had much to offer the world. This is the first time I became interested in the philosophy of Buddha. As a person who appreciates wisdom, I wanted to know why the woman I conversed with compared the philosophy and impact of Buddha to Jesus Christ, so I went home and studied up on the works of Buddha. With an estimated 200-500 million followers, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world today. Originating 2,500 years ago, the philosophies of Gautama Buddha have since drawn millions from all over the world, in a quest for deeper meaning and truth in life through meditation, suffering and self- discipline. Born in the 6th century B.C near modern day Nepal, to King Suddhodana and Queen Maya, Prince Siddhartha Gautama was quickly prophesied to be a either a great military conqueror or a great spiritual teacher.(Life of Buddha, par.1) Although the life of Buddha is agreed to have historically happened, the events of his life are still debated

Reymer 2

by scholars today. To keep his son from witnessing the miseries and suffering of the world, Siddhartha's father raised him in opulence in a palace built just for the boy and sheltered him from knowledge of religion and human hardship. According to custom, he married at the age of 16, but his life of total seclusion continued for another 13 years . (Bio. par. 2) After years of failing to find a worldview that was sufficient enough for his questions, the most celebrated explanation of his life paints a picture of a fateful night spent in deep meditation. It was during this crucial night, that the answers he had been searching for were made clear to him, thus fulfilling the prophecy made about him as a young child. After becoming an adult with little experience outside of the royal palace life, Buddha met a frail elderly man, forcing him to confront the reality and mortality of life. He subsequently spent years of his life making exploratory journeys to discover more about human life and spirituality. It was during these trips that he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. The charioteer explained that the ascetic had renounced the world to seek release from the human fear of death and suffering. Siddhartha was overcome by these sights, and the next day, at age 29, he left his kingdom, wife and son to lead an ascetic life, and determine a way to relieve the universal suffering that he now understood to be one of the defining traits of humanity. (Bio, par. 3) During this time, Buddha discovered the 4 noble truths that shaped his philosophy:

Reymer 3

1. Suffering; All existence is unsatisfactory and filled with suffering. 2.The Cause of Suffering; The root of suffering can be defined as an attachment to or craving for wrong things. These desires in the material world can never give us everlasting happiness because by nature they are temporary or transitory. 3.The End of Suffering; By practicing right conduct, meditation and prayer it is possible for an individual to attain Liberation or Nirvana. 4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering; The Noble Eightfold path is the way to finding the solution to suffering and bring it to an end. (4 Noble Truths, par. 3) Often people compare Buddhas philosophy to that of a physician. In the first two Noble Truths he diagnosed the problem (suffering) and identified its cause. The third Noble Truth is the realization that there is a cure. The fourth Noble Truths, in which the Buddha set out the Eightfold Path, is the prescription, the way to achieve a release from suffering. (Religions, par. 4) Buddha himself remarked, "I teach about suffering and the way to end it" (4 Noble Truths, par.1) Many question why there is so much suffering in Buddhas philosophy. To many in the Western World, suffering and oppression is often a foreign idea or outdated. But, philosophers who study the works and ideas of Buddha write; The actual word used is the Pali term "dukhka" which means that "things arent completely right in our livesthere are many unsatisfactory conditions in our existence; something always seems amiss." "Suffering" used in Buddhism thus refers to all kinds of dissatisfactions big and small. (Bud 101, par. 5) Henepola Gunaratana, a Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monk wrote in his book; Mindfulness in Plain English;

Reymer 4

"Suffering is a big word in Buddhist thought. It is a key term and it should be thoroughly understood. The Pali word is dukkha, and it does not just mean the agony of the body. It means that deep subtle sense of unsatisfactoriness which is a part of every mind moment and which results directly from the mental treadmill. The essence of life is suffering, said the Buddha. At first glance this seems exceedingly morbid and pessimistic. It even seems untrue. After all, there are plenty of times when we are happy. Aren't there. No, there are not. It just seems that way. Take any moment when you feel really fulfilled and examine it closely. Down under the joy, you will find that subtle, all-pervasive undercurrent of tension, that no matter how great this moment is, it is going to end. No matter how much you just gained, you are either going to lose some of it or spend the rest of your days guarding what you have got and scheming how to get more. And in the end, you are going to die. In the end, you lose everything. It is all transitory." This idea of a hidden but distinct suffering that prevails in humanity is attractive and relatable to millions of people around the world, because not only are we creatures of emotion, subjected to the immorality and hardships of the world, but also are beings that have a deep desire for something beyond the shallow contentments of this life. Although we at times may seem to be 100% content and happy with our life, as soon as the surface happiness fades we realized that we have gnawing, deep dissatisfaction with ourselves. Buddha concentrated on the the cause of suffering which he believed comes from within us. These causes may be attachment; being so attached to something we desire, that we are unhappy with anything else. Often we see this in United States, where we are molded by a materialistic society, to crave objects, and other temporary things that we think will fill our dissatisfaction. Anger; inflicting our anger upon others,

Reymer 5

only to reap it in our own lives and lastly, Ignorance; lacking wisdom and being filled with emptiness, so that we often make choices that are wrong and bring us unhappiness. Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. (Gautama Buddha ) Buddha taught that if we learn to disassociate ourselves from, and conquer our temporary emotions and needs, we can become beings who do not count on physical and materialistic environments in order to be fully happy. Many philosophers agree with Buddhas philosophy about deep dissatisfactions in suffering in ourselves. C.S Lewis writes; If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. (Goodreads, par. 7) Friedrich Nietzsche said To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering. (Quotes, par. 4) Whether or not a person agrees with Buddhas view and philosophies on life and suffering, it is evident, his words have impacted millions of people around the world. Whether Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or agnostic, I think we can all somehow relate and learn from the teachings and philosophy of Gautama Buddha. The wise words on suffering and humanity that came from a man, who was once a young sheltered prince, make us face the adversities and dissatisfactions of this world with a hope that they will eventually serve us in attaining clarity. The Buddha summarized the correct attitude and actions in the Eight-fold Noble Path:

Reymer 6 1. Correct thought: avoiding covetousness, the wish to harm others and wrong

views (like thinking: actions have no consequences, I never have any problems, there are no ways to end suffering etc.)
2. Correct speech: avoid lying, divisive and harsh speech, and idle gossip. 3. Correct actions: avoid killing, stealing and sexual misconduct 4. Correct livelihood: try to make a living with the above attitude of thought, speech

and actions.
5. Correct understanding: developing genuine wisdom. 6. Correct effort: After the first real step, we need joyful perseverance to continue. 7. Correct mindfulness: try to be aware of the "here and now", instead of dreaming

in the "there and then".

8. Correct concentration: to keep a steady, calm, and attentive state of mind. (The 4

Noble Truths, par.5) Although we are not instinctively drawn to self-discipline, Buddha teaches a life of restraint is the way to happiness. When we possess the proper wisdom (conventional and ultimate), we can rid ourselves of delusions, and thus of all our problems and suffering. When this process is complete, we can leave cyclic existence and enjoy the state of Nirvana, free of problems. (The 4 Noble Truths, par. 3 ) Buddha teaches that we must take it upon ourselves to reach enlightenment, No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. (Sayings of Buddha)

Reymer 7

Works Cited

"BBC." BBC News. BBC, 17 Nov. 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. "Bud 101 - 4 Truths." Bud 101 - 4 Truths. Bud 101, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. "Buddha Biography." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. Buddhism., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. "C.S. Lewis Quotes." C.S. Lewis Quotes (Author of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. Gunaratana, Henepola. Mindfulness in Plain English. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2002. Print. O'Brien, Barbara. "Learn About the Life of the Buddha, Founder of Buddhism." "Suffering Quotes." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. "The Four Noble Truths." Write Spirit . Write Spirit, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. "The Four Noble Truths." The Four Noble Truths. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.