What are Buddhist Beliefs? All living beings have the same basic wish to be happy and avoid suffering, but very few people understand the real causes of happiness and suffering.
We generally believe that external conditions such as food, friends, cars, and money are the real causes of happiness, and as a result we devote nearly all our time and energy to acquiring these. Superficially it seems that these things can make us happy, but if we look more deeply we shall see that they also bring us a lot of suffering and problems.
Happiness and suffering are opposites, so if something is a real cause of happiness it cannot give rise to suffering. If food, money, and so forth really are causes of happiness, they can never be causes of suffering; yet we know from our own experience that they often do cause suffering. For example, one of our main interests is food, but the food we eat is also the principal cause of most of our ill health and sickness.
In the process of producing the things we feel will make us happy, we have polluted our environment to such an extent that the very air we breathe and the water we drink now threaten our health and well-being. We love the freedom and independence a car can give us, but the cost in accidents and environmental destruction is enormous.
We feel that money is essential for us to enjoy life, but the pursuit of money also causes immense problems and anxiety. Even our family and friends, with whom we enjoy so many happy moments, can also bring us a lot of worry and heartache.
In recent years our understanding and control of the external world have increased considerably, and as a result, we have witnessed remarkable material progress; but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness.
There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it could be said that there are now more problems and greater unhappiness than ever before. This shows that the solution to our problems, and to those of society as a whole, does not lie in knowledge or control of the external world.
Why is this? Happiness and suffering are states of mind, and so their main causes cannot be found outside the mind. The real source of happiness is inner peace. If our mind is peaceful, we shall be happy all the time, regardless of external conditions, but if it is disturbed or troubled in any way, we shall never be happy, no matter how good our external conditions may be.
External conditions can only make us happy if our mind is peaceful. We can understand this through our own experience. For instance, even if we are in the most beautiful surroundings and have everything we need, the moment we get angry any happiness we may have disappears. This is because anger has destroyed our inner peace.
We can see from this that if we want true, lasting happiness we need to develop and maintain a special experience of inner peace. The only way to do this is by training our mind through spiritual practice – gradually reducing and eliminating our negative, disturbed states of mind and replacing them with positive, peaceful states.
Eventually, through continuing to improve our inner peace we shall experience permanent inner peace, or “nirvana.” Once we have attained nirvana we shall be happy throughout our life, and in life after life. We shall have solved all our problems and accomplished the true meaning of our human life.
Karma means actions: the actions of our body, speech and mind. This subject is very meaningful. Throughout our life we have to experience various kinds of suffering and problems without choice. This is because we do not understand what actions we need to abandon and what actions we need to practice. If we had this knowledge and put it into practice there would be no basis for experiencing suffering and problems.
Buddha Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, showed the manner of accomplishing the ultimate goal of living beings, the attainment of enlightenment, at Bodh Gaya in India in 589 BC.
Dharma means “protection.” By practicing Buddha’s teachings we protect ourself from suffering and problems. All the problems we experience during daily life originate in ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practice Dharma.
Meditation is an ancient technology that has been used for thousands of years by people wishing to deepen their spiritual understanding and grow on the spiritual path.
What are the Four Noble Truths? These are first teachings Buddha gave after he attained enlightenment which explain the entire path to enlightenment.
Different people have different capacities for spiritual understanding and practice. For this reason, out of his compassion, Buddha Shakyamuni gave teachings at many levels, just as a skillful doctor administers a variety of remedies to treat different types of sick people.