Every person at some time has to face suffering and the motives for suffering. Every person has to endure physical, mental, and spiritual pain for without this pain there could not be any possibility for learning whilst upon this planet. There could not be any purification and the driving away of the dross which at present surrounds the spirit of humans. The only solution to this problem is living the Middle Way.
The Middle Way is based on the four noble truths by Gautama, or more commonly known as the "Enlightened One" or "Buddha." Gautama instructed that everything holds the POSSIBILITY of suffering from which it is clear that every incident of life can result in pain, discomfort, or disharmony. CAN! - nowhere is it stated that everything MUST cause pain, suffering or anguish. Much hardships in our daily lives today are purely self-inflicted by the manner in which we live and think and yet many people constantly seek others to blame - perhaps because of the possibility of financial compensation? - as if money holds all the answers for their misfortunes, pain, discomfort, or disharmony rather than fixing the core problem in their lives; themselves!
First of the Noble Truths: If you are unhappy it is because out are not living in harmony with nature. If you are not living harmoniously it is because you have not learnt to accept the world as it is with all its disadvantages and POSSIBILITIES of suffering. You can only attain happiness by realising the causes of unhappiness and avoiding those causes. Sometimes it's not possible to avoid those causes; therefore, you must learn to take the rough with the smooth. Peace is the absence of conflict internally and externally.
Second of the Noble Truths: It is the craving thirst that causes the renewal of becomings and this craving thirst is accompanied by sensual delights that seeks satisfaction. It takes the form of craving for the gratification of the senses, or the craving for prosperity and worldly possessions. The world itself is not a bad place and yet some of the people in it certainly are. They can make it appear very bad indeed and it is our own attitude, our own faults, which make the world seem so very bad. Everyone has desires, cravings, even lusts, which make one do things which in a more balanced mood - when free from such cravings and lusts - one would not do. The Great Teaching of the Buddha was that he who craves cannot be free, and a person who is not free cannot be happy. Therefore, to overcome craving is to take a big step forward towards happiness.
Third of the Noble Truth: one of the shortest and simplest of the Truths, as Gautama taught, when one ceases to crave for a thing then one ceases to have suffering connected with that thing, suffering ceases with the complete cessation of cravings. A person who has cravings usually has cravings for another person's goods, he becomes covetous - he covets that possessed by another, he becomes infatuated with the possessions of another - and when he cannot have those things resentment sets in and the person dislikes the owner of the coveted goods. That gives rise to frustration, anger, and pain. If one covets a thing which one cannot have, then there is unhappiness. Actions arising from cravings lead to unhappiness. Happiness is gained when one ceases to crave, when one takes life as it comes, the good with the bad.
Fourth of the Noble Truths: The Fourth of the Four Noble Truths has been divided into eight parts called the Holy Eightfold Path. There are eight steps which one can take to obtain liberation from the desires of the flesh, to obtain liberation from cravings. Don’t mistake cravings with aspirations as many do!
(1) The Right Viewpoint: As Gautama taught, one must have the right viewpoint on unhappiness. A person who feels miserable or unhappy must find out precisely why he is miserable or unhappy, they must investigate themselves and find out what is the cause of this unhappiness. When a person has discovered for themselves that which is causing unhappiness, then that person can do something about it to obtain the fourth of the Four Noble Truths which is - How can I find happiness? Before we can proceed upon life's journey with a tranquil mind and with a hope that we shall lead life as life is meant to be led we must know what are our objectives?
(2) Right Aspiration: Everyone aspires after something; it may be mental, physical, or spiritual gain. It may be to help others or it may be only be to help themselves. However, unfortunately humans are in very much of a mess as they are undirected, confused, unable to perceive that which they should perceive. We have to strip away all the false values, all the false words, and to see clearly that which we are and that which we should be as well as that which we desire. We must renounce false values which obviously lead us into unhappiness. Most people think only of "I," "me," or "mine." Most people on this planet are too self-centred as they care not at all for the rights or viewpoints of others. Only by helping others do we help ourselves. It is essential that we look at ourselves as an object to be studied, look at ourselves as we look at some stranger: Do you like the stranger? Would you like them to be your closest friend? How would you like to live with them for a lifetime, eating with them, breathing with them, sleeping with them? You have to have the right aspirations before you can make a success of life, and from this right aspiration it follows that you must have:
(3) Right Speech: This means that a person must control his speech, must not speak idle slander, and must not deal with rumours as if rumours were facts. With right speech one should always give the other person the benefit of the doubt, and should withhold speech when speech can harm another. Giving speech when speech is good, especially when speech can help. Speech can be more deadly than the sword as bad speech can be more poisonous than the most venomous poison. Speech can destroy a nation and has done historically. Today's press are a fine example of how words cause so many problems all over the globe. Thus, one must have right speech and right speech arises right thoughs:
(4) Right Behaviour: If one behaves in the correct way one does not speak in an incorrect way. Thus, right behaviour contributes materially to right speech and right aspirations. Right behaviour means that a person does not tell lies, does not drink intoxicants, does not steal, does not take drugs and finally does not gamble. Gautama taught that we are the result of our own thoughts. What we are now is that which our thoughts have caused us to be in the past. So if we think right now, if we behave right now, we will be right at some near future occasion. Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time, as hatred can only be conquered by love. Let a person overcome the anger of another by love, let them overcome the evil of another by their own good. One should not attack those who attack one with abusive language or with sticks or stones - this does not mean you cannot defend yourself from such attacks if your life is in danger. If someone curses you, you must suppress all resentment and make firm determination that your mind shall not be disturbed and no angry word shall cross your lips. You will remain kind and friendly and without spite. The next of the Holy Eightfold Path:
(5) Right Livelihood: According to the Teachings of Buddha there were certain occupations which were harmful to our spiritual evolution, certain occupations which could not be followed. For example: a butcher, a seller of poisons, drugs or alcohol; nor could they be a slave trader or slave owner; nothing that can or will harm any other living creatures. By hurting others, you only hurt yourself and by helping others; you help yourself. It's truly that simple!
(6) Right Effort: Right Effort has a special meaning as it means that one must proceed at one's own most suitable speed on the Holy Eightfold Path. A person who is seeking to progress should not be impatient and try to move too quickly before they has learned the lessons which are to be learned. But again, nor must that seeker try to hold back with false modesty or with false humility. Any person can only progress at their own allotted speed and not what anyone else claims is possible.
The teacher only arrives when the student is spiritually ready; and NEVER when the student thinks they are ready. That's why they are the student, because they don't know, they are still learning, and therefore not in a position to make an opinion of what is ready!
(7) Right Mindfulness: It is the mind of humans that controls human's actions. Thought is parent to the action, so if you think of a thing that is the first step in doing that thing; and some thoughts are very disharmonious. Physical desires might distract one, possibly cause one harm, for example one might desire too much, or too rich, food. The desire does not give one the pain, but the overeating does. Unhappiness and pain develops from excessive eating, and follows the excessive desire to eat. You must remember that feelings are short-lived, coming and going like the wind which changes at all times. Emotions are unstable things and cannot be relied upon. One must train oneself so that one has the right mindfulness at all times irrespective of one's transient desires.
(8) Right Contemplation: As Gautama well knew yoga was not by any means the answer to spiritual attainment. Yoga is merely a set of exercises which are designed to enable the mind to control the physical body. Yoga is designed to subjugate the body at the mind's command and not designed to give one spiritual elevation. In Right Contemplation one has to control irrelevant thoughts of the mind, one has to know one's own true needs. By having Right Contemplation one could meditate – contemplate - so that without reasoning (reasoning and fear are the brakes that slow up our spiritual evolution) one could come to a conclusion by intuition as to what was right or wrong for oneself.
The Eightfold Path has a very real objective, an objective under which those who followed that path would attain that much desired end result; they would attain Nirvana. Nirvana actually means the cessation of craving, the end of resentment and covetousness. The end of covetousness and the other lusts of the body would enable any man or woman to attain to a state of bliss. Nirvana is liberation from the body, liberation from the lusts and gluttonies of the flesh. It does not by any means imply the cessation of all experience, nor does it mean neither the cessation of all knowledge, nor the cessation of all life. It is incorrect to say that Nirvana means existing in a state of nothingness. That is an error which has been perpetrated through ignorant people talking about things which they did not understand in the first place.
Nirvana is freedom from lust, freedom from the various hungers and gross desires of the flesh. Nirvana is not just blissful contemplation, it is, instead, a fulfilment of spiritual knowledge and liberation from all bodily desires. The state of Nirvana is being in a pure state, pure so far as lack of lusts for physical things are concerned. But even when one has attained to Nirvana, that is freedom from flesh desires, one still goes on to learn spiritual things and to advance in other planes of existence. The more you know, the more there is to learn.
One is enjoined to read, to study the Scriptures, and to listen with attention to the learned lectures of wise men. However all the printed words and all the written words must serve merely as fuel for the workings of one's own mind, so that when one gets an experience one can relate that experience to Great Truths as propounded by others. This means is that you cannot get far by being a mere theorist; you have to be a practical person as well as a student of the written word. It is stated that one picture is worth more than a thousand words, but I say that one experience is worth more than a thousand pictures.
In today’s hectic lifestyle you may not succeed in achieve all the Noble Truths in this one lifetime, but don’t see that as a failure because it's not. By trying to succeed in this lifetime WILL help you in the next. You can be reaching for Buddhahood whatever your station in life. The only thing to go on is - how do you live? Do you live according to the Middle Way? Do you live according to the Golden Rule that you should Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? If so; then you are on the road to Buddhahood. So by keeping pure thoughts, we keep out impure thoughts; we strengthen that to which we return when we leave the physical body because anything you do here benefits your Overself, and so benefits you, because you are the same thing.