Buddha was born in 483 BC as Prince Siddhartha Gautama 悉達多. 喬達摩. He was son of King Shuddodana 淨飯王and Queen Mahamaya 摩耶夫人 who used to rule a small kingdom that is now southern Nepal. His mother sadly died soon after his death. His father wanted his son to follow him in his footsteps and become a king, he decided never to let Siddhartha out of the palace, so that he would not witness the human suffering in the outside world. And so, from a very young age, Shuddodana always made sure that his son was given anything he wanted: a luxurious lifestyle, servants, and three palaces of his own. King Shuddodana even made sure to remove the sick, the aged, and the suffering from public view for fear that it would upset his son.
Yet as the prince grew, he became weary 厭倦of his rich lifestyle. He found himself not very happy, and came to believe that perhaps material wealth is not the be-all and end-all in life. And when he met an old man during one of his trips outside the palace(despite all his father’s efforts to hide them from him), Siddhartha was so depressed by the nature of human suffering that he decided to escape and go and live life as an ascetic 苦行者. During his quest for enlightenment – the state free from ignorance, desire and suffering- he decided to pursue an extreme approach of total deprivation of worldly goods, including food. But after nearly starving himself to death, Siddhartha came to realize that this wasn’t the way to achieve enlightenment. Instead, it was the state of mind that needed training.
And so, at age of 35, Siddhartha sat down under a Bodhi tree and began practicing meditation, a training of the mind to achieve a calm awareness of one’s body functions, feelings and consciousness, and stopped treating his body cruelly in the process. And after only 7 days of meditation, Siddhartha achieved enlightenment and became known as the Buddha, or the “Awakened One” 「覺者」.
By becoming enlightened, the Buddha is believed to have realized true insights into the nature and cause of human suffering-which was ignorance of the nature cycle of birth, ageing, illness and death- and the way to eliminate it. The realization and the way to cessation of human suffering were later named “ The Four Noble Truths” 四聖諦, which are :
THE NATURE OF SUFFERING苦諦. This represents the knowledge of suffering in the world, including birth, ageing, illness, and death. It also includes, but is not limited to, lamentation(sadness and feeling sorry), pain, grief, despair, separation from what is pleasing, not getting what one wants, and clinging 執著 to what is not permanent.
THE SUFFERING’S ORIGIN集諦. This represents the knowledge of the origin of each of our sufferings, which includes craving(strong feeling of wanting) for sensual pleasures & craving for existence.
THE SUFFERING’S CESSATION滅諦. This represents the knowledge of the end of suffering; it is the giving up and relinquishing 放棄 of craving, as well as non-reliance on it.
THE PATH道諦. This is the knowledge of the way leading to the cessation of suffering, including having right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. 八正道 (正見,正思,正語,正業,正命,正勤,正念,正定)
Although the Buddha never denied that there’s happiness in the world (he often spoke of the happiness that comes from friends and family), to him happiness was impermanent; and when one inevitably loses the things that make one happy, one suffers. In other words, according to the Buddha, the pursuit of happiness itself is suffering, but people are unaware of this because they are distracted by temporary pleasures. And since want is insatiable in itself (when you have something you want, you always want more), the true path towards supreme happiness-which is really the end of suffering-is to follow the MIDDLE PATH: the process of avoiding the extreme of torturing of indulging one’s desires and the opposite extreme of torturing one’s mind and body unnecessarily and unreasonably. The middle path involves, for example, engaging in regular meditation and the practicing of loving, kindness and compassion, which is the desire for the happiness and well-being of others. By following the middle path one can achieve a state of mindfulness whereby feelings such as desire, ill-will, or wants are realized to be nothing but thoughts. And once we can realize and be aware that they are just thoughts, we can let them go.
Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future; concentrate the mind on the present moment. The nature of the world is impermanent 無常, and the more we cling on to anything that makes us happy, the unhappier we will be in future. The mind is everything. What you think, you become.
Happiness is nothing more than a state of mind 唯心, and one that we can train, given effort and time.
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