Once there was a woman named Kisagotami, whose first-born son died. She was so stricken with grief that she roamed the streets carrying the dead body and asking for help to bring her son back to life. A kind and wise man took her to the Buddha.
The Buddha told her, “Fetch me a handful of mustard seeds and I will bring your child back to life.” Joyfully Kisagotami started off to get them. Then the Buddha added, “But the seeds must come from a family that has not known death.”
Kisagotami went from door to door in the whole village asking for the mustard seeds, but everyone said, “Oh, there have been many deaths here”, “I lost my father”, I lost my sister”. She could not find a single household that had not been visited by death. Finally Kisagotami returned to the Buddha and said, “There is death in every family. Everyone dies. Now I understand your teaching.”
The Buddha said, “No one can escape death and unhappiness. If people expect only happiness in life, they will be disappointed.”
Things are not always the way we want them to be, but we can learn to understand them. When we get sick, we go to a doctor and ask:
What’s wrong with me?
Why am I sick?
What will cure me?
What do I have to do get well?
The Buddha is like a good doctor. First a good doctor diagnoses the illness. Next he finds out what has caused it. Then he decides what the cure is. Finally he prescribes the medicine or gives the treatment that will make the patient well again.
The Four Noble Truths
1. There is Suffering, suffering is common to all.
2. Cause of Suffering, we are the cause of our suffering.
3. End of Suffering, stop doing what causes suffering.
4. Path to end Suffering, everyone can be enlightened.
Everyone suffers from these things
Birth- when we are born, we cry.
Sickness- when we are sick, we are miserable.
Old age- when old, we will have ached and pains and find it hard to get around.
Death- none of us wants to die. We feel deep sorrow when someone dies.
Other things we suffer from are:
Being with those we dislike,
Being apart from those we love,
Not getting what we want,
All kinds of problems and disappointments those are unavoidable.
The Buddha did not deny that there is happiness in life, but he pointed out it does not last forever. Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering. He said:
“There is happiness in life,
Happiness in friendship,
Happiness of a family,
Happiness in a healthy body and mind,
…But when one loses them, there is suffering.”
The Buddha explained that people live in a sea of suffering because of ignorance and greed. They are ignorant of the law of karma and are greedy for the wrong kind of pleasures. They do things that are harmful to their bodies and peace of mind, so they can not be satisfied or enjoy life.
For example, once children have had a taste of candy, they want more. When they can’t have it, they get upset. Even if children get all the candy they want, they soon get tired of it and want something else. Although, they get a stomachache from eating too much candy, they still want more. The things people want most cause them the most suffering. Of course, there are basic things that all people should have, like adequate food, shelter, and clothing. Everyone deserves a good home, loving parents, and good friends. They should enjoy life and cherish their possessions without becoming greedy.
To end suffering, one must cut off greed and ignorance. This means changing one’s views and living in a more natural and peaceful way. It is like blowing out a candle. The flame of suffering is put out for good. Buddhists call the state in which all suffering is ended Nirvana. Nirvana is an everlasting state of great joy and peace. The Buddha said, “The extinction of desire is Nirvana.” This is the ultimate goal in Buddhism. Everyone can realize it with the help of the Buddha’s teachings. It can be experienced in this very life.
The path to end suffering is known as the Noble Eightfold Path. It is also known as the Middle Way.