Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha

For Buddha, the path to happiness starts from anunderstanding of the root causes of suffering. 
Those who consider Buddha apessimist because of his concern with suffering have missed the point. 
In fact,he is like a skillful doctor—he may break the bad news of our suffering, but healso prescribes a proactive course of treatment. In this metaphor, the medicineis the Buddha’s teachings of wisdom and compassion known as Dharma, andthe nurses that encourage us and show us how to take them are the Buddhistcommunity or Sangha. 
The illness however, can only be cured if thepatient follows the doctor’s advice and follows the course of treatment—theEightfold Path, the core of which involves control of the mind. 
In Buddhism, thistreatment is not a simple medicine to be swallowed, but a daily practice ofmindful thought and action that we ourselves can test scientifically throughour own experience. Meditation is, of course, the most well known tool of thispractice, but contrary to popular belief, it is not about detaching from theworld. Rather it is a tool to train the mind not to dwell in the past or thefuture, but to live in the here and now, the realm in which we can experiencepeace most readily.
All that we are is the result of what we havethought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If onespeaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows one, as the wheel follows thefoot of the ox that draws the wagon.

All that we are is the result of what we havethought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If onespeaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows one, like a shadow thatnever leaves. (Müller,2002, p. 3)

The first and second verses of the Dhammapada, theearliest known collection of Buddha’s sayings, talk about suffering andhappiness. So it’s not surprising to discover that Buddhism has a lot to offeron the topic of happiness. Buddha’s contemporaries described him as“ever-smiling” and portrayals of Buddha almost always depict him with a smileon his face. But rather than the smile of a self-satisfied, materially-rich orcelebrated man, Buddha’s smile comes from a deep equanimity from within.

During the late 6th and early 5th century BCE,Siddhartha Gautama of Shakya, who later became known as the Buddha, was born inmodern-day Nepal near the Indian border. While there are a number of mythicalstories surrounding his conception and birth, the basic facts of his life aregenerally agreed upon. Born into a wealthy royal family, the Buddha was bornand raised in worldly luxury. Despite his father’s attempts to shield him fromthe ugliness of life, one day he ventured out beyond the castle walls andencountered three aspects of life: the old, the sick and the dead. Each ofthese experiences troubled him and made him question the meaning and transienceof life and its pleasures.
After this, he encountered an ascetic who, bychoice, lived a life renouncing the pleasures of the world. Even while he wascompletely deprived of life’s comforts, his eyes shined with contentment. Theseshocking experiences moved Buddha to renounce his comfortable lifestyle insearch of greater meaning in life. During his time practicing extreme forms ofself-denial that Buddha discovered the “Middle Path” of moderation – an ideathat closely resembles Aristotle’s “Golden Mean.”
During his life, he had experienced intensivepleasure and extreme deprivation but he found that neither extreme brought oneto true understanding. He then practiced meditation through deep concentration(dhyana) under a bodhi tree and found Enlightenment. He began teaching the FourNoble Truths to others in order to help them achieve transcendent happiness andpeace of mind through the knowledge and practice that is known today asBuddhism.

These Four Noble Truths, monks, are actual,unerring, not otherwise. Therefore, they are called noble truths.

Buddha taught his followers the Four Noble Truthsas follows:
Life is/means dukkha (mental dysfunction orsuffering).
Dukkha arises from craving.
Dukkha can be eliminated.
The way to the elimination of dukkha is theEightfold Path. Buddha believed that dukkha ultimately arose from ignorance andfalse knowledge.

While dukkha is usually defined as suffering, “mentaldysfunction” is closer to the original meaning. In a similar vein, Huston Smithexplains dukkha by using the metaphor of a shopping cart that we “try to steerfrom the wrong end” or bones that have gone “out of joint” (Smith, 1991, p.101). Because of such a mental misalignment, all movement, thoughts andcreation that flow out can never be wholly satisfactory. In short, we can neverbe completely happy.

The Eightfold Path is often divided into the threecategories of wisdom (right view/understanding, right intention), ethicalconduct (right speech, right action, right livelihood) and mental cultivation(right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration).
Right View/ understanding
Right Intention/ thought
Right Speech
Ethical Conduct
Right Action
Ethical Conduct
Right Livelihood
Ethical Conduct
Right Effort
Mental Cultivation
Right Mindfulness
Mental Cultivation
Right Concentration
Mental Cultivation

The Eightfold Path is a practical and systematicway out of ignorance, eliminating dukkha from our minds and our lifestylethrough mindful thoughts and actions. It is presented as a whole system, butthe three paths associated with the area of mental cultivation are particularlyrelevant to the happiness that we can find in equanimity, or peace of mind.

If by leaving a small pleasure one sees a greatpleasure, let a wise person leave the small pleasure and look to the great (Müller,2002, p. 91).
Buddhism pursues happiness by using knowledge andpractice to achieve mental equanimity. In Buddhism, equanimity, or peace ofmind, is achieved by detaching oneself from the cycle of craving that producesdukkha. So by achieving a mental state where you can detach from all thepassions, needs and wants of life, you free yourself and achieve a state oftranscendent bliss and well-being.
As described in the first verse of the Dhammapada,for Buddha, mental dysfunction begins in the mind. The Buddha encouraged hisfollowers to pursue “tranquility” and “insight” as the mental qualities thatwould lead to Nirvana, the Ultimate Reality. As mentioned earlier, theEightfold Path as a whole is said to help one achieve these qualities. Inparticular, the areas of mental cultivation, which include right effort, rightmindfulness and right concentration, are the mental skills and tools used forachieving happiness.

The Buddha once described the mind as a wildhorse. In the Eightfold Path, he recommends practicing “right effort” by firstavoid and then clear our minds of negative, unwholesome thoughts. Once that isachieved, one perfects a wholesome, tranquil state of mind through the practiceof positive thinking. This ongoing effort promotes a state of mind that isconducive to the practice of mindfulness and concentration (meditation).

Mindfulness is one of the most influentialteachings of Buddhism and has filtered into popular culture as well as modernpsychotherapy. The Buddha felt that it was imperative to cultivate rightmindfulness for all aspects of life in order to see things as they really are,or in other words, to “stop and smell the roses.” He encouraged keen attentionand awareness of all things through the four foundations of mindfulness: 1.Contemplation of the body 2. Contemplation of feelings 3. Contemplation ofstates of mind 4. Contemplation of phenomena In a word, mindfulness is about experiencingthe moment with an attitude of openness and freshness to all and everyexperience. Through right mindfulness, one can free oneself from passions andcravings, which so often make us prisoners of past regrets or futurepreoccupations.

A monk who with tranquil mind has chosen to livein a bare cell knows an unearthly delight in gaining a clearer and clearerperception of the true law (Müller,2002, p. 113).
Right Concentration is a mental discipline thataims to transform your mind. As the core practice of “meditation,” rightconcentration is a foundational activity within Buddhist thought and practice.According to Buddha, there are four stages of deeper concentration calledDhyana: 1) The first stage of concentration is one in which mental hindrancesand impure intentions disappear and a sense of bliss is achieved. 2) In thesecond stage, activities of the mind come to an end and only bliss remains. 3)In the third stage, bliss itself begins to disappear. 4) In the final stage,all sensations including bliss disappear and are replaced by a total peace ofmind, which Buddha described as a deeper sense of happiness.

The disciples of Guatama are always well awake,and their minds day and night always delight in compassion (Müller,2002, p. 93).
Stories of Buddha’s compassion and considerationfor all life abound. He taught truth and he also taught compassion because hesaw personal happiness as related to the happiness of others, humans andotherwise. Such a lesson is reflected in both the way he lived and the way hedied. In life, it was said that the Buddha forewent Nirvana in order to teachothers the keys to transcendence. In death, the story goes that a follower accidentallypoisoned Buddha. As he was dying, he comforted this follower by assuring himthat the meal he had just eaten was one of his two most blessed meals; thefirst meal was the one he had to break his fast under the bodhi tree, and thissecond meal of rotten mushrooms was the meal that would bring him to Nirvana.

The journey to attain a deeper form of happinessrequires an unflinching look into the face of a reality where all life is seenas dukkha or mental dysfunction. Buddhism is a philosophy and practice that isextremely concerned with the mind and its various delusions, misunderstandingsand cravings but, happily for us, sees a way out through higher consciousnessand mindful practice.
Perhaps it is because of this seemingly dim viewof reality that happiness in Buddhism is so tremendously full; the ideascontained in Buddha’s teachings point to a thorough engagement with livedreality. Ironically, it is through such an engagement with one’s self, theworld and reality that one is able to achieve a transcendent happiness.Equanimity, a deep sense of well-being and happiness is attainable throughproper knowledge and practice in everyday life.
Shared by Lotuschef / Pure Karma / True BuddhaSchool
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