experiences as a prince and as a wandering monk, the Buddha
had learnt that all people have one thing in common: if they
think about their own life, or look at the world around them,
they will see that life is full of suffering.
he said, may be physical or mental. The Buddha's most important
teachings were focused on a way to end the suffering he had
experienced and had seen in other people. His discovery of the
solution began with the recognition that life is suffering.
This is the first of the Four Noble Truths.
suffering takes many forms. All of us have seen at some time
an elderly person with aches and pains in their joints, maybe
finding it hard to move by themselves or worried about falling
over on their sore bones and delicate skin. As we get older
all of us find that life can become more difficult for all kinds
of reasons; our eyes may not see as well, our hears may not
hear as well or our teeth may not be as strong making it harder
for us to eat. The pain of disease, which strikes young and
old alike, is a reality for us all from time to time, and the
pain of death brings much grief and suffering. Even the moment
of birth gives pain both to the mother and the child that is
Noble Truth is that the suffering of birth, old age, sickness
and death is unavoidable. Some fortunate people may now be enjoying
relatively happy and carefree lives, but it is only a matter
of time before they, too, will experience suffering of some
kind. What is also true is that this suffering whether
it is a cold, an injury or a sad event must be borne
alone. When you have a cold, it is your cold and only you experience
how it feels for you. In another example, a man may be very
concerned that his mother is growing old. No matter how much
he cares for her he cannot take her place and suffer the pains
of aging on her behalf. In the same way, if a boy falls very
ill, his mother cannot experience the pains of his illness for
him. The Buddha taught people to recognise that suffering is
part of life and that it cannot be avoided.
also taught that suffering does not only come from the body.
There are also forms of mental suffering. People feel sad, lonely
or depressed. They suffer when they lose a loved one through
separation or death. They feel irritated or uncomfortable when
they are in the company of people they dislike or who are unpleasant.
People also suffer when they are unable to satisfy their limitless
needs and wants. A baby cries when he cannot communicate his
hunger, or when he wants something he cannot have. Teenagers
may feel utterly frustrated and dejected if their parents won't
let them join a late-night party, watch certain movies or buy
the clothes they want. Adults too can feel unhappy when they
cannot pay their bills, frustrated when their job bores them
or lonely when their relationships are unfulfilling or complicated.
All these experiences are examples of what Buddhists call mental
suffering they can be summed up as painful feelings that
arise from being separated from the people we love, or having
to be with people we don't like, or not getting what we want.
Buddha said that there is suffering in life, He also spoke about
happiness. Buddhists speak of many different kinds of happiness;
the happiness of friendship; of family life; of a healthy body
and mind; happiness from celebration and gifts, as well as from
sharing and giving. Buddhists believe that happiness is real
but impermanent that is does not last forever
and that when happiness fades it leads to suffering. Imagine
a person who is given a beautiful vase as a gift from a close
friend. They feel happy that their friend cares about them and
has chosen them a gift that suits their house perfectly. But
if the vase was to smash accidentally, then the happiness would
vanish and turn into suffering. The person suffers because their
attachment to pleasure has not lasted.
learn that many people try to escape from the suffering in life
by distracting themselves with temporary pleasures. There are
many examples of people who try to block out sadness, pain,
loss and grief by indulging in pleasures they think will bring
happiness but actually end up disguising their real feelings,
and making them feel even worse when the temporary happiness
runs out. Imagine a person who likes chocolate, for example,
and thinks that the wonderful experience of eating chocolate
will always make them happy. If that person has a toothache
and tries to make themselves feel better by eating chocolate,
it might work once or twice, but the chocolate will never solve
the toothache and soon it will make it worse.
way, the Buddha taught his followers not to be distracted by
momentary pleasures, but to look at the bigger picture of their
life experiences. He taught that happiness and pleasures are
temporary and therefore that people should learn more about
what Buddha taught as the True way to end suffering. He taught
these lessons in the next Three Noble Truths.
is a fact of life. There are four unavoidable physical sufferings;
birth, old age, sickness and death. There are also three forms
of mental suffering; separation from the people we love; contact
with people we dislike and frustration of desires. Happiness
is real and comes in many ways, but happiness does not last
forever and does not stop suffering. Buddhists believe that
the way to end suffering is to first accept the fact that suffering
is actually a fact of life.