The Buddha's Teachings
The Buddha’s teachings were passed orally and committed to memory through generations of the Sangha (disciples or companions on the path). These teachings are now known as Sutras. Underpinning them all is the fundamental importance of loving kindness and non-violence.
The Buddha’s teachings can be condensed to the following:
1. Refrain from harm
2. Perform virtuous actions
3. Train your mind (meditation)
In his first teachings, the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path:
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
1. The Truth of Suffering
Here it was stated that life is suffering. This manifests in subtle and obvious ways. Even when it appears that our lives are going well, there is an undercurrent of anxiety and fear, and of course the inevitability of change, that means even “good times” will come to an end.
2. The Truth of the Causes of Suffering
This refers to both the immediate day to day experience of a craving and unsatisfied mind as well as the fundamental source of our suffering: ignorance. Ignorance in this sense is expressed as not understanding reality and ourselves. In truth, we only experience brief relief from our frustrations and anxieties in self-centred attempts at happiness.
3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
The Buddha taught that through one’s own insight into this origin of suffering, not just mere belief in his words, we can experience our innate enlightened nature which is always present within us. In doing so, our suffering will finally cease.
4. The Truth of the Path that Frees us from Suffering
This outlines the Buddha’s path of practicing mindfulness, meditation, ethical living and a life that benefits others we too can, “awaken” to our inherent enlightened potential.
THE NOBLE EIGHT-FOLD PATH
The 8 fold path is constructed of three elements: The ethical, mental and wisdom aspects of the path.
Right Speech: to refrain from cruel, unkind or untruthful speech.
Right Action: to ensure that one does not intentionally kill, steal or engage in harmful sexual activities.
Right Livelihood: to follow ethical standards in one’s day to day life. For instance, having a profession that doesn’t cause harm to other beings.
Right Effort: to aspire to only have beneficial thoughts and actions and to refrain from harmful ones.
Right Mindfulness: to be aware and attentive of one's body, speech and mind.
Right Concentration: to practice skillful meditation methods and instructions.
Right View: Aspiring to fully understand how our lives are entrenched in suffering.
Right Intention: To inform all actions with a non-aggressive motivation.
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