Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, is celebrating Buddha Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha, with a public holiday across the nation. But it is not only Nepal that celebrates Buddha Jayanti in reverence for Buddha’s teachings as Buddhists across the world are following his path.
The Tripiṭaka is the term used in Buddhism to refer to three collections of scriptures of Buddha’s teachings: Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka, and Abhidhamma Pitaka. Vinaya Pitaka contains rules and stories about the Buddha and his disciples, Sutta Pitaka contains discourses on various topics, and Abhidhamma Pitaka contains detailed analyses of Buddhist teachings. It is considered the most important and authoritative collection of Buddhist scriptures, studied by scholars and monks worldwide. It is a primary source of Buddha’s teachings, guiding practitioners seeking wisdom, compassion and inner peace.
Here is a list of key lessons taught by Buddha that you should know about.
Four noble truths
The four noble truths are a fundamental part of Buddha’s teachings and are intended to be a guide for how to live a fulfilling life. The four truths include:
- Truth of suffering
- Truth of the origin of suffering
- Truth of cessation, and
- Truth of the path
The first truth accepts that pain will always be a part of life. The second truth is that to be free of suffering, we must learn to let go of our attachments and wants. The third fact reassures us that we may end suffering, and the fourth truth offers a path to do so by following the eightfold path. By following these teachings, it is believed that one can achieve enlightenment and ultimately reach nirvana.
The eightfold path
Buddhists pursue the eightfold path of Buddha’s teachings to develop moral behaviour, knowledge and mental discipline. It consists of proper understanding, purpose, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration. Buddhists seek to escape the circle of suffering and achieve inner tranquillity and enlightenment through the eightfold path. The journey is difficult and calls for commitment, control and introspection, but the benefits are priceless.
The Theravada tradition emphasises the eightfold path that includes:
- Right view
- Right resolve
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness, and
- Right concentration
The eightfold path helps individuals understand the four noble truths of Buddha’s teachings and the three categories that encompass these principles (ethics, meditation, and wisdom), which can be applied in daily decision-making processes to move towards enlightenment and away from suffering. The path emphasises the importance of ethical conduct, mental discipline and wisdom in achieving liberation from suffering and attaining enlightenment.
The middle way
The middle way is a fundamental concept among Buddha’s teachings that advocates for a balanced approach to life, encouraging practitioners to find a middle ground between self-indulgence and self-mortification. It teaches people to avoid becoming attached to worldly pleasures while minimising suffering.
This path involves cultivating mindfulness and awareness, finding a balance between positive and negative emotions, and developing equanimity and inner peace. The noble eightfold path, which consists of eight interconnected guidelines, is one way to follow the middle way. By practising this path, one can cultivate a more peaceful and fulfilling life, both for themselves and for those around them.
The concept of impermanence is a fundamental aspect of Buddhism, which teaches that everything in the world, including our bodies, relationships and material possessions, is susceptible to perish or at the very least change continually. One can discover freedom and inner peace by accepting the natural cycle of life and letting go of their attachments by realising impermanence.
Buddha placed a strong emphasis on non-attachment, which means that one should develop a feeling of detachment from their wants and possessions to acknowledge that they are not the source of genuine pleasure. Over the years, these ideas from Buddha’s teachings have struck a chord with people, and many have discovered that by accepting impermanence and letting go of attachments, they may find more happiness and fulfilment in life.
Compassion is an essential lesson among Buddha’s teachings that encourages practitioners to seek to alleviate the suffering of others, cultivating empathy and kindness towards all beings, not just those closest to them. This can have a profound impact on their well-being as it allows them to connect with others in a deep and meaningful way. The concept of karma is often linked to the practice of compassion, suggesting that people’s compassionate actions can create positive karmic energy that benefits both themselves and others.
Practising compassion can help people deal with difficult emotions and contribute to a more compassionate and caring world where suffering is reduced and happiness is increased. Engaging in acts of kindness and compassion not only benefits others but also brings joy and fulfilment to their own lives, leading to personal growth and development.
Meditation is an important practice among Buddha’s teachings for cultivating empathy and compassion towards all beings, including practitioners themselves. Taking action to alleviate the suffering of others is also a key to deepening people’s connection with the world around us and giving us a greater sense of purpose and meaning. Regular meditation can help people become more mindful, peaceful and kind, enabling them to respond to challenging situations with equanimity and wisdom.
Finally, Buddha taught the concept of interconnectedness or interdependence, which states that all things in the universe are connected and interdependent but are part of a larger picture. This understanding can cultivate a sense of responsibility towards others and the environment, leading to greater harmony and balance in the world, leading to more conscious choices that align with their values and contribute to the greater good.
When one understands interconnectedness, one becomes more mindful of their actions and how they affect those around them, leading to a greater sense of empathy, compassion and kindness towards others. This understanding of Buddha’s teachings can also lead to a greater sense of harmony and balance in the world, where individuals and communities work together for the greater good.