The Truth of Suffering, the Truth of the cause of Suffering and the Truth that there is aWay Out: The Middle WayThe root of mental pain is craving for sensual pleasure, for existence or for non-existence; or simply wishing that things were different from what they actually are. Craving is fuelled by reaction to pleasure and pain and driven by the illusion of "me" and "mine", which in turn are due to misunderstanding the true nature of reality.
It is possible for all mental suffering to completely cease. This is the attainment of enlightenment. Enlightenment is the purification of the heart from any traces of attraction, aversion or delusion. It is the complete letting go of the illusion of a independent self or soul.
These truths are realistic in that they face up to life's imperfections and optimistic in that they offer a practical solution: enlightenment, or at least peace of mind, in this very life.
Because all things are in a constant state of change, they are inherently unable to provide lasting happiness or reliable satisfaction. Grasping and clinging to any aspect of experience leads to friction, stress or disappointment when those things, people or situation fade and disappear.
As long as this pain is seen as something unnatural or abnormal that is to be feared, avoided or rejected, it will be impossible to uproot its causes and live a truly happy life. However, to the degree that the subtle and all pervasive nature of the first noble truth is recognised, one can accept and be free from suffering.
This is why the reflection on suffering is emphasised as the key to ultimate liberation, and those who have realised enlightenment are inspiring examples of profound happiness, loving kindness and compassion.
For a lay person this may be very difficult because of the constant involvement with the world. However, following this Path helps to be more peaceful, more focused and more aware of what is really important. It helps to jump out from the box of conditioned patterns and make decisions based in more conscious and healthy choices.
To achieve enlightenment or a more conscious way of life we need to undergo a gradual training, a way of life which the Buddha called the Middle Way, or the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Middle WayThe path to happiness is called the Middle Way because it avoids the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-torment. The Middle Way consists of cultivating virtue, serenity and wisdom and is further elaborated as the Noble Eightfold Path. Cultivating
1- The perfection of understanding: views that are in accord with the natural truths of reality.
2- The perfection of intention: Being motivated by loving-kindness, compassion and renunciation.
3- The perfection of speech: words that are honest, harmonious, gentle and meaningful.
4- The perfection of behaviour: actions that manifest non-violence, sexual responsibility, and not stealing from others.
5- The perfection of work: earning a living or sustaining ones's life in a way that does not harm or exploit others or oneself.
6- The perfection of effort: cultivating and maintaining wholesome states of mind while overcoming unwholesome states and keeping them at bay.
7- The perfection of conscious awareness: being fully mindful or one's body, feelings, mind and phenomena.
8- The perfection of meditative concentration: deep unification, peace and purity of mind.
When all eight factors of this path are brought to maturity, one is able to penetrate the true nature of existence with insight and experience perfected wisdom and unshakable liberation.
Effort, Awareness and ConcentrationMeditation refers to the mental activity of sustaining clear awareness on one thing: an object, a perception, a concept, a process or a sensation for the purpose of peace and understanding. For example, one could pay attention to the process of breathing, a physical sensation, and external object, the emotion of loving-kindness, the mental repetition of a meaningful word or the perception of impermanence.
As mindful awareness becomes increasingly continuous, the dispersed and distracted energy of the mind becomes clearer and more focused. The act of sustaining awareness calms and soothes both the body and the mind, while the focusing of attention energises and brightens the heart.
The deeper the meditation becomes, the more still, peaceful and quiet one feels. This cleansed and purified awareness, developed through dedicated training, yields extraordinary clarity of mind. One begins to see things as they truly are, beyond the limitations of conditioned perceptions and habitual thought patterns. As one sees clearly, wisdom is born, and thus serenity and insight form an inseparable pair that is gradually cultivated until the realisation of full enlightenment, is you wish so.