A new Year and what if in 2012 there would be no more suffering and you could reach enlightenment? According to an ancient spiritual philosopher this is possible.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama, born to a Royal Hindu family between 563 BCE (dates vary in history), left his palace for the first time at age 29 to meet his subjects; but what he encountered was most unexpected – men of old age, disease, and suffering. As he confronted a reality unknown to him up to this point in his privileged life, he made the intention to learn and see life beyond his sheltered walls. From multiple street encounters with similar scenarios in which he witnessed extreme poverty, hunger, and great suffering among the people, he vowed to find a path that would eliminate suffering from the world.
“He abandoned his crown for the life of a mendicant in an event known traditionally as the “Great Departure.”
He first turned to the teachings of two other spiritual leaders, Alara Kalama, and later, Udaka Ramaputta. In this new physical and intellectual approach to living his life, he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness; yet after six years Siddhartha Buddha, the spiritual founder of Buddhism, was still not satisfied and left his humble surroundings to live an even more extreme ascetic life in order to find enlightenment. To this end, he gave up all earthly pleasures, and for forty-nine days he continued his search through meditation. Towards the end of this period, he gave up food until a point where he collapsed, as he was bathing, and almost drowned in the river. During a week-long fasting and meditation, Buddha vowed to never arise until he had discovered the Truth.
On the sixth day of this fast, at age 36, during a full-moon night on July, under a Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India, Buddha was awakened and finally found enlightenment. As he acquired insight to his long-standing spiritual pursuit, he discovered that extreme asceticism was not the way, but rather the “Middle way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.” His teachings known as the “Four Noble Truths” consist of Nirvana – “The perfect peace of a mind that’s free from ignorance, greed, hatred, and other afflictive states ( Anger, attachment, guilt, lack of Self-Confidence, and fear). And thus an enlighten person purified his mind from desire, aversion, and ignorance.” In order to eliminate suffering, a person must eliminate desire and live a life based on moderation and other moral principles.
Enshrined Buddha sitting in meditation under a Bodhi Tree
“In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme “Buddha” meaning “awakened one” or “the enlightened one.” (MIA)
Buddha who understood the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it debated whether or not he should teach the Dharma (“The teaching of the Buddha as an exposition of the Natural Law applied to the problem of human suffering”) to others.” “It is written he was concerned that humans could never recognise this path difficult to grasp and practice.” Fortunately, upon further consideration and living by example, he agreed to teach this philosophy and/or religion, first passed on by oral tradition. After more than two thousand years later, over 300 million people around the world attempt to follow step by step his teachings. And many go to great lengths to achieve Nirvana.
“Buddhism denies a supreme deity. Its earliest form was based on Shakyamuni’s teaching and moral code and stressed that everyone, through concerted individual effort and action, could achieve enlightenment” (MIA). Since the 6th. Century B.C. several Buddhist sects have emerged including, Hinayana, Mahayana, Esoteric Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Zen/Ch’an Buddhism. “Zen Buddhism (Ch’an in Chinese) stresses an individual’s efforts to achieve enlightenment through meditation, the true nature of existence.”