Let’s talk about what is necessary to learn in order to become a Buddhist. We must remember that Buddhists follow the teachings of Buddha, teachings that made the meaning of life very unique for its followers.
The end of the road is the end of suffering
Buddha´s main goal was to put an end to human suffering, his and that of all humankind. It took him 6 years to get there, to figure out what was necessary to achieve that goal.
All the necessary teachings to practise Buddhism centre around achieving the cessation of suffering. What’s interesting is that Buddha led the way, and so he structured the path methodologically. Making it really easy to understand though far from easy to follow.
We must keep in mind that whatever a Buddhist should learn, practice and accomplish is intended towards the cessation of suffering. We are going to limit this conversation to the most important ones: the 4 noble truths, Dharma and Karma, the Eightfold Path and Nirvana.
Dharma is the path to follow
Dharma could be understood as the path that leads a person to evolve. In very simple words, if you keep your pace, do good whenever the opportunity presents itself, ignore evil by not doing bad things (but remember that not doing anything when you can is akin to doing a bad thing), you will reach the end of the path.
Of course, the road is not paved, or straight, or flat. It will be full of challenges that are there to help you evolve, and the way you act when facing them is going to determine how harsh or soft the road will be in the future.
Most of the time, while walking this road our vehicle (body) perishes and we have to start over in a new vehicle. The good thing about that is that you can start from where you have left. The miles you have conquered are yours.
For some, the road is short, for others long, very long. At the end of it, Nirvana waits for you. There will be no more roads and no need for new vehicles. You will be free and at ease. You will come to terms with reality and suffering won´t be a part of you any longer.
Karma are the steps we take on our path
Karma is the step you take. And each one of them will bring you forward on the road or set you back. It all depends on which direction you will set your foot, good or bad. Karma is the necessary law that rules the walk through Dharma.
It is what keeps things in order. What makes people develop as human beings. We usually relate Karma to a bad thing, but it can also be a good thing. We usually take it for granted or don’t realize our actions make us worthy of it.
This law of cause and effect is the one determining how long and difficult your walk through Dharma will be. And the fascinating aspect of it is that you are the one controlling it. Once you act, the real intentions behind it, the result you wanted to achieve will determine what will be waiting for you a little ahead. Act good and it shall be waiting for you around the corner.
The four noble truths give us ‘the why’
Why would I, or anyone, for that matter, want to do all of this? Because you suffer, and your beloved ones suffer, people all over the planet suffer, and you just can’t take it anymore. There has to be an end to all that suffering.
The 4 noble truths Buddha left us is the summary to the way out of suffering. First, we must acknowledge suffering. Second, we need to understand where it comes from, what is its origin, which usually is the same every time we suffer.
Thirdly, we must untangle ourselves from the tentacles of those origins and break free from the cycle of suffering.. Once that happens, the next step is the cherry on the top, the cessation of suffering and the experience of Nirvana.
The Eight-fold Path shows us ‘the how’
Buddha didn’t just provide us with the theory, he shared how he had gone through the noble truths. That’s when he came up with a path of eight phases (this one goes out to all the gamers reading this).
These phases are covered by 3 different levels: ethics, mind and wisdom. In Ethics, you will face the phases of speaking, acting and living right. They are considered Ethics because they form the virtue that will guide you through the obstacles that may appear on your way.
The next level, that of mind, concerns preparing the ground for what to come, that which will be accomplished by deciding on the right endeavor, practicing the right mind-development and reaching the right level of concentration.
After all those stages we will reach the grand finale, wisdom. It might seem to be the easiest one because it has only two phases, but they are indeed the toughest ones: right views and right intentions. It covers the motivation behind our actions and our conclusions.
Enlightenment is the unseen destination
The end of the path, the solution for the suffering, the way to develop right actions and conclusions leads to a new reality. A reality we are not able to see unless we walk that path. A reality we cannot see because our eyes are closed, for we are still sleeping.
Nirvana is this awakening, the Enlightenment, the epiphany able to open our eyes and grant us real freedom. It is the silence in our minds that will bring peace to our hearts and let us ultimately experience being part of something much greater than we could dream of while we’re still sleeping.