Is enlightenment the end of the journey or just the beginning? This may seem like an odd question. After all, one often hears the phrase “attaining enlightenment” as if this was some final goal. Shakyamuni Buddha realized that the cause of his suffering was his ignorance. His self centered views and desires were hiding the truth of the world around him. This was his enlightenment. Thus began his journey to experience this truth.
For the next forty five years the Buddha traveled throughout India sharing the teachings. He was not a prophet. The teachings were not a divine revelation. They were his realizations as to the cause of suffering and how to overcome this suffering. The Buddha never regarded the teachings as his creation. After all, this truth existed before his birth and would continue after his death. It did not belong to him. This truth was universal.
Shakyamuni Buddha did not consider himself superior in any way to other people. He stressed that every person could become enlightened. For this reason he considered all of life to be his teacher. Life is constantly changing. Cause and effect, or karma, is why things are the way they are now.
Unlike many other spiritual paths, Buddhism does not have a specific “holy book.” The core teaching is the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Buddha presented these at his first sermon after his enlightenment. Simply stated the Four Noble truths are: all life has suffering, the cause of this suffering is our ignorance, this suffering can be overcome and the way to overcome is the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path deals with eight areas of conduct and how an enlightened person would live. Unlike commandments, the Eightfold Path does not say what you must or must not do. The sutras contain the vast body of the Buddhadharma. These are a compilation of talks Buddha gave to various individuals and groups. The sutras were compiled after Buddha’s death. In this way they are similar to the gospels in Christianity. Another collection of teachings is the Dhammapada, a presentation of the Buddhadharma applied to everyday situations.
Buddhism invites questioning. “Do not believe something just because the minister says it. Only believe a teaching when you can experience its truth for yourself.” This search for personal truth is the essence of Buddhism. We must constantly ask, “Who am I?”
Life is dynamic. Change is constant. You are not the same person you were yesterday, much less one year or five years ago. We confuse our thoughts, feelings, wishes, actions and experiences with our true self. None of these, however, is permanent. They change with every moment. Become fully aware of this moment. Strip away your attachment to the past. Do not cling to your joys or sorrows. Experience anew your personal truth. Travel life’s journey awakened.
For more information about Buddhism, or meditation in Kenosha, contact me at BASEWI@aol.com.