Religion is not just for people to follow but to learn, understand, and to practice to gain experience, compassion and happiness.
One day while the Buddha was walking in the forest, he took a handful of leaves and declared that what he had taught was like those leaves in his hand. The Dhamma in its entirety was like all the leaves in the whole forest. The Dhamma is so unimaginably vast that the Buddha taught only the essential that were necessary for the immediate task at hand, namely, to end suffering and gain liberation. The Buddha told us how to rid ourselves of this suffering. The rest of worldly knowledge is not important. Due to ignorance, we spend whole lifetimes trying to cope with suffering, worries, grievances and conflicts. This is because we do not understand the true nature existence and the causes of suffering. For example, let us take the three characteristics of Impermanence (Anicca), unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha), and Insubstantially (Anatta). The whole of the Universe shares those characteristics. No power can arrest the process of change, which is present from the moment we are born, and therein lies the cause of suffering. We need little else to convince us about the root problems of suffering.
What do you want out of life? How can we gain happiness? Unsatisfactoriness and consequently unhappiness come from our not realizing that everything is changeable and subject to decay. This is the universal law. But due to our ignorance and erroneous belief in a self we want to keep living in a permanent state without ever changing. This can never happen. We want to keep our wealth, our property, our health, and our youth. But one day all of these can be swept away just like the flame of a candle is being snuffed out by the wind. When we notice that our beautiful good looks are being replaced by wrinkles and white hair, we worry and become unhappy because we refuse to accept the changing nature of things.
The Buddha teaches us to contemplate on these matters so that we will understand and remove the source of our unhappiness. The teaching of the Buddha has illuminated the way for mankind to cross from a world blinded by superstition, hatred, and fear and reach a new world of light, love, happiness and dignity. Sir Edwin Arnold described the Buddha in this way, in his poem “Light of Asia” :
“This is the blossom on our human tree
Which opens in many a myriad years
But opened, fills the world
with wisdom’s scent
and love’s drop honey”.
Open to the world and happiness is not sown but found.
Peace and Love, Jim