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Siddhartha Gautama on Suffering

I am Siddhartha Gautama. I was born in 566 BC at the foot of the Himalayas in Nepal. A son of the tribal leader of the Shakyas, I was brought forth into this earth with the proverbial silver spoon. Ever since the day of my birth, I have known nothing but bliss, comfort, and contentment because my childhood was spent in a palace which was overflowing with wealth and pleasure (Hooker, 1996). The circumstances of my birth, therefore, shielded me from the suffering that the people outside of our palace were experiencing at the time. Suffering was, in fact, never a part of my vocabulary.

The realization that there were people who were actually suffering while my family was living in luxury therefore came as a big blow to my consciousness. As I was growing up, I never thought even for just a moment that the wealth and the luxuries enjoyed by my immediate family and our friends meant misery and deprivation to others. My most traumatic experience happened during a trip to the city of Kapilavastre. From that day onward, I was never the same again. When I saw an old man whose body was utterly shattered by years of deprivation, that horrible picture remained in my consciousness forever.

I could not bring myself to believe that other people did not have anything to eat while the palace never ran out of food. I was sickened when I saw a person suffering from a lethal infection. I was certain that that man should not have been suffering if only he was given the proper medication. For the first time, I had my firsthand experience of the anguish caused by needless death due to poverty as I was forced to step aside for a funeral procession. The sadness and the helplessness of the mourners who were crying their hearts out left me weak and numbed (Moore and Bruder, 2005).

When I returned to the palace after that fateful trip, I stopped believing that everything was all right with the kingdom – in fact, I was almost certain, with the whole world. I was sure that what I saw existed in other parts of the world and afflicted other people as well. I decided to embark on a spiritual journey and turn my back on the only life I have known since I was born. I left everything behind: my wife of thirteen years, my beloved son, and my very comfortable life. I could not bear the thought that others had to suffer so that my family could live in comfort.

I was by then in my 29th year and I decided to devote the remaining years of my life to the task of searching for solutions to the sufferings which I have witnessed and felt in Kapilavastre (Moore and Bruder, 2005). I meditated without eating or drinking a single drop of water under what was then known as a pipal tree (now the Bodhi Tree). I did not stop until I achieved some degree of enlightenment 49 days later. After that I sought to reach other people in order to share with them the illumination that I gleaned from my meditation, spending the last 45 years of my life in my self-appointed mission.

My sole objective was to help everyone I reach achieve enlightenment and put an end to their suffering (Alisimo, 2008). When I went deep into the forest to start my meditation, I really believed that as long as I lived a comfortable life, the solutions I was seeking would continue to elude me. When enlightenment finally dawned on me, I came up with my Four Noble Truths: First, I had to force myself to accept the existence of suffering in the world around me. After that I found out that there are specific causes of suffering and that such causes could be identified.

Third, I convinced myself that it is possible to put an end to suffering. Finally, I came to understand that suffering could only end when people start to lead an “enlightened living. ” I defined suffering as a state of life. It means more than pain and privation – it encompasses “sorrow, disappointment, frustration, discontent, disaffection, pessimism, and the sense of unfulfillment that so often grows with the passing of the years. ” All of these cause everybody – from the poorest to the richest person – to experience suffering (Moore and Bruder, 2005). Man’s ignorance, coupled with a “selfish craving” could cause suffering.

It could also be caused by the uncertainties faced by an individual which cause him or her to be anxious and fearful of the future and to experience karma. On one hand, man’s ignorance closes the door to an enlightened life. On the other hand, selfish craving turns a person into a slave of his or her desires and passions. Once the individual succumbs to desire, he or she could no longer be contented with the life he or she has. This is because even if he or she is contented with the present, the future would always remain uncertain and, therefore, fearsome.

If this occurs, happiness and contentment would only be a temporary state (Moore and Bruder, 2005). The other cause of suffering is karma. This has something to do with the actions of an individual during his or her life on earth. It is also the most important element which affects reincarnation. An individual’s reincarnated life is determined by his or her present actions which are judged to be either morally right or wrong on the basis of his or her intentions. These actions later affect several of his or her reincarnated lives. As a consequence, a person suffers from the effects of his or her actions through karma (Moore and Bruder, 2005).

I have discovered that meditation could end suffering. It overcomes ignorance and “self-abnegation” and puts an end to a person’s selfish craving. Once a person becomes successful in his or her meditation and self-abnegation, suffering stops and nirvana – the “permanent state of supreme enlightenment” – is achieved. Nirvana, however, is not reached overnight. It is a slow process which requires a person to achieve a focused concentration in order to get rid of his or her selfish craving (Moore and Bruder, 2005).

References

Alisimo, A. (2008). Who was Siddhartha Gautama? Ezine Articles. Retrieved June 18, 2008 from http://ezinearticles. com/? Who-Was-Siddhartha-Gautama? &id=712248 Hooker, R. (1996). The Historical Siddhartha. Retrieved June 18, 2008 from http://www. wsu. edu/~dee/BUDDHISM/SIDD. HTM Moore, B. N. & Bruder, K. (2005). Philosophy: The power of ideas (6th ed. ). McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

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