The four Noble Truths of Buddhism state:
- Suffering is an inherent part of life.
- Suffering is causal; generally by desires of material existence or clinging to said desires.
- It is possible to end suffering.
- The Eightfold Path leads to the end of suffering.
The Eightfold Path is summarized as follows:
- Right View: Essentially, the perception and understanding of the reality of nature and/or existence of which suffering is a part.
- Right Thought or Attitude: To accept the reality of nature with love and compassion by practicing the art of letting go.
- Right Speech: To communicate only in ways which do not cause harm to others; avoiding communication which is manipulative, deceitful, or otherwise harmful.
- Right Action: To act only in ways which do not harm others; to avoid violence against all living creatures
- Right Livelihood: To take on a profession which does not violate any aspect of the Eightfold Path.
- Right Effort: To understand the difficulty in following the Eightfold Path and to put forth the effort necessary in following it to the best of one’s ability.
- Right Mindfulness: To be mindful of the mind and consciously choose to avoid thoughts which would cause one to stray from the Path. Also, to be grounded in the present moment.
- Meditation: To practice Right Mindfulness so quieting the mind and remaining in the moment becomes habitual.
This is a very simplified and in-my-current-understanding version of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. At this basic level of understanding, I have a couple doubts about the teachings of Buddha.
First, I don’t believe the Eightfold Path truly eliminates suffering. An enlightened person would still experience suffering even if only during the moment in which the suffering occurs. Granted, the enlightened person would not cling to suffering or its cause. He would, instead, allow it to wash over him and recede as a wave on the shore. This, however, is not the cessation is suffering but merely a form of mitigation.
Second, Buddha teaches the path to enlightenment as a means to end suffering. In my simple mind, this implies that suffering is something bad and should be stopped.
But, aren’t the greatest lessons of man brought about by suffering? How can mankind expect to learn and grow if we extinguish suffering? Is this to say that a man who follows the Eightfold Path and attains Nirvana is then perfect and has nothing left to learn?
While I agree with and believe in the value of the Eightfold Path, I do not believe the goal should be to end suffering or reach some divine conclusion. Divine as it may be, a conclusion is still a limit. Personally, I don’t like the idea of reaching a point beyond which I can grow no further.
Please understand that these doubts and questions flow from only the shallowest understanding of the most basic principals of Buddhism. I acknowledge that delving into the spiritual depths of Buddhism and acquiring a greater understanding of the Buddha’s teaching may dispel these doubts, although I have not yet decided to wander far from shore.