The basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
• The First Noble Truth
The first noble truth is, that life contains suffering. When we look at the world we see people in the most appalling condition, children starving, people being tortured, greed, hatred, terrorism, wars, intolerance and much more.
And in our own lives we are certainly not spared. Whether we like it or not, we will sometimes get ill, and endure physical sufferings such as pain, and at the end we will die. But besides the physical suffering, we will also experience psychological suffering, like loneliness, frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied.
It sounds a bit pessimistic, bun in fact it is realistic rather than pessimistic. Pessimism is expecting things to be bad. This is not the case in Buddhism. Instead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.
• The Second Noble Truth
The second truth is we suffer due to craving and wanting.
One reason for the suffering is, that we constantly try to define ourselves. And the harder we struggle to maintain our “image”, the more suffering we will experience.
An other reason for suffering is our expectations. We expect other people to conform to our expectation, even if it does not fit who they are or want to be.
We expect to have a certain standard in our living, like the right car, the fashionable clothing, the quality furnitures etc. Not to mention that we need a certain amount of space for all our stuff.
And why do we struggle to meet all those expectations. Because we have the need to belong. We want others to like us, so we can feel the belonging to the right group of people.
But all this getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. In fact it can capture us in the feeling of always wanting more.
Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness.
• The Third Noble Truth
The third truth is, that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible.
Our struggle to survive, our effort to prove ourselves and solidify our relationships is unnecessary, and we can abandon our expectations about how we think things should be. Once we release our cravings, release our past, learn to live in the now, and stop worrying about an imaginary future, we will begin to feel the freedom and happiness we all wish to experience.
Now, this is not an easy task, but it who said it was supposed to be easy. And I can tell you, that even if it is difficult, it is far from impossible.
• The Fourth Noble Truth
The way/path to end suffering.
As it is ourselves that create this suffering, it is up to us to release it. One way to do this is by meditating. Meditation is the practice of mindfulness/awareness. We practice being mindful of all the things, with which we torture ourselves. Out of our mindfulness, we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are, and begin to release our expectations about the way we think things should be. We begin to develop the insight that things are really quite simple, and not half as troubling as we have made it look.
The fourth truth refers to the Noble Eightfold Path as the path which leads to the end of suffering.