According to the Buddha, the most important aspect of human life is the path toward morality, mindfulness, and the achievement of greater levels of understanding throughout one's lifetime. More particularly, the Buddha taught that mindfulness refers to the concept of becoming more aware of our internal thoughts and of the ways that our internal thoughts affect and drive our external behavior. In principle, the unexamined life consists of petty earthly goals and shallow desires that bring no greater happiness when they are achieved. Through mindfulness, the individual makes a continual attempt to eschew the pettiness of human desires and to derive internal satisfaction and contentment through self-understanding.
One principal component of that perspective is the realization and acceptance that, like all biological life, human exists for only a moment in time in comparison to the eternal passage of time. Ultimately, the finite and short nature of human existence renders all earthly goals completely meaningless. In essence, the ordinary goals of human life are devoid of genuine meaning for the same reason that those goals would have no value one day before the end of our lives.
The Practice of Virtue and Meditation
The Buddha taught a method of gradual training called anupubbasikkha. It is through this practiced art of separating the self from the external-oriented senses that enables the individual to increase and strive for higher levels of mindfulness. The anupubbasikkha is a systematic and gradual process of becoming more aware of the inner self by detachment from all of the ways in which the individual normally perceives and interacts with the external environment of goals, wants, and desires. The Buddha also taught a method of meditation called samatha that is based on a minute and focused attention on all bodily sensations and bodily states.
The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path
The Four Noble Truths
The Buddha taught that the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path are the main components of a life that is enlightened. Simply put, the Four Noble Truths tell us that: (1) Life is hard and involves suffering; (2) Hardship and suffering in life are functions of inappropriate attachment to and desire for wants; (3) The only way to avoid suffering is to stop desiring anything that one does not already have; and (4) The Noble Eightfold Path is the means to avoid inappropriate desires.
According to the First Noble Truth, life entails suffering. The Buddha taught that for most living things, life is characterized by suffering and loneliness and by the continual frustration of conscious desires. It is the constant striving for desires that makes life unfulfilling because all desires and goals appear to be fulfilling only before they are attained. Once attained, they inevitably lead only to further desires to replace them. Those new desires become equally unfulfilling as soon as they are reached as well.
The Second Noble Truth teaches that this continual replacement of one desire after another is the principal reason that human beings suffer. Without spiritual guidance, the ordinary human being merely transitions from one desire to the next or continually increases the level of needs and wants at every level of satisfaction that one reaches. The Buddha taught that human satisfaction, in the genuine sense, is achievable through the entirely opposite manner. Specifically, it is not the achievement of desires and the attainment of goals that provides contentment. Rather, it is the gradual relinquishment of any needs and desires that provides the means to genuine contentment. Fulfillment in life, therefore, derives not from satisfying the needs that we have but from eliminating them in the first place.
The Third Noble Truth teaches that not all desires are equally destructive to the achievement of contentment in human life. Generally, the Buddha taught that contentment in life is linked to living in the moment and from day-to-day rather than maintaining goals and desires for the longer term. More particularly, certain types of desires, such as those that are the most superficial and connected to our material needs even more destructive to the prospect of contentment in life than long-term desires in general. According to the Fourth Noble Truth, genuine contentment and happiness in life are only possible through following the Noble Eight-Fold Path.
The Noble Eight-Fold Path
The Noble Eight-Fold Path is a comprehensive set of guidelines that provide a path to morality in human life. It prescribes human…