Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as the Buddha, or “the awakened one,” was born into royalty but chose to go out into the world to live a life of aestheticism as a monk. He sat under a Bodhi tree at Buddha Gaya in northern India for three days, and each night he had different realizations. These realizations resulted in his enlightenment on the third night, which allowed him to develop his philosophies. He taught all over India and eventually died after he ate a bad mushroom.
On Wednesday, Buddhists will remember the life of Buddha with the celebration of Vesak, or Buddha Day. This holiday is celebrated differently throughout the world. It is an opportunity for Buddhists to visit their local temple, bring offerings and hear the Buddha’s teachings. Buddha Day is a festival of light, and lotus-shaped lanterns are used to decorate the festivities.
The Four Noble Truths
Buddha’s meditation ultimately led to the Four Noble Truths. The first noble truth is that life is suffering. The second truth is that suffering is caused by desire. The third truth is that when you end desire, you end suffering. The fourth noble truth identifies the eightfold path as the means to end desire and suffering.
The Eightfold Path
The first aspect of the eightfold path is “right understanding.”
This means that a person has a complete understanding (not just intellectually) of the Four Noble Truths. The second step is right thought, which commands a person to renounce thoughts of desire. The third step is right speech, which concerns interacting with people in a positive way. The fourth step is right action, which means the person’s actions in their day-to-day lives should be good. The fifth step is right work, which means that a person shouldn’t have a job that goes against Buddhist principles, such as being a butcher or fisherman. The sixth step, right effort, means that people must be persistent in their goals within the eightfold path. Right mindfulness is the seventh step, and it entails detaching yourself from the world and worldly desires. The final step, right concentration, focuses on meditation and breathing, and is a mental discipline.
Sources: buddhanet.net/vesak.htm, 4truths.com.