Buddha’s Lessons To Be Happier
Tl;dr: the Buddha stresses the importance of the responsibility of the individual in its own suffering.
The Origin of the Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama was born in the 6th century before Christ in Nepal and died in the 5th century.
He was the son of a ruler (a prince, according to certain sources, but who cares really) that, to protect Siddhartha from the pain and suffering of the world, had forbidden him to escape the castle in which he lived.
Obviously, one day (he was 29 years old), he escaped and discovered a world of pain, ignorance, disease, and poverty.
Shocked, he decided to look for a way to end suffering on earth.
He first got inspiration into Hinduism and practiced for some years, starving himself to have a clearer mind (when you start fasting, you indeed reach a state of extreme mental clarity due to your liver burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrate. This state is called ketosis which you can reach with a carnivore diet, but certainly not with a vegan diet, let’s be serious here) or doing other extreme practices at the time preached by Hinduism.
And…it didn’t work. Gautama wasn’t getting any answer. So he read the book “Blue ocean strategy” and learned that if a product is not available on the market, he should see how he can merge different existing markets himself to create a new one which has also the advantage of erasing all competition (kidding).
Yet, that’s what he did.
He abandoned Hinduism, sat under a tree (the Bodhi tree), and meditated during the entire night.
When the sun rose, he reached awakening and subsequently became the Buddha, “the one that is awakened”.
And so Buddha did with his newfound knowledge what billionaires do with their money when they start having too much of it: he spread it around.
This is known as the setting in motion of the wheel of the Dharma.
Buddha taught four basic truths: life is suffering (1), this suffering has a root (2), you can find the root and end it (3), here’s how (4).
Originally, the Buddha didn’t want to teach what he had learned under the tree because he didn’t think people would listen or understand.
Guess what: people neither listened nor understood.
When Gautama died, he asked for no subsequent leader to replace him, but that each of their followers be “their own light”, meaning that each takes the initiative to find the truth for herself by herself, not by listening to others (this is capital, and we’ll talk about it in a moment).
Obviously, that didn’t happen, and Buddhism (which is an actual polytheist religion, and not a philosophy like many pretend it is) split into different “cults”, each with their own interpretation of what the Buddha had said, exactly like Islam or Christianity,
Now that we have established how mankind failed the Buddha from the get-go, let’s have a look at how we can apply Buddhism to our daily life.
Applying What the Buddha Taught
Life is suffering: at least, Buddha is honest, we got to give it to him.
No stories about angels here, or virgins giving birth (mistranslated in the Bible) or all-powerful gods and goddesses.
Old Siddhartha tells you straight to your face that if you’re alive, oh boy, you gonna suffer.
While the other great religions have more or less the same discourse, they usually sell a solution to your new-found problem: their own gods.
“Are you suffering? We have the answer to your problem, it’s called prayer! Also, give me money.”
Buddha doesn’t do that.
He tells you instead that suffering has a root.
This second revelation is rather positive, and I’d like you to think about this for a moment.
All pain has an origin, which means that pain does not randomly appear for no reason: you are not a random victim of your suffering, these pains are caused by something.
That’s great news because maybe you could investigate and see what causes you pain, and subsequently do something about it, which is the Buddha’s third truth: by suppressing the cause of the pain, the pain will go away.
This third truth may be the best because it shows that while life starts rather badly, you can do something about it through your efforts and investigations to find the root cause of pain.
And the Buddha is even nice enough to tell you how (the fourth truth) which is by following the Eightfold Path.
Remember what the Buddha said before he died?
That must have been the most important lesson of his teaching: he said “be your own light”, don’t follow a guru, don’t think what you’re told to think but think for yourself.
He said that the end of suffering is up to you which means that no one will do what you must do for yourself.
Buddha did not only create a blue ocean with his teachings.
He subsequently invented the self-development industry: unlike what the other churches are selling, there are no almighty gods, angels, or magic unicorns that will save you from pain in Buddhism: you gotta do it yourself.
Buddha is entrusting the responsibility of yourself to yourself and while it is rather scary, it is also profoundly liberating because it means you’re free to do what you want with yourself.
Whatever you do though, you will have to pay for the consequences.
Buddha doesn’t address the crowd with his message.
He is talking to individuals.
This concept is crucial, and it is the base of Jordan Peterson’s teachings if you have ever listened to him.
The reason why the Buddha is empowering individuals and not groups of people is because of pain.
Pain is not felt at the scale of a country, a city, a neighborhood, or a group of people.
It is neither felt at the scale of the electron, the molecule, the cell, or the organ.
It is felt at the scale of the individual.
Pain intervenes and exists at the individual’s level and it is therefore at this level that pain should be dealt with.
How Does It Translate to Today’s Society?
Buddha’s teachings are transcending 2500 years to reach you today and tell you this: don’t believe your teachers, don’t believe the media, don’t believe the government, don’t even believe this article.
Look for your own truth.
Search what is real, question what you’re being told, don’t follow anyone and don’t agree with something before thinking deeply about it.
While this amount of freedom that the Buddha tells you to take is liberating, it doesn’t come for free.
You are the sole soul in charge of your body.
If you don’t seek the cause of your pain, if you don’t suppress them, no one will do it for you and you will suffer.
If you treat yourself badly, you will suffer.
In this life, you harvest the fruit of your labor.
Should you not work, you won’t harvest anything.
The Bottom Line
In a time when no one is taking responsibility for themselves (look at the number of books, videos, seminars, teachings about how to become rich or be happy, and in all honesty, I have watched all of them), where disinformation and political propaganda spreads like a Chinese virus, the teachings of the Buddha may never have been so relevant.
The Buddha’s message is empowering and gives you back your right to do what you want with your life.
Neither your time nor your body belongs to anyone else but you.
Should you misuse them though, you will have to suffer and pay for the consequences.
No one else will.
No one else should either.