All our Buddhist religion is based on what we call “The Four Noble Truths.” In plain language they are:
1. Even a baby knows sorrow. If the baby is hungry or thirst or too warm or too cold, it cries. That is its way of expressing unhappiness. Children at play soon find there is no game that does not have some disappointment. If there are winners, then there must be losers. No one can be a winner always. Sooner or later we are all losers in one way or another. When we are sick, that is sorrow. When we are disappointed, that is sorrow. There are so many ways to be unhappy. Even when we are happy we know that the happiness will not last forever.
2. Nothing happens by accident. There is a reason for everything. The cause of sorrow is our ignorance which leads to stupid desires. By “ignorance” we mean not knowing the true nature of life and not understanding the right way to live.
3. Sorrow (unhappiness) can be brought to an end. Lord Buddha taught us that whatever has a beginning must also have an ending. Until the Buddha came to teach us how to become free from ignorance, no one knew the real cause of unhappiness or how to overcome it. The way to overcome sorrow and find true happiness is found in the fourth point.
4. The way to find happiness is like a road or pathway. In fact, it is called “The Noble Eightfold Path.” Everyone knows a road or pathway is meant to be used for travelling on. A path that cannot be used is of no value to us. Lord Buddha’s Noble Path is for our use every day of our lives. It is called the “Eightfold Path” because we must always remember eight things as we walk on this road of life. Everyone who is trying to follow Lord Buddha’s teaching ought to know these eight points by heart. They are not hard to memorise and, if we begin to use all eight of these points while we are still very young, we find that travelling on Lord Buddha’s Noble Path is ever so much easier than it will be if we wait until we are older. Let us all try to memorise these eight points, to understand them and use them. Here they are:
Once, a long time ago, there was a caravan route over a large desert. By day the sands were so hot that they were like burning charcoal. There was no water to drink and there were sharp stones and thorns to hurt the feet of those who strayed off the right path. Wise travellers carried with them plenty of water and food and always employed a very experienced guide who knew the right path and could lead the caravans safely through all the many dangers of the desert.
But a certain foolish traveller decided to cross the dangerous desert without a guide. Soon he strayed off the right path. The sharp stones cut his feet, the thorns scratched his body and he and his camels soon drank up all their water. Just when they were almost dead from thirst, heat and injury, they were rescued by wise travellers who had followed a good guide.
The desert is this world, the dangers are the troubles and sorrows that come to all of us. The good guide is the Lord Buddha, and the safe road across the desert is the Noble Eightfold Path.
THE SONG OF PEACE
Praise ye the Dharma of our Lord,
Which bids all hatred cease.
That sheds upon us holy showers
Of joy and love and peace.
Walk in the Noble Eight-fold Path
The Path our Teacher found
That leads the weary sons of earth
To peace and hope profound.
Within the Sangha we shall rest
And in our Master’s Name,
Who showed the suffering ones of earth
The secret of their pain.