Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and the eight-fold path can free us from suffering.
Buddhism was founded in 400 BC by Gautama Buddha which means the awakened one.
Buddha seemed to have everything as a young man. He was the son of a king, wealthy, handsome and gifted. At sixteen he married a neighboring princess who was a model wife and bore him a beautiful son.
When Buddha was born it was prophesied that if he remained in the world, he would become a great leader of India, but if he forsook the world he would become a world redeemer. His father wanted Buddha to become a king so he did everything possible to keep him interested in the world and sheltered from pain.
Buddha remained cloistered until one day he experienced the first of four encounters with pain. The first was an old man, the second a diseased person, the third a dead body and the fourth, a monk. Buddha's contact with aging, disease and death led him to despair on fulfillment in the world. His encounters are known as "The Four Passing Sights."
On Buddha’s 29th birthday he left his family, the palace and all his worldly possessions, shaved his head, put on beggars cloths and went into the forest in search of truth and enlightenment.
For six years he wondered, living alone in the forest, living with a band of ascetics where he practiced fasting, self-control and self-denial.
In the end he grew so weak he almost died. This lead Buddha to the teaching of the middle way, to give the body what it needs in the way of food and rest but no more. He then began turning inward and one day while sitting under a fig tree he became enlightened.
Enlightenment means "to wake up and know." The bliss of this experience kept him there for 49 days. Then for 45 years he taught, counseled and preached to all that came to him.
Buddha was called the "silent sage" because he was hard to describe, peaceful, powerful, compassionate, wise and humble. He was accessible to all and was gifted with supernatural insight into people.
Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths. The first is that life is suffering (dukkha), the second is the cause of suffering is worldly attachment (tanha), the third is the cure for desire and the fourth is the eight-fold path that can set us free.
The eight-fold path has eight steps:
1. Right knowledge: To believe in the four noble truths.
2. Right aspiration: To decide what we really want. Is it enlightenment or worldly success and pleasures?
3. Right speech: To speak the truth and notice when we stray from the truth. Also to speak with charity—no gossip, idle chatter or abuse.
4. Right behavior: To act with more kindliness than self-seeking. To not kill, steal, lie, be unchasted or drink intoxicants.
5. Right livelihood: To work in an occupation that promotes life, truth and healing instead of destroying it.
6. Right effort: To use our will to develop virtues and curb passions and negative states of mind.
7. Right mindfulness: To develop self-knowledge through being alert and to examine ourselves. To witness our thoughts so we can trace the source. Several days of silence and solitude for self-analysis are recommended.
8. Right Absorption: To turn our senses inward inside ourselves and explore our internal world until we are completely absorbed in our own enlightenment.
Buddha stressed that we rely upon ourselves only, and that we practice right association for the attitudes and values of those we associate with effect us.
Buddha discouraged reflection on metaphysics (the theory of being and knowing) and the practice of prophecy and fortune telling as they tend to divert our attention from the hard, practical task of self-advancement.
Although Buddha did not teach about metaphysics he did teach that a thread follows each life depending on how well we have lived and that we do have choices.
With the growth of our inwardness we have more peace of mind and freedom, and an ever-increasing independence from our body, passions and the worries of the material world. Till finally we reach "Nirvana" which means to "blowout" or become free of the wheel of birth and death.