1. Four Noble Truths indicate the ways people can respond to suffering. They teach people that suffering exists, it has a cause and an end, and that there is a way to attain release from suffering. The First Noble Truth is about the existence of suffering. To live is to suffer. People can suffer physically (when they are sick or tired) and mentally (having trouble and being discouraged). According to Buddhism, people, animals and deities can suffer equally. The Second Noble Truth explains that suffering comes from desire to get or possess what people cannot have. It can also come from dissatisfaction with what they have. Desire is insatiable, which results in unhappiness. The Third Noble Truth tells about the end of suffering, notably about nirvana. The Buddha insisted that even the biggest suffering has an end. To end suffering means to end desires. The Fourth Noble Truth teaches that it is possible to release from suffering. One can attain it by following the Noble Eightfold Path.
2. Nirvana has several meanings. It relates to the end of suffering, inner peace, and liberation from the limitations of the world. Nirvana is the state when all the desires are extinguished. It is a way to end desires by suppressing them. To reach nirvana, one should follow the Eightfold Path. The purpose of nirvana is to get liberation from the samsara, everyday world of change. Once a person has reached nirvana, the rebirth is over. Actually, this is a positive moment for Buddhists.
3. Theravada and Mahayana are the Buddhist schools. Theravada Buddhism is the path of the elders. It contains Buddha’s teachings and stresses the ideal of reaching nirvana through detachment and desirelessness. Mahayana emphasizes nirvana for everybody, not only for monks. In Mahayana, the religious ideal is broader, following a religious path in the world behind the monastery walls. In Theravada, wisdom is the key notion. In Mahayana, wisdom combines with compassion. Instead of Theravada ideal of the arhat, who is esteemed for detached wisdom and unworldly living, the ideal in Mahayana is a person of deep compassion, the bodhisattva.
4. Happiness is the absence of all desires. People can be truly happy when they get rid of their desires. Everybody wants something, and this thirst evokes the misery and discontent. However, when one learns not to feel anything, happiness can be reached. The more people want the more miserable they feel. People have to end sufferings of body, speech and mind. It will be their awakening. Therefore, the purpose of human life is nirvana. Being in nirvana, people can reach the feeling of happiness for nothing would be bothering them. Nevertheless, this view of happiness contradicts the western view of happiness. The western world teaches people to consume. It persuades them that the more they consume, the happier they would be. It encourages people to indulge all their desires and not be afraid to express them. It provokes people to follow their heart. It means that if one feels that he/she wants something, one should go for it. Media convinces society to avoid any kinds of limitations and precautions. Therefore, for non-Buddhist people such ascetic meaning of happiness can be a true challenge.
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5. Meditation is very important for understanding Buddhism, as this is its core practice. Buddhists use meditation to separate themselves from their thoughts and feelings. It brings relaxation, inner peace and concentration of mind. It is very important for Buddhists to avoid the so-called “duality”. While meditating, they involve the body and mind as a single entity. Breathing is one of the key elements of meditation. One can practice meditation while walking or sitting. People can meditate on their own or in groups. It depends upon the school of Buddhism. Similar meditative practices are present in other world religions. Nevertheless, Buddhist meditation is more complex for it involves both the body and mind.
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