The Buddha taught that all life is suffering, but he also taught that there is a way to end the suffering. Some of the key teachings in Buddhism are included in the Four Noble Truths: that life is suffering, that all suffering is caused by desire, that suffering can be overcome by the cessation of desire, and that the end of suffering can be reached by the Eightfold Path.
The First Noble Truth the Buddha taught is that life is essentially dukkha: suffering. This suffering is caused by craving, or desire: humans are always wanting something, always running after something or hoping for things to be different than they are. Craving also causes attachment and this is what leads to the cycle of rebirths, and being born again and again into another life of suffering. This is the Second Noble Truth.
But the Buddha also taught that it is possible to end the suffering and reach enlightenment (nirvana). The Third Noble Truth is that the end of suffering can be achieved with the cessation of desire. The Fourth Noble Truth introduces the Eightfold Path, a method for ending suffering. It includes right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Right does not necessarily mean the opposite of wrong, but “perfect” or “complete”.
Right understanding, or right view, means seeing the nature of reality: seeing things as they are, instead of how we would like them to be or how we worry that they might be like.
Right thought, or right intention, follows from having right understanding. Understanding how things really are means that a person can work or act from a pure intention instead of being influenced by fears of how things might be, or ideas of how things “should” be.
Right speech means speaking honestly and truthfully, without using words to manipulate or harm others.
Right action, or right discipline, means acting towards others and towards oneself in a non-exploitative manner.
Right livelihood means an ethical livelihood that is based on correct action and does not exploit others.
Right effort is associated with “conscious evolution”, always working towards enlightenment.
Right mindfulness is being mindful of every single aspect of one’s existence: how you act, how you talk, how you relate to others, how you work. It involves developing awareness of oneself, one’s thoughts and one’s environment.
Right concentration means being completely present in “now”, in how things are at this moment; to be in Samadhi and absorbed in enlightenment. Right mindfulness comes with the help of meditation and it is said that meditation is essential for “walking the Eightfold Path”.
Sources: DharmaNet Learning Centre