The beginning of sorrow,
The eightfold way,
And the end of sorrow.
The whole teaching of Buddha can be divided into four parts. The four noble truths he calls arya satya – noble truths. The first is that unexamined life is sorrow, unenlightened life is sorrow. That is the most fundamental truth, Buddha says. Those who follow the way, they become aware of it: that life can be lived in two ways, either consciously or unconsciously. If you live unconsciously you will live in sorrow, you will be at the mercy of blind instincts.
A wealthy American widow had a fantasy about marrying a man who had never had any previous sexual experience with a woman.
She made contact with a discreet, international detective agency, and within six months they found an Australian gentleman who seemed to be perfectly suited for the widow.
On the wedding night the widow was trembling with excitement as she completed her toilette and entered the bedroom to greet her husband. To her amazement, he had piled all of the furniture, including the bed, into the living room.
“Why did you get rid of the furniture?” she blurted in disbelief.
“Well,” drawled her new spouse, “I have never slept with a woman before, but if it is anything like those kangaroos, we will need all the space we can get.”
People go on living through fantasies, absurd fantasies. You look at your own fantasies and they will all be ridiculous. But you never see your own fantasies as ridiculous; it is easier to see others’ fantasies as ridiculous.
Watch your own fantasies. What do you want out of your life? What you are living for? What is your program, your schedule on this earth? Why do you want to still be alive tomorrow? Just look at your fantasies. If you are given only seven days to live, how are you going to fulfill those seven days? With what? Write down your fantasies, don’t be cunning and don’t be clever – be utterly true. And you will find all your fantasies ridiculous. But this is how people are living.
This life, Buddha says, is nothing but sorrow. He agrees with Socrates. Socrates says: An unexamined life is not worth living. And Buddha says: An unexamined life is nothing but sorrow. That is the first noble truth.
If you remain
you are not free.
And the second noble truth one becomes aware of if one follows the way is: The beginning of sorrow… the cause of sorrow. The cause is desire – desire for more. First one experiences that his whole life is full of sorrow, then one becomes aware that the cause is desire. Those who have escaped from the wheel of desire are not in sorrow, they are utterly blissful. But those who are caught in the wheel are crushed by so many desires.
The first truth is: life is sorrow. The second truth: the cause of sorrow is desire, desire for more. And the third truth is the eightfold way. Buddha says that his whole approach of transforming your being can be divided into eight steps; that is called the eightfold way. And all those steps are nothing but different dimensions of a single phenomenon: right mindfulness, sammasati. Whatsoever you are doing, do it absolutely consciously, alertly, do it with awareness. Those eight steps are nothing but applications of awareness into different aspects of life.
For example: if you are eating, Buddha says, eat with full awareness – samyak ahar. Then whatsoever you eat is right – just be aware. Now see the difference: other religions say, “Eat this, eat that. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that.” Buddha never says what to eat, what not to eat. He says, “Whatsoever you are eating, eat with full awareness. And if your awareness says no, then don’t eat it.” Can you eat meat with awareness? It is impossible; you can eat meat only with unawareness.
In Africa a few days ago, one African dictator, Bokasso, who was trying to be another Napoleon, had been dethroned. The most strange thing that came to light was that in his house, in his freezer, human flesh was found. He was a man-eater.
Just think of a man eating another man’s meat. Is it possible in consciousness? The whole thing is so disgusting! It is said that children were stolen just to prepare food for Bokasso. Of course, small children have delicious meat. Hundreds of children had disappeared and nobody could have ever thought that this man, who used to call himself emperor, was the cause behind the whole thing.
But so is the case when you eat animal meat, not much difference in it. The animals also have life just as you have. They are our brothers and our sisters.
Buddha never says what to eat, what not to eat; he never goes into details. And that’s my approach too: just be aware.
And likewise he uses this method of awareness for other things in life: samyak vyayam – right effort. Don’t make too much effort and don’t make too little either. Right effort for everything, a balanced effort, effort which does not disturb your tranquillity. Life is like walking on a tightrope: right effort is needed and awareness so that you cannot fall. Each moment there is danger: if you lean too much towards the left you will fall. Finding yourself leaning too much to the left you have to lean towards the right to keep balance. And when you lean towards the right a moment comes, you start feeling that now you will fall towards the right; then you start leaning towards the left just to balance. This is right effort: keeping balanced.
All those eight steps are nothing but applications of a single thing – awareness. Buddha calls it right mindfulness. Don’t do anything unconsciously.
And the fourth: And the end for sorrow – nirvana, cessation of sorrow. The man who follows the path finds four things: life is sorrow, the cause of sorrow is desire, the method to get rid of sorrow is the eightfold path, rooted basically, essentially, in the phenomenon of awareness. And the fourth: that if you follow awareness you will attain to the cessation of sorrow, you will attain to nirvana. Buddha says: These are the four noble truths.
Then at last he is safe.
And one who has moved through all these four and attained to the fourth, he is at last safe.
He has shaken off sorrow.
He is free.
To be free of sorrow is to be free. If you remain in sorrow you are not free. If you remain sad, howsoever great a saint you may be, you are not free; you are still far away from the goal.
Osho, The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 6, Ch 3 (excerpt)