The Life of Buddha and its Lessons

Is Buddhism relevant in our modern world? The better question is, how Buddhism is relevant to life. Is there anything special about our modern life?

Cell phones and other technology differentiate modern life, compared to earlier periods of history. Only fifteen years ago there were no mobile phones. The human condition is no different today than before cell phones existed. The human condition has been the same throughout time.  People have always had arguments with each other, been unhappy with each other, protected each other and loved each other.

Ancient people’s lives had worries like ours do today; whether it’s economic difficulties of the present age, or about a drought causing crop failure. Buddhism has something to offer and is relevant in all times.

True Suffering: Unhappiness, Happiness, and Compulsion

The first true truth is suffering. What is true suffering? What are the problems that we all face?

Unhappiness is the first major problem we face. There can be many gradations of unhappiness; even when we are in pleasurable situations, in pleasant company, eating delicious food, we can still be unhappy. Oppositely, if we are in pain, we can still be happy and at peace and accepting of our situation without complaining, and without becoming upset and self-preoccupied.

The second problem is unusual and most people would not recognize this as a problem; this suffering is our ordinary happiness. What is the problem with our ordinary happiness?  The problem is that it does not last; it is never satisfying, we never get enough, and then it changes. We’re happy for a while, then our mood changes and we’re unhappy. If our ordinary happiness was a true ultimate happiness, the more we had of something that made us happy, the happier we would become.

In theory, the more of your favorite food that you eat at one time, the happier we should become. Once we’re satiated, we are no longer happy eating our favorite food, so this ordinary happiness that we strive for is problematic. I often think: How much of my favorite food do I need to eat to enjoy it? Would one little taste be enough?

Would I be able to say I enjoyed it and it satisfied me? I’ve found that I want to eat more and more, so even enjoyment is unsatisfying.

The third problematic situation is our compulsive existence. Compulsive means that we are not in control over our minds or our behavior. We could be compulsively singing a song in our head and cannot stop, have uncontrollable jealous thoughts about a partner, we can’t stop having very negative thoughts or worrying. You can’t satisfy a compulsive, even the compulsion to be perfect in fact is stressful and unpleasant.

This whole aspect of compulsion is what karma is referring to in Buddhism; karma forces us repeated uncontrollable behaviors that are problematic whether they’re destructive or constructive.

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