First Noble Truth


I snapped this picture of the American Society of Buddhist Studies  on my recent trip to New York. One of my brothers likes to harass me about the statue of Buddha that’s sitting atop my grandmother’s secretary. In fact, whenever he comes to visit, he usually turns Buddha around to face the wall. No matter how much I protest, I think Mike thinks I worship idols, but this is completely erroneous. Money, fame, fortune, huge homes, expensive cars, looks, possessions, degrees, movie stars, rock stars, super athletes, etc. are more idolized than my cream colored statue of Buddha.

Although I bought little Buddha for the aesthetic value, I must admit that looking at the statue never fails to conjure up the reasons why I developed an interest in him in the first place. It was through a book. Imagine that. Years ago, I read The Road Less Traveled by Dr. Scott Peck, a book that I still find myself referring to from time to time. It’s what I call a “deep” book, not one you can read once and put aside. The subtitle, “a new psychology of love, traditional values, and spiritual growth” prepares the reader for what’s ahead.

I knew very little about Buddha in 1980, but after reading Peck’s introduction, I did a little research. Here are a few lines from the beginning of The Road:

“Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.* It is a great truth because once we truly see its truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. …
Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. …
Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them?”

*The first of the “Four Noble Truths” which Buddha taught was “Life is suffering.”

I could go on and on and on about this. For today, I’ll just say that I learned more about Buddha and his truths and the eightfold path. One of the many things I learned is that one cause of suffering is desire. If you want to suffer less, desire less. Sometimes I think our greedy materialism, the desire for more and more “stuff,”  leads to suffering. The more we get, the more we want. It’s an endless, never quenchable cycle. It’s as if the worship of “idols” mentioned above is the cause of much suffering. Buddha says, like many of the great teachers, to renounce and enjoy. We say, as Americans, that we want more, more, more.

So I glance at Buddha and remember not to moan or whine. Life is suffering, and while I have problems like everyone else, I’m going to try to solve them instead of whine about them.

P.S.  You wouldn’t believe how lovely the statue looks contrasted with the russet red walls. Stunning.