There is no set definition to ‘A Good Life’. Various people have different ideas and meaning behind this phrase. Definitions between cultures and religions may differ drastically while others closely resemble each other.
What is Buddhism?
Before we start delving into what makes a ‘Good Life’ in a Buddhist eye’s, we must first understand what Buddhism as a religion actually is about. A good place to start is a definition of Buddhism from The Buddhist Centre, ‘Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of reality’. Unlike many other religions, Buddhism does not include the worship of a single or a plethora of gods. Rather it focuses on achieving a higher form of living and experiencing enlightenment. The followers of this religion try to achieve this greater form of living by following the Buddha’s four Noble Truths, the three Universal Truths and through meditation.
The Four Noble Truths:
- The Four Noble truths the Buddha taught to his disciples were:
- Human life has a lot of suffering.
- The cause of suffering is greed.
- There is an end to suffering.
- The way to end suffering is to follow the Middle Path.
(Buddhism Basic Beliefs: The Four Noble Truths)
Buddha taught people an alternate middle path. A path of sacrifice and devoid of luxuries but one that will eventually them to nirvana, the ultimate spiritual goal of Buddhists.
The Three Universal Truths:
The Three Universal Truths taught to Buddhist monks by the Buddha are:
- Everything in life is impermanent and always changing.
- Because nothing is permanent, a life based on possessing things or persons doesn’t make you happy.
- There is no eternal, unchanging soul and ‘self’ is just a collection of changing characteristics or attributes.
(Buddhism Basic Beliefs: The Three Universal Truths)
What are their views on a ‘Good Life’?
Already we can see the idea of true happiness embedded in Buddhism, with followers tasked to find true ‘enlightenment’ and live without suffering. However, the question still stands; What is a Buddhist view on a ‘Good Life’? As we have learned the purpose each buddhist strives towards is the path to true enlightenment and a life free from suffering. Unlike other religions, for example Christianity, that focus on achieving happiness via the doing of good deeds, Buddhists sought to achieve this same state of happiness via self-sacrifice and mindfulness. Those who follow the teachings of the Buddha believe the path to true happiness and liberation is through the ‘Middle Path’, one without the constant pressure of material wealth but filled with fasting and hardship. According to them, moving along this path of self sacrifice and self moderation will bring one true happiness and meaning.
What can Buddhism teach us about the Golden Rule for living a fulfilling life?
The teachings Buddhism passes down to us shows that the path to happiness is never a simple matter. It is not as easy as being nice to a random stranger or holding the door for someone. The path to true happiness and enlightenment starts with self sacrifice. The Buddha taught his disciples to end suffering by following the middle path, by giving up your luxuries and indulgence for a better future. Thus one may conclude that a Buddhist’s golden rule to living is to purge one’s indulgences and worldly attachments in exchange for true enlightenment and a happier life.