March 19, 2021 4 min read
In this article, we'll be going over the origins of Buddhism and mindfulness. We'll talk about their connection as well as some practices you can use to help live in the present moment and free of suffering. Who knows, maybe you'll become the next enlightened one!
The Buddha lived from 460 to 380 BCE, and he taught from about 425 BCE until his death. For nearly 40 years. He was born to Maya, and his dad was a clan chieftain. His name was Siddhartha before he became The Buddha. There was a priest who prophesied that Siddhartha would become The Buddha and would become a spiritual teacher.
The story goes that his parents didn't want Siddartha to lead a brahman or priest's life because they don't get married or have children. Brahmans and priests live a life of poverty, but his parents wanted a life of luxury and comfort for their son. They loved him so much that they decided to shield Siddartha from suffering and protect him from the world.
So Siddartha lived for years, sheltered in his home. He never went outside or had any experience with the real world. Then one day, his parents decided to let him take a walk down the street. However, Siddartha's parents didn't want him to experience suffering. Hence, they did their best to clean up the streets and make the surroundings look nothing short of perfect.
However, it turned out that there were people on the street that should not have been there. On Siddartha's journey outside, he came across 4 sites that significantly impacted him. These were an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an outcast from society (a yogi).
From these 4 experiences came what we know as The Four Sites:
The old man, the truth is that we all age.
The sick man, the truth is that we all experience illness.
The corpse, the truth is that we cannot avoid death.
The Yogi, the truth being a radically different way to face life and live in freedom.
After these four sites, he decided to leave his family and live among the yogis to pursue a radically different way to face life. He tried many different techniques, but none of them helped him until he sat under the Bodhi Tree and came to realize the Five Remembrances.
The Five Remembrances are:
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape my death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love is of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
I encourage you to take a moment to sit and mindfully meditate on these 5 Remembrances and allow yourself to notice how you feel when you contemplate the meaning of these words. See if there is one that impacts you more than the others, or if they help you to become more mindful of your thoughts and actions.
Were there certain ones that were easier to accept?
What did each one make you think of?
Feel free to journal your thoughts and come back to them repeatedly to see if and how your feelings change.
For many, Buddhism and mindfulness can be difficult to internalize and may even start to cause a bit of anxiety. The idea that we will all age, get sick, and die is a hard reality to face. Add that nothing is permanent, and everything can be taken away from us at any time, and it's not exactly what most would consider bliss.
These are things we don't want to talk about. Much of society spend their money, time, and energy to avoid or cheat these Five Remembrances. But the sooner you can get comfortable and accept these ideas, the sooner you can begin to remove suffering from your life.
Meditating on the 5 Remembrances helps us find acceptance, so we suffer less. That's when the zen state really starts to manifest.
The goal of mindfulness practices and Buddhism really comes down to experiencing less suffering. The way we go about this is by living in the present moment.
The past is in the past; it is not real. The future is not yet here; it is not real. All we have is the present, right here, right now, and the actions that you take in this moment. The Buddha realized that we are either living in the past or in the future. We are also living under conditioning or beliefs that don't allow us to be fully present in our lives. Because of this, we miss living our lives altogether, which may be the greatest suffering of all.
That is what mindfulness practices. Living in the present moment, experiencing life. As you begin to master this in a meditation environment, you can take it out into your everyday experiences and live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
So there you have it, the origins of mindfulness and how Buddhism influences this practice.
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