The Four Noble Truths
1. The Truth of Suffering (Kutai)
The Buddha declared that this world if full of suffering; that actual existence including birth, decrepitude, sickness and death is suffering and sorrow. This is called the Truth of Suffering.
2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering (Jutai)
The cause of human suffering lies in ignorance and Karma. Ignorance and its resulting Karma have often times been called "desire" or craving. The Buddha declared:
Verily it is this thirst or craving, causing the renewal of existence, accompanied by sensual delight, seeking satisfaction now here, now there - the craving for gratification of the passions, for continual existence in the worlds of sense.
3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (Mettai)
The extinguishing of all human ignorance and Karma results in a state known as Nirvana. This is the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering.
4. The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering (Dotai)
The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering is the Noble Eight-fold Path.
The Noble Eight-fold Path
1. Right Views - to keep ourselves free from prejudice, superstition and delusion and to see aright the true nature of life.
2. Right Thoughts - to turn away from the evils of this world and to direct our minds towards righteousness.
3. Right Speech - to refrain from pointless and harmful talk to speak kindly and courteously to all.
4. Right Conduct - to see that our deeds are peaceful, benevolent, compassionate and pure; to live the Teaching of the Buddha daily.
5. Right Livelihood - to earn our living in such a way as to entail no evil consequences.
6. Right Effort - to direct our efforts incessantly to the overcoming of ignorance and selfish desires.
7. Right Mindfulness - to cherish good and pure thoughts for all that we say and do arise from our thoughts.
8. Right Meditation - to concentrate our will on the Buddha, His Life and His Teaching.
Since these eight paths can be put into the categories of precepts, meditation and wisdom we can say that the path of practice of Buddhism is the Three Vehicles of Learning. By following the precepts we learn to control the body and mind. Through mediation we learn to unify our mind. Wisdom is attained by the practice of the above two and through this wisdom all ignorance and passions are cut off and true state of Enlightenment is then realized.
As we look upon Buddhism we find that the various ways of explaining this state of Nirvana and the methods of attaining that state of Enlightenment are not one. The reason for this is that Buddha's sermons were like the diagnosis of a good physician. Just as a physician prescribes his medicine according to his diagnosis of the patient, so the Buddha taught teaching which were simple or complicated, high or low, according to the capabilities of his congregation. Again, even though the sermon is the same the disciples interpreted it differently. Thus, through its long history Buddhism underwent many changes.