Today, 31st July, is celebrated worldwide as the anniversary of the first teaching of the Buddha. Over 2500 years ago, on the borders of India and Nepal, the young prince decided that his comfortable and privileged lifestyle wasn’t going to bring him either happiness or satisfaction. So one night he crept out of the palace and set out, empty-handed and alone, to explore the meaning of life.
After many years of study and meditation the young man achieved a state of insight and calm that is known as his ‘enlightenment’. Five of his former colleagues saw that something extraordinary had taken place, and asked him to sit down with them in a beautiful forest grove and share what he’d discovered.
Buddhism can conjure up images … orange robes and begging bowls, vegetarianism, statues with gentle smiles. These are just what’s visible and external. Whereas the Buddha was entirely preoccupied with something invisible and internal – the nature of his mind. His main insight was something very practical and straightforward: that it’s our own minds that are the prime cause of all our happiness and problems. On this basis, Buddhism offers a set of tools and techniques for shaping and developing the mind, so that we can all find the same peace and happiness as the Buddha, and then share it with the people around us.
As the Dalai Lama often says, making better use of our minds isn’t religious business, it’s human being business, and Buddhism is simply one approach to the task. Wherever we are, whoever we are, we all have the potential to develop our minds to become more calm, happy and content. Let’s pray that we can all find the time and motivation to do this.