Once the Blessed One was staying at Kosambī in the siṁsapā forest. Then, picking up a few siṁsapā leaves with his hand, he asked the monks, “What do you think, monks? Which are more numerous, the few siṁsapā leaves in my hand or those overhead in the siṁsapā forest?”
“The leaves in the hand of the Blessed One are few in number, lord. Those overhead in the forest are far more numerous.”
“In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but haven’t taught are far more numerous (than what I have taught). And why haven’t I taught them? Because they aren’t connected with the goal, don’t relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and don’t lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding. That’s why I haven’t taught them.
“And what have I taught?
‘This is stress …
This is the origination of stress …
This is the cessation of stress …
This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress’
This is what I have taught. And why have I taught these things? Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to selfawakening, to unbinding. This is why I have taught them.”
—Translator – Thanissaro Bhikkhu – SN 56:31
And so we come to the Fourth Noble Truth. You can access it via the right hand menu as usual, but this one is somewhat different. Over time there will be sub-articles added regarding the steps involved in this Truth because it is much more involved than the previous three. This truth explains how to escape Samsara, the never ending cycle of birth, death and rebirth that we find ourselves in.
Certainly most people are completely unaware of this cycle, we have no memory of our previous lives. There are many ‘New Age’ practitioners out there that claim to be able to train you to access previous life memories, which is all well and good if they are the genuine article, but they do not explain how to escape the cycle of constant suffering. In this final truth, that is exactly what the Buddha does explain; and during rest of his life, all the Suttas and discourses he gave, was his attempt at enlightening mankind to the fact that we can escape this cycle. We can have freedom. We can have peace.
May all beings live in peace.
May all being attain Nibbana.
I have just published a page that is an introduction to The Four Noble Truths. They are the first utterances of the Buddha after his enlightenment and probably the most important words he ever said. The page is available on the right navigation bar but if you click The Four Noble Truths it will take you straight there.
The page also includes a link to the original Sutta, the Dhammacakkappavattanasutta, which can also be downloaded as a PDF.
Just what is a Buddha, and who can become one? Well I guess we should quote a Pali-English dictionary first of all before we can discuss the matter further.
Buddha Vacana have an easy to use Pali-English dictionary on line and an option to download it for offline use. In your initial research into Buddhism I would highly recommend bookmarking their site because you will come across numerous Pali words, both within the Suttas and in the commentaries that you will no doubt read. I only wish I had found their site when I started out. It would have made things a lot easier for me.
Anyway; if you type Buddha into the search field, this is what you get:
buddha: [pp. of bujjhati] known; understood; perceived. (m.), one who has attained enlightenment; the Enlightened One. || buḍḍha (adj.) aged; old.
So, a Buddha is one who has attained enlightenment, or is the Enlightened One. There is no mention of supernatural powers, god like features and such stuff. There is only the mention of one who has ‘attained’. To be a little more specific, the one who has attained has done it off their own back. They had no guide, no scripture to work from, no Guru to follow and no path to walk. This is what makes a Buddha so special. They discover the Dhamma, the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble 8 Fold Path without knowing how to discover it in the first place.
There are certainly other persons who attain enlightenment through practicing the Dhamma, and these venerable persons are given the title of Arahant. But they have had a Guru to get advice from, they have had scripture to read and they have had a path to follow. They have reached enlightenment, but they are not Buddhas.
Essentially anyone can become a Buddha, but there is one overriding proviso that stops that from occurring. The Dhamma has to be lost first of all, before another Buddha can arise. If the Dhamma is still known then you can only become an Arahant, not a Buddha, because you have the guidance of a Buddha on how to attain enlightenment and the path on which you must tread. That is not to decry the status of Arahant at all. That level of achievement is almost superhuman in itself, and one that should be applauded and one that we should be grateful for, because if we have an Arahant alive in our times, then we have the best teacher we could wish for.
So don’t be too despondent at the thought that you will not become a Buddha. That happens only once every few thousand years. But becoming an Arahant is perfectly possible, if you apply yourself wholeheartedly for the rest of your life. So get to it… and may you find the peace you are searching for.