The Buddha’s realization of the end of suffering and his attainment of Nirvana at the age of thirty-five, crowned his search for Truth with success. For six years, the Bodhisattva had spared no effort to find a solution to the problems of suffering. He had tried the principal methods of ending suffering and had found them wanting. Eventually he found his own solution to the problems of life.
CONFIDENCE IN THE BUDDHA’S TEACHING
Having realized the Truth through his own efforts, the Buddha offered it to all who were ready to listen. There is an old story of a turtle and a fish. The turtle lived on land as well as in the water while the fish only lived in the water. One day, when the turtle had returned from a visit to the land, he told the fish of his experiences. He explained that creatures walked rather than swam. The fish refused to believe that dry land really existed because that was something beyond his own experience. In the same way, people may not have experienced the end of suffering, but it does not mean that the end of suffering is not possible.
A patient must have confidence in an experienced doctor, otherwise he will never take the medicine that the doctor has prescribed for him and will not be cured of his sickness. Similarly, people must have confidence in the Teaching of the Buddha, who has shown that end of suffering is really possible.
THE END OF SUFFERING
The end of suffering is the final goal of the Buddha’s Teaching. It can be experienced by anyone here and now. For example, when greed and anger arise in one’s mind, unhappiness is the result and, when thoughts of greed and anger cease, one’s mind becomes happy and peaceful. To end suffering completely, one must remove desire, ill will and ignorance. This is the Third Noble Truth of the End of Suffering.
The Buddha taught that the end of suffering is supreme happiness. Every step towards the end of suffering is accompanied by ever-increasing joy. Those who follow the Teaching of the Buddha live happily without greed among those who are overwhelmed by desire. They live happily without anger among those who harbor ill will. The more people free themselves from desire, ill will and ignorance, the greater will be their happiness. When they have completely overcome desire, ill will and ignorance, they will know the supreme happiness as experienced by the Buddha.
By putting the Buddha’s Teaching into practice, people too can achieve supreme Enlightenment. Enlightenment has countless qualities, of which perfect wisdom and great compassion are the most important. Through perfect wisdom and great compassion, He is able to help countless beings to overcome their suffering.
The end of suffering has been described as supreme happiness and Enlightenment. However, these terms do not fully express the real nature of the end of suffering, or Nirvana. Nirvana cannot be exactly put into words. Attempting to describe Nirvana is like saying that a mango is sweet, and that it is not like a banana or an apple. One has to eat a mango in order to know for oneself what the taste is really like. Similarly Nirvana has to be experienced for oneself.
Therefore, if people have confidence in the Buddha’s Teaching and put it into practice, they can achieve happiness peace and Enlightenment.