Making Sense of Life Learning from Buddha

Janaki Ram
6 min readAug 9, 2022


Real wisdom is not the knowledge of everything, but the knowledge of which things in life are necessary, which are less necessary, and which are completely unnecessary to know. Among the most essential understanding is the knowledge of how to live well, that is, how to produce the least possible evil and the most extraordinary goodness in one’s life. People now study useless sciences but forget to learn this, the most critical knowledge.” — Jean Jacques Rousseau

When we study and consider the historical Buddha of the late 6th century B.C.E. and not the Buddhism that was established later, we see that

· He was secular,

· He was not religious,

· He was not even spiritual.

The Middle Path

Buddha himself had experienced both kinds of lifestyles, the highs and the lows. First as a prince, then as an ascetic when he searched for answers to understand and eliminate suffering.

He realized that the two extremes of practical life, namely, extreme self-indulgence or severe self-denial, is a paradox of desire which cannot be fulfilled. Either way, you will be dissatisfied with the craving and attachment while the problem remains. Neither leads to a natural state of inner peace and happiness.

One cannot be without desire (it could be of any kind). By detaching from craving, there is no purpose. There is no innovation, progress, and satisfaction in life. And so, Buddha preached the Middle Path, which comes from his understanding of life practically from the intrinsic value of nature.

His knowledge and teaching were free. He was content and joyful the way he was — awake to reality. People used to give food, shelter, and gifts wherever he went. Buddha set an example by living with the bare minimum. He didn’t advise everyone to be a monk like him. His precedent demonstrated that you can be happy when you understand the self. You have a clear goal in life and the discipline and grit to achieve it.

He devised a practical way of living life that eliminates suffering. His concept was simple. He preached four simple truths.

1. The First Truth is that the origin of suffering is “desire, craving, or attachment.”

· He realized that the two extremes of practical life, namely, extreme self-indulgence or severe self-denial, is a paradox of desire which cannot be fulfilled. Either way, you will be dissatisfied with the craving and attachment while the problem remains. Neither leads to a natural state of inner peace and happiness.

2. The Second Truth relates to capacity — Suffering happens when you are incapable of satisfying your craving or desire or if you are attached to something.

· Buddha realized that there lies a middle way to end suffering between excesses of self-denial and self-indulgence. However, Buddha said he could not eliminate old age and death at the end of his life. It is the truth of existence to renew itself.

3. The Third Truth refers to The Solution- You can end pain or suffering by doing away with attachments and firmly taking control of your desires.

But don’t you think if there is no passion in life and feelings, would there be a meaning to existence, won’t our life become boring?

· Buddha knew one could not eliminate desire and feelings, so he devised a “middle path.”

· The answer is to find one’s balance between need, necessity, and security to say “this is ENOUGH” for me. The middle path is about defining and deciding what is “ENOUGH” for you to be satisfied and no one else. Understand that showing off, comparing, or considering what others may think, selfishness, greed for more, and hoarding can never make one feel complete or happy. Buddha refused to answer the question, “what happens after death.” The truth of nature is such that it is irrelevant to the dead. With death, we are no more, period, the end. Scientific studies prove that nature works as a dynamic system, and there are no exceptions to our biological systems. Every atom, everything that is me, returns to the existence, dispersed into billions of atoms, into its elemental forms. Nothing remains. Yes, life happens again from the reality of nature, but that is not me anymore because it would be a new combination. There is no beyond. We don’t possess anything beyond no evidence, no belief. Simple as that. Once we die, those who love us will miss us.

The truth sweeps away all protection and security when we realize we are impermanent. We have only one precious life, so live fully with love, without conflict in touch with nature. As for those who don’t understand this aspect, they are not aware of their being.

· The problem with freedom of thinking, imagination, and using the information you have, including that of culture and beliefs, is to distort the answer to one’s convenience. Even a few facts don’t make the whole truth. Instead, use the knowledge and intellect to deduce, arrive at our own reality and come to an understanding of a realistic, balanced solution. Decide by your need and not by the wanting, craving, greed, or distorted expectations of society. Remember, you are always complete by yourself, the way you are, all by yourself.

· SuccessWhat it means for you is this: You decide what is the one thing you want the most in life and focus your actions on it. That is your goal.

It is always about the journey to achieve the purpose or goal, for example, the summit of Mount Everest. You better enjoy the long hours of practice, the planning, and adaptation to the extreme weather; be able to climb heights wearing the weight of the oxygen cylinders as air thins out at high altitudes, to be ready for the journey. These are all short goals. You need to devote time and focus on the process of the expedition, not the outcome of what happens at the top. So, you better enjoy the journey. Challenge, obstacles, success and joy are experienced at each step you finish; thus, reaching the summit or the main goal is one more step to joy in the journey. You stay there only for a few moments when you finish climbing the peak. You then have a plan, with defining points along the way to return safely down the mountain.

o Then you set your sights on another mountain, another goal. That is the irony with the plans, with the competition. So, in life, focus on the trip, the process by detaching yourself from the outcome, then the higher the likelihood of reaching the goal you wanted. Excellent if you achieved the goal; otherwise, the journey is worth the challenge. Then what really remains in life is contentment, and joy automatically flows through.

4. The Fourth Truth — To end suffering and achieve the state of an awakened self towards life, Buddha prescribed a set of principles called the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path:

It follows a Middle Way: it avoids both indulgence and severe asceticism. These fundamentals support and reinforce your reasoning and behaviour for a wholesome outcome.

· Right Understanding

One must not blindly follow any ideology or entertain a thought but validate for themselves whether they were true.

· Right Intention

A promise to yourself to promote the right attitudes.

· Right Speech

Commit to Speaking honestly, and stay clear of slander, gossip, and offensive speech.

· Right Action

Conduct yourself peacefully and harmoniously, and resist the temptation to steal, kill and control unnecessary sensual pleasure.

· Right Livelihood

Whatever things we do, the prerequisite is remembering our innate nature to respect life and use natural resources wisely to fulfil our needs.

· Right Effort

Nurture a calming state of mind; prevent wicked, unwholesome undertakings from arising.

· Right Mindfulness

Awareness keeps your body, senses, and emotions on the desired path.

· Right Concentration

Meditate to balance intellect, imagination and mental focus essential for awareness of life.

The Buddha has given the principles to make your destiny. This leads to gaining insight, which leads to wisdom, which helps advance learning and knowledge to live a fulfilling life. He advised this framework to devise it like a raft for crossing a river. Once one has reached the opposite shore, one no longer needs the raft and can leave it behind.

Buddha declared with those four truths and the eightfold path, “you are your own master.”



Janaki Ram

I am not a spiritual teacher. The Musings here are my understanding of multiple aspects of life to slowly piece together the puzzle and make sense of life.