You don’t have to practice meditation or yoga to benefit from Buddhist ideas. There are powerful elements to Buddhist philosophy that apply to all of us.
By understanding the following three Buddhist principles, it could help you create a positive shift in your life. They are:
1) Dukka: Life is pain and causes suffering.
This is the first noble truth of Buddhism. You might think that this sounds quite negative. But there’s more to it than simply “Life is tough, so accept it.”
The truth is, we create more suffering in our lives by avoiding difficult emotions.
Yes, Buddha is right. Every single one of us will at one point experience unpleasant emotions like anxiety, stress, sadness etc.
We often try to avoid these feelings through attaching ourselves to material items and fleeting states of being like excitement. However, doing so is often a recipe for more disappointment and sadness.
So rather than fearing suffering, if we choose to be aware of it and accept it, it can ultimately reduce our suffering. Alan Watts says it best:
“There will always be suffering. But we must not suffer over the suffering.”
How can this benefit you in your daily life? Realize that there is power in accepting that death, sickness, suffering and loss are part of life.
You can stop attaching to the thought that life should be easy and pain-free. By doing so, you’re becoming more open to change and uncertainty, which paradoxically will make your life more enjoyable and fun.
2. Anitya: Life is change.
Anitya means “impermanence” which states that nothing is ever fixed. Everything is changing. The weather changes, our emotions change, we are born and eventually pass away; the only law in the universe is that change is constant.
This concept can help us when we are experiencing difficult emotions as we know they won’t last forever. Our pain will pass.
When we experience joy, when know that the feeling is fleeting, so we better make the most of it while it lasts. Greek philosopher Heraclitus mirrored the belief when he famously said, “You can never step in the same river twice.” All we have is the present moment.
How can this benefit you in your daily life? While embracing the idea of impermanence feels scary, it can actually be quite liberating. It helps us appreciate all the good things we have in life while realizing that the bad won’t last forever.
It’s also the law of the universe, so by embracing this idea, you are literally flowing with all that there is, rather than fighting against it.
3. Anatma: The self is always changing.
In the west, we tend to believe that there is a concrete, constant self tucked away somewhere in us.
Buddhism, however, says that there is no fixed, stable “self”. Our cells, memories, thoughts, experiences always change over time. We give ourselves names, titles and personalities to make it feel like there is a sense of “self”. But this is another idea given to us from our society.
According to Buddhism, our lives are a story we can change. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Thanks to impermanence, anything is possible.”
How can this benefit you in your daily life? In the west, we are often told to “find ourselves.” However, by embracing this idea, we can instead create ourselves. If we are having an off day, we can realize that tomorrow will be different. Every day offers new possibilities for us to expand who we are.