When the Buddha said “world” he was referring to the “miserable world” he lived in. What he said were simple Truths:
- Dukkha—sorrow permeates this world.
- The source of Dukkha is desire and attachment to sense objects (people, money, power, title, heaven, etc.)
- The objective in life should be cessation of Dukkha.
- This can be achieved by the Eightfold Path, which has to do with all the functions of the mind: (right understanding, right thoughts, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.)
Having lived in the luxury of the palace and in the punitive extremes of asceticism he was able to say, from his own experience, that neither extreme leads to “waking up” from the dream of our confusion about who and what we are. His teaching became known as the “middle way.”
The Buddhist texts give us an intriguing picture of the life and activity of Buddha and his monks. The rainy season obliged them to spend three months in the house with its vast halls and storerooms, or by the lotus ponds in the adjoining park. The rest of the year was spent in wandering. On their wanderings the monks were lodged by the faithful or slept in the open. When groups of monks met, an immense hubbub arose. When Buddha was about to appear, someone hushed them, for he was a lover of peace and quiet. In carriages or on elephants came kings, merchants, and nobles to speak with Buddha and the monks. Each day Buddha himself took up his beggar’s bowl and passed from house to house. Throngs of disciples followed him everywhere, and lay companions accompanied the procession, some in wagons bearing provisions.
At the beginning of his career, the Buddha did not accept women in his community. But as the result of the repetitive remonstrance of his cousin and faithful disciple, Ananda, he agreed, against his own instincts, to welcome them, though he enforced on them absolute submission to their male colleagues. But he could not abstain from commenting, with a exhalation: “If, Ananda, women had not been authorized to leave their homes in order to adopt a life without protection under the aegis of the Doctrine and the discipline of the One who knows the truth, then, Ananda, the pure religion would have endured for a long time; the good Law would have lasted a thousand years.”
Whatsoever love, compassion, and compassionate joy we engender will tend to be one-sided and not completely pure. This is not to say that experiences of love, kindness, and sympathetic joy do not also help melt problematic distinctions between the self and the other, but rather that calmness, because of its focus on uprooting craving and aversion can specifically address problematic notions of the self and thus provide the basis for profounder expressions of love, compassion, and sympathetic joy.