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Buddhists searching for peace: Four Noble Truths key to religion's teachings


Suffering exists.

The cause of suffering is craving and ignorance, which arise from ego.

There is a way out of suffering.

The way out of suffering is following the Eight-Fold Path, a major element of which is meditation.

Buddhism contains those Four Noble Truths.

"The Four Noble Truths form the core of all Buddhist teachings," Darrell Glenn said.

"These were taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago."

Glenn will be one of three speakers at an upcoming session on Buddhism, the fifth in an ongoing monthly series geared to educate the public on the various religious communities throughout the valley. Sessions so far have included Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and the Baha'i faith. The free series, sponsored by Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council, is entitled "Interfaith Growing - Growing in Unity by Understanding Diversity."

The session on Buddhist beliefs will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday in Institute at West Virginia State College's National Center for Human Relations, Room 102.

Buddhism has a 2,500-year history in Asia where it migrated across the continent and was adapted to local culture. Establishing its practice in Western countries has also led to diversity. However, the basics remain intact.

"A short life history leads into the Four Noble Truths," Glenn said. "The Buddha was an Indian prince who had every material possession available in his day. But he wasn't satisfied and thought there must be something more to life than that. So he left home in order to find the meaning of life.

Buddha, whose given name was Siddhartha Gautama, studied with Hindu teachers. He practiced self-deprivation. He was no happier.

He then tried meditation as he ate enough to stay healthy. This led to the Four Noble Truths as well as a path for finding contentment. The path to peace includes the correct speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, concentration, view and thought, Glenn said. The goal is to strike a balance in life in an effort to stop suffering.

This is where meditation comes in and those who attend the session will have a chance to try the experience.

"Buddha means awake," said Thad Settle, a local artist and customer service specialist for AT&T. "He was not a prophet. He was a human who lived for 80 years. He led an ordinary existence."

Buddhists do not worship Buddha but instead follow his teachings.

Among a collection of his teachings is an experience with a follower who once asked if he must give up his religion in order to follow Buddhism, said Jeff Green, labor market analyst for the state Bureau of Employment Programs.

"The Buddha said 'You do not have to give up your religion to follow my path,'" Green said.

In fact, people of many religions follow his teachings, he said.

"There really isn't worship of a God in Buddhism," Glenn said. "The Buddha was not like Jesus Christ, who was God living as man on earth. He was just a man who came to a high realization. The Buddhist idea is that if you practice like he did you can come to the same realization."

Buddha did not set out to start a religion but to find a way to control suffering and discontent. However, Buddhism is a major world religion even though some specifics may be hard to grasp, Settle said.

"In the West our take on religion involves a theistic approach," he said. "Most have at the center a God who is worshipped."

Buddhism involves practices allowing people to understand how the mind works. For example, in meditation it is possible to quiet the mind's racing and feel refreshed.

A local meditation group consisting of people who are not necessarily Buddhists meets regularly.

The Mountain State Insight Meditation Group meets 7 p.m. Tuesdays at First Presbyterian Church. For more information on the meditation group call Green at 722-5252 or e-mail

With meditation comes the realization that emotions move and change but do not have to control.

Buddhists are not to be egotistical but are to be compassionate and caring toward others.

"If you are not so taken with self, naturally you care more about other people," Glenn said.

Glenn, assistant director for Research and Information Systems with the state Higher Education Policy Commission, said Buddhism has not made his life perfect, but it has improved his outlook.

"I notice a difference in how I live and how I pay attention to what goes on around me," he said.

Speakers at the upcoming session include Glenn, Settle and Douglas Imbrogno of the Charleston Gazette. The theme is "How Buddhism is Taking Root in America."

Religious leaders who are interested in sponsoring an evening may send a written request on letterhead to Dr. Linda Geronilla, 92 Cook Drive, Charleston, WV 25314.

Writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith can be reached at 348-1246 or by e-mail at

©Copyright 2001, Charleston Daily Mail

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