It is said that there once was a man called Siddhartha Gautama. He was born into a wealthy family and was destined by birth to be a prince. However, when he was 29 years old, he ventured beyond the castle walls, seeing for the first time the world of poverty, sickness and death that was just outside his home. So disturbed was he by the suffering he saw around him that he left his comfortable home, giving up all his worldly possessions, to study and become a monk.
For many years, Siddhartha lived simply among the poor while studying under several teachers, in an effort to understand the cause of suffering and how to overcome it. He practiced meditation and yoga. He walked his path devoutly and with reverence, achieving ever higher levels of consciousness. He truly and simply took it to heart, eventually coming to understand the nature of human suffering and the way to eliminate it. In this way, by living his life so closely to his convictions about the path to peace and goodness, he was able to break through his own suffering, achieve enlightenment and become a Buddha.
This man spent the remainder of his time on earth teaching others that they could do the same. He insisted that there was nothing special about him. He gave many lessons, which have been preserved to this day, and they are as applicable to our lives now as they were then. They are really nothing more than suggestions, but his message was that if you followed them as he did, you would surely have more wholeness, more peace and more well-being in your own life, whether or not you actually achieved Nirvana. And although this was a lifetime practice, he said, you would begin to reap the rewards as soon as you set foot on the path.
Even more profound is the idea that, by the very nature of the path he taught, the entire world will have more of these things if we follow his suggestions. It is truly a path where we all benefit. And the more of us who are practicing, the greater the effect.