There is a lovely simile that the Buddha uses about someone needing to cross a large expanse of dangerous water because the current shore is dubious and risky, but the further shore is secure and free from risk. He says they would gather together whatever was needed to make a raft that would keep them safe and direct them across the water. But once they get to the security of the far shore they can leave the raft behind and continue their journey. They don’t have to drag the raft around for the rest of their life.
In the Buddha’s first talk after he awakened to life as it really is, he shared four important realisations. He proposed that the basic pattern of life is painful and suggested that we investigate and fully understand what that pain actually means to each and every one of us. This is his first realisation; the Buddha’s first teaching!
He goes on to point out that much of the pain of life comes as a result of our human compulsions, our preferences and aversions, which he says, can be overcome and abandoned.
He then says that it is possible for anyone to personally experience and to personally verify the absence of these compulsions.
Lastly, the Buddha suggests that we actively engage in a programme that supports the abandonment of harmful compulsions and minimises unnecessary and avoidable pain.
As undertakings, these realisations might look like this:
- Recognise what it is to be human.
- Abandon painful compulsions and addictions.
- Familiarise yourself with freedom from compulsions.
- Teach your body and mind to live a good life.
We can use the Buddha’s first teaching (R.A.F.T. ) in our daily life to navigate our way to the safety of the far shore leaving behind our cravings, aversions and confusions.