The Zen of Travel – Buddhism Part 1

I came across the phrase “soulful Sunday” and decided this post would be most appropriate on a day of this nature.

The 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism & Travel

I first became acquainted with Buddhism on my inaugural trip to Thailand. The temples were spectacular and the slender-bodied and serene-faced Thai Buddhist statues were engaging. Having made quite the impression, they comprised many of my travel slides. But as I began to learn more about Buddhism, I found the philosophy of its teachings resonated with me too. I have continued to explore Buddhism ever since.

Buddhism does not profess to be a formal religion in the way that Christianity is, though it may be taken as such depending on the culture that has adopted it. Rather, it is more a way of life, a literal ‘practice what is preached’. One of the hallmarks of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths. It’s like a problem-solving diagnosis: 1) identify an issue 2) the cause of the issue, 3) what can be done about the issue and 4) the prescription, Rx or treatment plan for the issue. More formally it can be summarized as the following:

  1. Dukkha – “Life is suffering”
  2. Samudaya –  Suffering is caused by desire and attachment to things.
  3. Nirhodha – Suffering can be changed.
  4. Magga – The path to free oneself from suffering leads into the Eightfold path.

The first noble truth is often interpreted in the succinct phrase “life is suffering” but speaks more to ‘dissatisfaction’ than ‘pain’. It is said to be caused by our attachment to things and desires, the second noble truth. When we recognize this, we realize we can effect change (the third noble truth) and the way prescribed is to follow the Eightfold path (the fourth noble truth). So how does this Buddhist philosophy apply to travel?

If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.

~Cesare Pavese~

While travelling, one can become attached to the idea that a trip will go according to plan and that things, people and experiences will be as we expect them.

“Expectations are premature disappointments.”

Flights are delayed or cancelled, accommodation is not as advertised in the brochure, certain sites are not as awe-inspiring as we thought they would be and we could encounter unfriendly locals, bad food and ill-health. This results in feelings of disappointment, frustration and stress, detracting from our travel experience.

Wherever there is attachment Association with it Brings endless misery. ~Gampapa~

Most of us work hard to save enough money to travel and we want to get our money’s worth. To help us do so is the Eightfold path which will be explored in The Zen of Travel & Buddhism Part 2. Stay tuned…

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