How Do I End My Suffering? Where Do I Start? Here's The Buddhist Way

Question: “How do I end my suffering? Where do I start?”
That is an excellent question! To me, I think, one of the hardest things to do is starting something. Whether it’s a new job, a new project, new school, new book – the beginning of anything is brutal. At least I think so. Buddhism is no exception. Mostly because there is just so much information that it becomes very overwhelming very quickly.
So where should we begin? Well, it’s easy to just pick up any Buddhism intro or 101 book and read it and assume we know something about Buddhism now. We could not be further from the truth. One, or even ten, introduction books doesn’t give us even a fraction of any real “introduction” to Buddhism. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but still.
I’ve always and will always recommend the five-year syllabus plan. Though five years seems like a really long time, it will provide you with the necessary knowledge, understanding, and mastery that some “advanced” practitioners think they have on the topics you cover.
This is a basic rundown of this five-year syllabus:
Year 1: Covers the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. You study, contemplate and meditate on one truth/path a month. By the end of the year, you would have mastered these two very profound and important teachings.
Year 2: Covers the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination. Again, one link per month.
Year 3: Covers the Six Perfections and Four Immeasurables. The extra two months can be spent on some of topic you might be having a hard time understanding or studying, especially the Perfect of Wisdom.
Year 4: Sutra study. Studying sutras should always come later in one’s practice, because no Buddhist sutra is ever straight-forward and clear. Instead, they are filled with parables and “spiritual code” that needs deciphering. But can only be done when the practitioner really knows what the Buddha was teaching for those sutras. Every example and metaphor the Buddha gave never really actually meant those things, they were always references to something else, and without a trained and practiced “Buddhist mind,” these references would be impossible to understand clearly. So it’s important to never take sutras for face value and to always dig deep for their true meanings.
Year 5: Should be a year of meditation. Study should still continue, but instead of having specifics to study, this is your time to roam free with your studies. This is your elective year. Though your study still continues, meditation should take up most of your time.
So as you can see from this “syllabus,” progress must be made from what seems simple like the noble truths to difficult interpretations of the sutras. Don’t think “life is suffering” is all there is to the first Truth. Simple sentences always mean profound meanings. Even a whole month is truly not enough time to truly and fully grasp the complete understanding, but it is for now.
Don’t try to jump into difficult topics and teachings, because you will only confuse and hurt yourself. The foundation of every Buddhist teaching are the eightfold path and the twelve links, and if those are not mastered, then Buddhist study will be difficult and unrewarding. source
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