All life contains elements conducive to suffering, the Buddha discovered on attaining Illumination. In one of history's most successful records of service to humankind, he then dedicated his life to helping people alleviate the misery blighting their existence. The requisite effort, however, had to come from the individual him or herself, he stressed-"Buddhas (illumined people) can only point the way."
A practical, commonsense guide to relief from suffering, based on 2500-year-old precepts of Buddhist wisdom but written in modern, non-esoteric style, has been released by Sunbury Press under the title Remove the Thorns From Your Life. The author uses the pen-name John Wayfarer on the grounds that "we are all wayfarers through life." He thereby guides the reader, not as an ivory tower academic but as a fellow-traveler who, over many incarnations, has made and thus understands all the mistakes that the reader himself has made along the thorny path of life and faces the karma resulting from them.
The purpose of this work, in a nutshell, is to assist people suffering emotional distress (frequently manifesting in mental and even physical distress) by highlighting the main cause of suffering identified by Gautama Buddha (desire for things that cannot be attained or permanently retained), followed chapter by chapter by the Buddha's eightfold strategy for dealing with the problem.
The work kicks off by setting out the reasons why it is safe for people of any or no religion to follow the Buddha's guidelines and provides a brief account of his life. It then examines the cause of suffering and describes the Illumined One's eightfold strategy for rising above it.
The practical exercises commence with the discipline of Right Meditation to get the reader started on gaining mind control, without which no progress is possible. Once this basis has been established, the work then proceeds to Right Effort-dealing with our daily chores and habits, purely as an exercise in applying willpower.
With these two tools, mind control and willpower, in hand, the work looks at Right Understanding-freedom from delusion-to establish in the reader a realistic understanding of the world as it is and ourselves as we are. An important part of this chapter relates to karma-that what we send around comes around, and thus that while we are the cause of our own problems, we also have the ability to create a future without problems.
The work then proceeds to Right Purpose-pointing out that we cannot build our lives without having established our purpose. Succeeding chapters deal with the practicalities of Right Speech and Right Conduct. Since our livelihoods play a great role in determining our happiness or lack thereof, the importance of Right Livelihood is then illustrated.
The work concludes with Right Mindfulness (attention, vigilance) as the early warning system enabling us to avoid putting a foot wrong and correct the mistakes already committed before they come back to bite us.