The end of suffering, according to Buddhism, is through enlightenment, in which one may truly see reality as it is and are able to live fully and naturally in accordance with that. This means freedom from suffering.
One crucial teaching of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths, and it is through direct understanding of these that enlightenment is said to be achieved. They are:
- The truth of life is suffering because all experiences and phenomena that are conditional are ultimately impermanent.
- The origin of suffering is clinging to and craving what seems pleasurable and avoiding what is not pleasurable.
- Suffering ceases through ending these cravings and aversions.
- Following the Noble Eightfold Path is what will bring ultimate freedom ending the cycle of death and rebirth.
There are two major branches of Buddhism:
- Theravada Buddhism (School of the Elder Monks) - where the goal is to achieve nirvana through practicing the Eightfold Path in order to end suffering and rebirth. This is widespread in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.
- Mahayana (Great Vehicle) Buddhism - where, instead, practitioners aspire to achieve Buddhahood by following the bodhisattva path. This way they achieve enlightenment, but choose to remain in the cycle of rebirth to help other sentient beings find their own awakening. Mahayana Buddhism is the most widespread Buddhist tradition in the world today. It is prevalent in India, Tibet, Nepal, many South Asian countries, China, Japan and increasingly in the United States and other Western countries.