In Buddhism, it can be said that the ego-mind is an illusion and we should practice hard to realize that this is true. The Buddha laid down the 4 Noble Truths, which is the foundation of Buddhism and they are:
1) Suffering is real and it is ultimately inescapable. (How very depressing!!)
2) Suffering exists because the human mind creates attachments.
3) Suffering can be overcome.
4) There is a Way, the Eightfold Path, which leads us to overcome suffering forever.
So, ‘suffering’ is at the heart of Buddhism. The Buddha came to the realization that all beings will experience suffering at some point, without exception.
He then figured out that this suffering is, to put it bluntly, ‘all in our mind’… This is because when we create attachments, of any kind, we create a false reality, a model of reality. A simple example would be: A person sees a horse for the first time ever in their lives. They never realized how HUGE they are in person and becomes a bit nervous/scared. In the future, they may say, “Oh, I am afraid of horses!”… this is because of attaching to past experiences. Perhaps the next time they see a horse they will not be afraid, but if they hold onto their thought that they are ‘afraid of horses’, then it kills any openness in seeing horses again. Of course, the next time they see a horse they might get even more afraid! Lol. But the point is, it is when we attach to our thoughts that we become separate from the present, we are not living in reality, but a created model of reality. This, of course, can have benefits…. Say it was a shark and not a horse… it may well be very wise to be afraid of a shark!* Lol
So, can we take heed of what we learned and experienced in the past without being attached to those experiences? The Buddha said yes, which is the 3rd Noble Truth.
The way it is done is the 4th Noble Truth.
Now, the Buddha, through his own strong effort and practice, realized the 1st and 2nd Noble Truth. He then had a deep faith that the 3rd Noble Truth was true, without yet realizing it. He had to experience/realize the 4th Noble Truth to confirm the 3rd Noble Truth. I think this is a very important point. It shows that deep faith is critical in our practice. Without having this deep faith fully cultivated in our heart and mind, we will always fail to realize the 4th Noble Truth.
So, we must ask ourselves, what is the state of our faith in the Buddha’s teaching? If you waver and think “Oh, maybe, just maybe, the Buddha got it wrong” then failure is assured. However, having blind faith in the Buddha’s teaching also ensures our failure.
So what is left? Well, the Buddha had deep faith in the 3rd Noble Truth before he could confirm it by realizing the 4th Noble Truth. He did it without faith in his own teachings but rather with the faith that suffering can be overcome. So, our faith must reside in this, not the Buddha, not his words, but that faith is personal, it is our own and ours alone, and we must ask ourselves:
Do we believe it is possible to realize our true Enlightened nature?
*Sharks are actually fairly safe to humans, overall, but I used it as a ‘scary’ example.