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Buddha was, if I'm not mistaken, a privileged prince with money/health/a social life who realized that none of those things make you “happy” (or even content enough).

But how can, for example, somebody who has only known poverty all his life attain a true realization that money won’t make him “happy” without firsthand experience?

Or, how is this poor person to realize that money won't make him content when he is constantly bombarded with "evidence" of the opposite, after all, most people with more than their basic needs covered (I mean people of average economy, not the filthy rich) are content enough to not seek a means to end their "suffering".

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    I'm not certain that "happiness" is exactly the end goal of Buddhism. I think "deep understanding" is more the point, which means that whether one is experiencing happiness or sadness, that feeling is understood at a deep level, such that it cannot produce suffering. – Zefareu Jul 7 '15 at 20:07
  • Through Vipassana meditation they come to see that there is really nothing in the world that can make you happy. It can maybe make you feel joy and pleasure, but not happiness. – user5380 Jul 7 '15 at 20:27
  • With Vipassana you begin to see the suffering in everything, so you will come to see that there is no happiness in being rich either. – user5380 Jul 7 '15 at 20:28
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    Welcome to Buddhism SE. We've put together some tips for new users on asking questions on the site. Also we have a page of useful resources that you may also find useful. Best wishes and I hope you have a positive experience on the site. – Crab Bucket Jul 7 '15 at 20:42
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The core teachings of the Buddha are universally applicable.

  1. There is suffering. - Everyone knows suffering, rich and poor alike. The suffering of the poor may seem more obvious, but is there any doubt that the wealthy suffer mentally as well, regardless of their resources?

  2. The cause of our suffering is our attachments. - The wealthy have more to be attached to, in fact.

  3. There is a way to end suffering.

  4. The way to end suffering is the practice of the Eightfold Noble Path.

We really only need to know that we suffer and that we seek relief from our own suffering. But it's a long path. If a person is convinced that money will end his or her suffering, they can give it a go; and then eventually realize that making money didn't end their suffering and pick up where they left off. That sort of thing probably happens a lot. My guess would be that many converts to Buddhism have found the teachings of the Buddha to resonate with them after having first tried other ways of finding happiness. It's because we try other ways of finding happiness first, and learn first hand that the things we thought would bring us happiness, didn't, that we can appreciate the wisdom of the Buddha's teaching.

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By realising that whatever it is you haven't had in life, it's not going to be anything other than seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. In other words, the five aggregates. So it becomes all encompassing, when you see that the five aggregates are impermanent, unsatisfactory and uncontrollable.

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OP raises the question of the knowledge beyond some direct perceptions. can you know/comprehend/understand/explain something without experimenting it ?

Well, for many, no. We have either faith, or direct experience or we can use our intellect to derive conclusions, modulo the problem of inference.

An intellectual path will be able to remove doubts if it is honest, if we accept whatever results brought by the logic that we choose to deduce our conclusions; we must no have fears nor delusions, nor we reject conclusions that we do not like. Be open minded. The intellectual path takes time, is almost necessary and sufficient to understand something, but the practice can consolidate whatever intellectual results you obtain. The intellectual path trims a lot of potential actions/discourses/thoughts that we can do before we perform them. It is reflecting before living, and the reflection gets us on some path, whereon we agree if the intellectual process has been honest and we destroyed any prejudices beforehand.

If the path of the intellect is not taken, then we have faith where you follow blindly, more or less blindly since nobody start from scratch and everybody comes with a background on daily life and his view on pleasures and suffering, gradually until we agree unconditionally after we encounter a break point in our behaviours, discourses or thoughts. We understand whatever the doctrine is telling you, plateaux of progress and breaking points after plateaux of progress and breaking points.

Otherwise, if we are not capable of understanding anything without living, then... just live; live until we take a step back of our experiences and turn to the doctrine wherewith we believe that we will be happy. Too many people learn only through suffering, but they apply the reflexivity sooner or later.

  • Hi Mark and welcome to Buddhism SE. We have put together a Guide and a Ressource tab for new users that you might find useful. – Lanka Jul 8 '15 at 10:39
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Through practicing insight meditation, one gains the knowledge of the arising and passing away of phenomenon, the suffering latent in all phenomenon, the uncontrollable nature of all phenomenon, and the cessation of phenomenon.

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