Over 2,500 years ago, Siddhārtha Gautama was born into a rich family in India. Having noticed that suffering seemed to be pervasive, he left his opulent lifestyle in search of a solution. After visiting several spiritual teachers, and having mastered the most effective techniques available, he was unable to end his own suffering. Instead, he experimented on himself and discovered the root cause of suffering, and a solution to the problem.
Even though there have been, and will be, countless Buddha’s — people who personally discover the cause of, and solution to, suffering — Siddhārtha Gautama is the person that we, in this time, know as The Buddha (or Buddha).
At the time, it was known that suffering stemmed from attachment to things perceived through the six senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought. However, wise people believed that the only solution was abstinence, or other forms of control of the objects being perceived. Buddha’s key discovery was that every input to the aforementioned six senses results in a subtle sensation on or in the body, and that suffering is due to the unconscious mind noticing and automatically reacting to these sensations.
Buddha discovered, through introspection, that the unconscious mind was continually reacting to unpleasant sensations (associated with unfavorable sense stimuli) with aversion, and to pleasant sensations (associated with favorable sense stimuli) with craving. This continual craving and aversion to subtle sensations is what we experience, without consciously realizing it, as suffering.
He noticed that when the mind unconsciously reacts in this way, it is both experienced as suffering in the present moment, and it also plants seeds for future suffering, by potentiating reality so that more sensations will be generated: the cycle of suffering and rebirth.
Going deeper, Buddha discovered a solution to the problem: by both bringing conscious awareness to these sensations, and by consciously practicing being equanimous with them — that is, not reacting to them — he was able to re-train his unconscious mind so that it stopped reacting, and he therefore stopped suffering.
The technique that Buddha discovered and taught was taken to the country now known as Burma, and was passed from teacher to student from the time of Buddha until now. You can go on a ten-day retreat and learn this technique, so that you can also come out of suffering. Courses are held at centers all around the world, and are totally free, paid for by the voluntary donations of old students like myself.