The Buddha taught what he had seen for himself:

Impermanence, No-I and Suffering.

That there is suffering. That suffering has a cause. That when the cause ceases to exist no more suffering arises. The way to bring an end to suffering.

Everything that comes to exist will cease to exist. We know this from our own experience but we do not accept it emotionally. We know that daylight comes to an end and is replaced by the dark of night, flowers blossum, whither and die as do human beings and all other creatures.

What we like, what we love, what we want, what we are attached to, sooner or later it will go. The same applies to what we dislike, what we hate and loathe and fear, which, paradoxically, we are also attached to: sooner or later it will pass and cease to exist.

This applies to us, body and mind, physical and mental, as to everything else. More than that, we think and believe that ‘I’ exist as an entity that is ‘me’, that is the doer that sees, and hears, feels and thinks, walks and eats and sleeps. No matter how hard and how long I look for this ‘self’ it cannot be found. And yet, when totally preoccupied with walking there is no thought and no sign of an ‘I’ or ‘self’ that is walking. It is the same when working, playing, dancing, eating, washing and whatever else is being done.

Seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking come to exist depending on the conditions that give rise to them. No ‘I’ is necessary or needed. ‘I’ am superfluous, redundant, surplus to requirements; if I interfere with what is being done, as I am often inclined to do, it is likely to go wrong or at least not smoothly.

As with impermanence, we do not accept emotionally all this about our ‘self’ and suffer as a result. We might think ‘I’ must exist because it is ‘I’ who suffers, but the teaching of the Buddha is only that suffering exists and is impermanent.

The sole purpose of this teaching is to find the way out of suffering. It was as relevant 2,500 years ago in northern India as it is today everywhere.