Once the Buddha addressed his diciples thus: “Monks it may be that ascetics belonging to other sects will ask you what is the purpose of leading a spiritual life under the Buddha.?” The monks remained silent. Then the Buddha himself gave the answer.
“You should answer them thus: It is for the purpose of understanding things that should be fully understood that we lead a spiritual life under the Buddha.” Then the Buddha continued: “What are the things that should be fully understood? They are the five aggregates of clinging: material form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness.”
From this incident we can see that the path laid down by the Buddha is essentially a path of understanding.
The understanding aimed at is not mere conceptual knowledge or a collection of information. Rather it is an insight into the true nature of our existence.
This understanding brings liberation, the release of the mind from all bonds and fetters and issues in the cessation of Dukkha or suffering.
The Buddha offers us the Dhamma as a search light that we can focus on our own experience in order to understand it in correct perspective. To understand our experience or our existence, involves two steps:
1) We have to look into the makeup of our being to see what our existence consists of, we have to take it apart mentally, to see how it works, then put it together again and see how it holds together.
2) We have to examine our experience in order to discover its most pervasive features, the universal characteristics of phenomena.