The Four Noble Truths

“I teach suffering, its origin, cessation and path. That’s all I teach”,

declared the Buddha 2500 years ago.

The Four Noble Truths contain the essence of the Buddha’s teachings.

It was these four principles that the Buddha came to understand

during his meditation under the bodhi tree.

1.The truth of suffering (Dukkha)

2.The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)

3.The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)

4.The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)

The Buddha is often compared to a physician. In the first two Noble Truths

he diagnosed the problem (suffering) and identified its cause.

The third Noble Truth is the realisation that there is a cure.

The fourth Noble Truth, in which the Buddha set out the Eightfold Path,

is the prescription, the way to achieve a release from suffering.

 

1. Life means suffering

To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect

and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime,

we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness,

injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure

psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment

and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering

and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive

as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness,

life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world

is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able

to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by,

we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof.

Transient things do not only include the physical objects

that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense-

all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding

of how our mind is attached to impermanent things.

The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardour,

pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity,

or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment

are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow.

Objects of attachment also include the idea of a “self” which is a delusion,

because there is no abiding self. What we call “self” is just an imagined entity,

and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable

The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha.

Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving

and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea

that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion.

Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment.

This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity,

simply by removing the cause of suffering.

Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels

that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana, which  means freedom

from all worries, troubles, complexes,  fabrications and ideas.

Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering

There is a path to the end of suffering – a gradual path of self-improvement.

  It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive

self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism);

and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality

discerns it from other paths which are merely

“wandering on the wheel of becoming”, because these do not have a final object.

The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes,

throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning.

Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually,

as progress is made on the path.

 

~ by pinoro on November 27, 2012.

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