The Four Noble Truths

The First Truth: Dukkha– often translated as suffering: physical, emotional, and mental. It may also be described in terms of unhappiness, unsatisfactoriness, and unease.  It includes the overt pain of life; as well as the pain, discomfort, and lack of fulfillment associated with the constant change that life brings; and the suffering of conditioning, or existence as we experience it, with its sense of disconnection and separateness.

The Second Truth: There is a Cause of Suffering (of dukkha).  Traditionally the cause is the triad of greed or desire, ignorance or delusion, and hatred. All of these are the result of attachment or clinging.  This attachment can be to immaterial things, to pleasure,  to people, to fame, and especially to the idea of a sense of self, which seems more than an idea, but reality, until it is carefully explored.  Two of the fundamental delusions that human beings have (and cling to tenaciously)  are that things are permanent, and that they are solid and separate: disconnected.

We want things to be other than they are.  We go through life trying to change the world to suit our tastes: get this, get rid of that, ignoring the suffering around us, and even in ourselves. We identify with the ego-self, and respond to its relentless demands, trying and never succeeding in finding happiness chasing things that are never lasting and ever-changing.  We fight a constant battle with reality.

The Third Truth: There is an End to Suffering.  The Sanskrit is “Nirodha,” which means cessation or stopping.  Thich Nhat Hanh says this: “The Third Noble Truth is the cessation of creating suffering by refraining from doing the things that make us suffer.” This cessation ultimately is the cessation of attachment, of craving. Letting go of the constant battle with reality.  It is seeing things as they are rather than as we think they should be or want them to be, seeing the illusion of permanence, of separation, and of the sense of self.  Many teachers tell us that there is a natural, powerful compassion that arises with this understanding.

The Fourth Truth: The Eightfold Path.  There is a Path.  This is the path that leads to the cessation of suffering. The eight aspects of the path are often grouped as follows:

1. Wisdom

Right Understanding
Right Aspiration (or thought or intention)

2. Morality or ethics

Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood

3. Concentration

Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration

There will be further information here about the Eightfold Path soon.

Reference Materials:

The books and teachers I am turning to for guidance during our exploration of and practice with the Four Noble Truths are these:

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Parts I and II, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Steps to Liberation, The Buddha’s Eightfold Path by Gil Fronsdal

The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering, by Bhikkhu Bodhi

8 Mindful Steps to Happiness, Walking the Buddha’s Path, by Bhante Gunaratana

There is a wealth of information available on the internet of course, and many other books and teachers.

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