THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
The Four Noble Truths encompass Buddha’s entire teachings. They are based around the idea of cause and effect. For example, if we act skillfully and wisely, i.e. mindfully we will have a good outcome. When we act unskillfuly or unwisely, we will have a negative outcome.
Here are the Four Noble Truths:
The Truth of Suffering
The Truth of the Causes of Suffering
The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering
The Truth of Suffering (Life means suffering)
Let’s face it, life isn’t perfect! Happiness is transitory; it comes, goes and comes again, constantly in flux. If we try to grab onto happiness, it falls through our fingers, again and again, in fact, the more we grip, the more it eludes us. Life is full of suffering – people get old, sick and die, we feel anxiety and pain. We cannot get away from this. When we try to hide from suffering by obscuring it with alcohol, drugs and denial, we only make things worse for ourselves and others.
If we can fully understand and examine suffering, we can reveal its causes. When we eliminate these causes, we prevent the manifestation of suffering.
Life is full of ups and downs, constantly changing and impermanent. If we deceive ourselves that things in life are permanent, we have created the conditions for Dukkha – suffering – to arise.
The Truth of the Causes of Suffering (The origin of suffering is attachment)
There are various forms of attachment. We can be attached to an idea, grasping onto our belief and refusing to hear any evidence to the contrary. Or we can be attached to things – to money for example, or other things we feel we own such as property, cars or people. If we don’t fully comprehend the impermanence of our ‘possessions’ we will suffer because at one point or another, we will lose them.
The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
(The cessation of suffering is attainable)
Buddha discovered through his own experience that it is possible to end suffering, provided one understands properly the causes of suffering as set out in the first two Noble Truths. Ignorance has to be removed, as does aversion and craving. When these are replaced by compassion, equanimity and wisdom, then the mind can be happy, resting in Nirvana – an ultimate peace, also known as Enlightenment. It is said that Nirvana can’t really be described, it can only be experienced, like trying to describe the taste of an orange to someone who’s never tasted one. Buddha explained that it is only by eliminating desire, ill will and ignorance completely that we can experience Enlightenment for ourselves.
According to Buddha, Enlightenment is the final goal, achievable by understanding the Four Noble Truths. It is a state available to everyone. This means that you and I can experience Enlightenment! It’s not something reserved for the most pious, the most intelligent or those who can sit most comfortably in the lotus position!
We need faith that Enlightenment is achievable to all of us (otherwise what is the point?) – but Buddha did not advocate blind acceptance.
If we even just acknowledge that there is a tiny possibility that Enlightenment will be revealed to us in our lifetimes, then there is a purpose to our journey, which can certainly be hard work at times. As Buddha said, all we need to do is to start and to keep going!
The Truth of The Path to the Cessation of Suffering
In accordance with the principle of cause and effect, suffering can cease if we have removed the causal factors that produce our suffering.
Buddha advocated a Middle Way – between asceticism on the one hand and a life of luxury on the other (both of which he experienced at different points in his life). Buddha found that neither of these ways led to Nirvana. Instead, by following a path of moderation in all things, he reached Enlightenment.
Excerpt on the Four Noble Truths From ‘Meditation Motivation – A Quick Tour of Buddhism and 20 Easy Tips to Create a Daily Practice by Mia Randall