Four Noble Truths

  1. All life is suffering.
  2. The cause of suffering is desire.
  3. Suffering can be ended.
  4. The way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.


All life is suffering.  

The common translation of the Sanskrit word duhka is suffering.  It also has several other translations including: unsatisfactory, imperfection, bothersome, incoherence, and possibly most importantly impermanence.  These words are important to keep in mind while considering the Four Noble Truths.  It basically comes down to we are mortal, hence we age, get sick and die eventually.  You must also consider the fragility of our possessions and the instability of our relationships, fortunes, moods, thoughts and convictions.

The cause of suffering is desire

Desire.  The cause of suffering is desire.  One can simply rationalize that upon reading those lines.  To fully understand it in a Buddhist context you must consider the word desire comes from the Sanskrit word trishna, which also means thirst and craving.  Additionally the concept in Buddhism of no-self is important here especially how it breaks away from the Hindu concept of a self that is passed on in a soul-like form from one lifetime to the next.  This touches on the break in how Buddhists consider you are reborn from one lifetime to the next with some casual influence depending upon your past life, whereas Hindu believe in reincarnation with the soul being passed on between lifetimes.

Why is this important?

The Three poisons are: greed, anger, and ignorance which all feed into desire and the urge to win, or to overpower.  Buddha’s teaching was the self does not exist as a spiritual entity, but is the name given to a temporary personality made up of five important factors.  Buddhism taught these factors or aggregates are: matter (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind), sensations (raw data of these senses), perception (naming of the sensations), Mental formation (best summarized in the Buddha’s words, “We are what we think.”), and consciousness (awareness of the perceptions).  From which you can conclude, “suffering exists, but not the sufferer” as Buddhaghosa did in the fifth century.

Suffering can be ended.

This is the good news, which moves us on to four with little explanation needed.

The way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

  1. right understanding
  2. right thought
  3. right speech
  4. right action
  5. right livelihood
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right meditation

This is not a list that can be broken down and followed in a linear path.  Most people will find right speech much easier than right thought for instance.  It may be the most difficult.  I will explain the Eightfold Path in an upcoming post in detail.

“Someone whose faith is not grounded in reason is like a stream of water that can be led anywhere” 

~ Tibetan Proverb

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