Explaining Buddhist Thought - The Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths contain the essence of Buddha's teachings. These truths are some of the first teachings you will come across in study of Buddhism. I will try to give you a brief summary of these teachings, but remember that some people spend their entire lives studying these four beliefs.
The Four Noble Truths
1. The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
2. The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)
3. The truth of the end of suffering (Nirodha)
4. The truth of the path to the end of suffering (Magga)
1. The Truth of Suffering
Dukkha may be better understood as dissatisfaction and the anxiety that comes from these unfulfilled wants, rather than simple as "suffering."
Human beings experience dukkha in three ways.
a. Suffering of suffering - Life is filled with misfortunes such as illness, death, and old age. There is nothing we can do about this and it is experienced by everyone, even animals.
b. Suffering of impermanence - Like suffering of suffering, humans have to experience death of loved ones or even simply losing a prized possession. You can never be comforted by anything in life because at some point in time these things will fade, be lost, or change,
c. Suffering of condition - This is a much deeper form of suffering. We are beings that depend on so many other things to exist and as a result we are subjected to the changes and loss that comes with the physical world. There is an infinite amount of things that we cannot control, and thus we are constantly dissatisfied and suffering.
2. The Truth of the Origin of Suffering
Rather than explaining suffering as the daily discomforts like thirst, hunger, pain, etc, Buddha names the true root of suffering as desire, or, tanhā. Tanhā is represented by three evils.
a. Greed and want
b. Ignorance and delusion
c. Hatred and destructive urges
3. The Truth of the End of Suffering
Buddha taught that the way to extinguish desire, the root of all suffering, is to free oneself of attachment. This liberation from desire will lead you to the goal of Buddhist practice, Nirvana.
Nirvana means "extinguishing." Attaining nirvana, or reaching enlightenment, means extinguishing the three evil mentioned in the second noble truth: greed, delusion and hatred.
One can achieve this enlightenment in one lifetime, as proven by Buddha himself. The key is to live a life without attachment or desire - easier said than done.
Buddha discouraged practitioners from asking questions about nirvana. He wanted them to concentrate on freeing themselves from the cycle of suffering, rather than worrying about the "reward."
4. The Truth of the Path to the End of Suffering
For the final truth, Buddha explains how to finally reach this end of suffering. He prescribes this through the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path is also known as the Middle Way. One ought to live by avoiding both indulgence and severe asceticism, neither of which Buddha considers helpful in the search for enlightenment. Living a life between any extreme is the best way to avoid the suffering found in desire. For example, you shouldn't eat extravagantly, but you shouldn't starve yourself either. Only eat what you need to survive.
I will go further into the Eightfold path in my next post.
If you have any other questions related to Buddhist teachings, feel free to message me or comment on this card.