Lesson 6 The Timeless Truth – The Four Noble Truths
Realities of Life Look around you and see the sufferings and miseries. Sickness; deaths; broken families; suicides Retrenchments; fightings, wars Dissatisfaction; envy; hatred, etc, etc. How does Buddhism help us to deal with these sufferings?
1. The Direct Approach Buddhism approaches the issue of suffering directly as opposed to other religions. It goes straight to the heart of man’s universal experience, to what is common to all forms of life and deals with what it finds there. The heart of the Buddha’s teaching lies in the Four Noble Truths which He expounded in His first sermon at Isipatana. SUFFERING
1. The Direct Approach The Buddha said: “ As a result of not understanding, not penetrating four things , that I, as well as you, have wandered so long through the long rounds of rebirth.”
1. The Direct Approach The Four Noble Truths : What are the four things? They are: The Noble Truth of Dukkha The Noble Truth of Arising of Dukkha The Noble Truth of the End of Dukkha The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the End of Dukkha.
2. The First Noble Truth - Dukkha What is considered as suffering? Birth, decay, disease, death, associating with the unpleasant, separation from the pleasing, not to get what one wants and the five aggregates of attachment are suffering. The Buddha said “All compounded things are subject to Dukkha.”
2. The First Noble Truth - Dukkha Dukkha is linked to impermanence (Anicca) . Nothing is the same at this moment as it was one moment ago. Dukkha arises because the thing we desire undergoes changes. Every particle of the human body, even the hardest, is replaced every 7 years. Clinging at pleasure is like grasping fine sand in our fist. It escapes through our fingers even while we are holding it.
3. The Second Noble Truth – “ From craving springs grief, from craving springs fear, For him who is wholly free from craving, there is no grief, whence fear?” The Arising (Cause) of Suffering Suffering does not arise out of chance or without cause. The Dhammapada states:
3. The Second Noble Truth – Tanha or craving is the universal cause of suffering. The Arising (Cause) of Suffering Examples of craving: Desire for power, wealth, pleasures. Attachment to ideas, thoughts, beliefs. Lust of the flesh, lust of continued existence in the world of sense (eternalism) and the lust of non-existence (nihilism). These are all forms of selfishness and to desire things for oneself, even at the expense of all other forms of life.
3. The Second Noble Truth – The Arising (Cause) of Suffering Under the delusion of self and not realizing Anatta (non-self), a person clings to things which are impermanent, changeable, perishable and it leads to suffering. Craving, a powerful mental force in all of us, is the chief cause of most of the ills in life. It leads to repeated births in Samsara .
Buddhism has always been criticised by other people as being pessimistic because of the First and Second Noble Truths. While the first two Noble Truths present the philosophy of worldly sufferings and their causes, the Third Noble Truth declares that suffering can be brought to an end and the Fourth Noble Truth prescribed the path to end the sufferings. Buddhism is hence a realistic and not pessimistic religion. 3. The Second Noble Truth – The Arising (Cause) of Suffering
Cause of Suffering IGNORANCE CRAVING … end of Suffering As ignorance and craving are the root causes of suffering, one must eliminate them to end suffering. When we eradicate the desire/craving for money, power, prestige, etc, we will eliminate suffering.
4. The Third Noble Truth – When unpleasant things occur, it is the mind and not the body which suffers. The End of Suffering The Buddha said that the five aggregates , when involved in clinging, is suffering.
4. The Third Noble Truth – The End of Suffering The five aggregates refer to the mind and body, which together constitutes the man. If there is grasping at any of them as being “ I ” or “ mine ”, those aggregates are suffering. Under the delusion of self, we see changes as “ my ” and suffering occurs.
4. The Third Noble Truth – The End of Suffering The Buddha strongly affirms that the complete cure of suffering is possible and attainable . And He has found the method which is prescribed in the Fourth Noble Truth (Lesson 7). Freedom from suffering and rounds of rebirths is Nibbana.
What is Nibbana? “ Nibbana” = departure from or end of craving It is impossible to describe Nibbana unless one has experienced it. Nibbana is beyond logic and reasoning. Do we have to arrive at this stage after we are dead? No, Nibbana can be realised in this very life: it is not necessary to wait till one dies to attain it.
5. The Buddhist Approach Many people wrongly imagine Buddhists to be melancholic or sorrowful because the religion teaches Dukkha. On the contrary, a Buddhist is the happiest of beings. He is always calm and serene and is not upset by changes or calamities as he sees things as they are . The Buddha himself always wore a smile on His face.
5. The Buddhist Approach Although there is suffering in life, a Buddhist should not be gloomy over it, or become angry or impatient at it. What is necessary is not anger or impatience, but the understanding of the question of suffering, how it comes about, and how to get rid of it. We then work to overcome it accordingly with patience, intelligence, determination and energy.
The gift of Dhamma excels all gifts the taste of Dhamma excels all taste, the delight in dhamma excels all delights, The Craving-Freed vanquishes all suffering. - Dhammapada verse 354 End of Lesson 6