The Four Noble Truths
In his first teaching in the Dear Park near Benares, the Buddha introduced his essential teaching on the cause of unhappiness and the way to end it. This teaching in the Deer Park is sometimes called the ‘first turning of the wheel’.
The First Noble Truth is the Truth of Dukkha (suffering or “unsatisfactoriness”)
‘Birth is suffering, ageing is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and tribulation are suffering; association with what one dislikes is suffering; separation from what one likes is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering.’ Samyutta Nikaya 5: 421-3
We are unhappy because we do not always get what we want, become bored if we get too much of it, are scared of loosing it and dread facing up to the unpleasant aspects of life.
The Second Noble Truth is the Truth of Samudaya – The origin of Dukkha or Suffering.
“This is the Noble Truth of the origin of Dukkha: it is craving which produces renewal of being, is accompanied by relish and greed, seeking its delight now here, now there; in other words craving for sensual experience, craving for being [i.e. eternal life], craving to non-being [i.e. oblivion]”. Samyutta Nikaya 5.
The underlying cause of our suffering and unhappiness is our constant desires for nice things and experiences and hatred of the unpleasant. We bring about our own Dukkha and Karma by acting on our desires.
The Third Noble Truth is the Truth of Nirodha – The Cessation of Dukkha
” This is the Noble Truth of the cessation of Dukkha: it is the remainderless fading and ceasing, the giving up, relinquishing, letting go and rejecting of that same craving!” Samyutta Nikaya 5: 421-3
This is the god news that the Buddha brings us – that there is an alternative to all this suffering, unhappiness and gloom. If we are the makers of our own suffering (the world of samsara) we can stop creating it and enter into nirvana.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the Truth of Magga – The way leading to the cessation of Dukkha; namely The Noble Eightfold Path consisting of:
Right Understanding or Views: knowledge of the Four Noble Truths; understanding the Dharma; seeing the real nature of the self.
Right Thoughts or Intentions: thoughts of renunciation – not chasing pleasures; kind thoughts – not bearing ill will; harmlessness – not wishing cruelty.
Right Speech: refraining from lying, slandering, harsh words, angry outbursts and gossiping.
Right Action – refraining from killing, hurting others, theft, sexual misconduct, sensual misconduct and intoxicants
Right Livelihood: not making a living from a trade that causes harm
Right Effort or endeavour
Right Mindfulness or Awareness: awareness of the body, feelings, mind and thoughts.
Right Meditation or Concentration: the gradual process of training the mind to be calm and concentrated.
This is not a gradational path, with the next step starting when the previous one is mastered. All 8 steps are inter-linked and our understanding deepens as we practice the way of morality, meditation and wisdom.