FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS (in Pali “noble truth” is ariya sacca)

After the Buddha had awakened totally – – he had sat under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India, and vowed not to get up until full enlightenment had been realized – – the subject of his first discourse or sutta was The Four Noble Truths.

FIRST NOBLE TRUTH: DUKKHA (unsatisfactoriness, suffering)

Because of the changing nature of all conditioned things (basically, everything), there is an inherent unsatisfactoriness, unreliability and undependability about them. The Buddha called this truth dukkha which has traditionally, but not always satisfactorily, been translated as “suffering.” Speaking of the importance of understanding suffering, the Buddha said, “There is one thing, O monks, the not seeing of which keeps us unfree, keeps us bound on this cyclic wheel of becoming. That one thing is the truth of suffering.” He further said, “I teach one thing and one thing only, suffering and the end of suffering.” It is through the deep understanding of the nature of suffering and its causes that one achieves happiness.

SECOND NOBLE TRUTH: SAMODAYA (the arising of dukkha)

Simply put, the causes of our suffering are resistance and craving – resistance to what we don’t like and don’t want, and craving for what we do like and do want. Included is a desire for sense pleasure, resistance to unpleasant experience and attachment to one’s ideas, views and opinions. There can also be attachment to the false idea of a separate self as well as craving for existence itself. More concretely what causes suffering are the afflictive emotions (kilesa in Pali), the “defilements” or “tormentors of the mind,” such as greed, hatred, envy, anger and fear. As protection from the kilesas the Buddha offered us training precepts grounded specifically in non-harming, non-stealing, right speech, appropriate sexual conduct and not using intoxicants that cloud the mind. The stronger the commitment to ethical conduct, the greater the protection available. Please see “FREE DOWNLOADS” on the navigation bar for a more detailed look at the precepts.

THIRD NOBLE TRUTH: NIRODHA (the cessation of dukkha)

The good news is that it is possible to end suffering. In Pali it is called “nibbana,” in Sanskrit “nirvana.” Literally the word means “extinction” but popularly it gets translated as “enlightenment” or “liberation,” referring to the complete freedom from greed, hatred and delusion. The understanding and experience of nibanna is way beyond logic, reasoning, mental conceptions and language itself. Attempts at explanation, though well-intentioned, are but merely approximations of the truth. Understanding is in the experience. There are those “aha” moments when we wake up to the truth. The deeper the concentration and mindfulness, the more profound the awakening. The Buddha said, “Every moment of mindfulness is a moment of nibanna.” Strung together they comprise a path leading to what has been described as “a gradual awakening.” A boddhisattva is an awakening being.

Ariya-Attanghika-Magga : The Noble Eightfold Path – leading to the cessation of dukkha

This is how you awake. The Buddha spent 45 years basically expounding upon these eight practices that, taken together, ultimately lead to freedom. The eight steps are best thought of not as sequential or linear, but rather interwoven, linked together and inter-dependent. Cultivating one helps cultivate the others. The path of Buddhist practice consists of three trainings:

1. Ethical Conduct (sila in Pali). Included are three aspects of the Eightfold Path: Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood
2. Mental Discipline (samadhi in Pali). Included are the aspects Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration
3. Wisdom (panna in Pali). Included are Right Understanding and Right Thought

The image on these four cards is a digital scan of a leaf from the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India, a descendant of the actual tree under which the Buddha sat over 2500 years ago, and realized full enlightenment (the word “Buddha” meaning “one who is awake”). It was a momentous, world-changing event.