The Four Noble Truths

*Credit for this wisdom, simple lesson goes to Rev. Hantane Dhammagawesi who i have mentioned previously here, as my spirit guide.

It is common misunderstanding that Buddhism is about recognizing the Dissatisfaction/the suffering/the sorrow in life. But the true premise of Buddhism is about learning how to remove dissatisfaction in order to live in eternal happiness.

If we take all the paw prints of all the animals in the world they would all fit inside the footprint of the Elephant. And so it is that the 84, 000 teachings of the Buddha can be summarized into the 4 noble truths:

  1. The truth of Dissatisfaction
  2. The truth of the root/cause of dissatisfaction
  3. The truth of the solution to dissatisfaction
  4. The true  path to the solution(Nibbana)

These four truths do not gain their authority of truthfulness because they are the teachings of the Buddha. But rather because they describe the true nature of life. To use an example from the Buddha. Imagine there is a beautiful garden that over time is lost, forgotten, overrun by weeds and hidden by wilderness. Then someone discovers it, clears up the weeds, removes unnecessary plants and brings it back to its previous beauty. So the Buddha does not teach something new, but is enlightening us of a truth that has always existed.

The Truth of Dissatisfaction-

It is our understanding that life is generally very satisfactory, and that sometimes we are dissatisfied. But the truth is that we are naturally and constantly unfulfilled and it is our continuous work to give ourselves temporary happiness and feed this dissatisfaction that tricks us into believing that  we are happy.

The Buddha categorized this dissatisfaction into 3 major categories:

-Dissatisfaction that the world accepts as Dissatisfactions (D+D)

Aging, Illness, Death, Separation from people we like, having to associate with people we do not like are some examples of dissatisfaction that the world recognizes.

Dissatisfaction that is caused as a result of Change (D+C)

Here we talked about negative change. For instance, we have children and we raise them in our likeness. We expose to them the things we believe and teach them to dislike and discourage what we do not believe in. And yet as they grow, they grow into their own people, with their own experiences, their own beliefs. They enjoy things separate from us, they have less and less time for us. We cannot fault them for this, and yet it causes us dissatisfaction.

An example of positive change is growth. Let’s take a business we own. As it grows, and improves and becomes more successful it changes. We have more people working under us, more costs, and more responsibilities. While we believe we are happy with this progress, it causes us more and more dissatisfaction and brings more stress and difficulty into our lives.

These are two examples change that causes us dissatisfaction.

-Life is Dissatisfaction (D+L)

Buddhists believe that Life occurs only when there is a connection between the mind and the body. The body existing without the mind is not life, and the mind existing without the body is not life. Both these elements must exist for there to be life.

Every day we use soap and scents to clean our body. We created a room specifically for cleaning ourselves to hide the waste and appear in society as clean fresh beings. IF we discontinue these practices the true nature of our being is really quite displeasing.

Similarly, we work every day to keep our mind happy. We seek entertainment, amusement, learning, movement, and many many other things to keep our mind occupied. We remove feelings of boredom, stress, anxiety by finding ways to keep our mind busy. However, all these things we do actively. IF we did not provide these external stimuli the true nature of our mind also is quite displeasing, and dissatisfactory.

This is what the Buddha wanted us to be aware of. That life in its essence is dissatisfactory.

The Truth of the Root/Cause of Dissatisfaction

The cause of dissatisfaction is attachment. We get attached in two manners.

Attachment to things/people we like.

This is easier for us to understand. If we visit someone’s home, and taste a delicious cake we want more of it, we ask for the recipe and recreate it at home.

When there is someone whom we like, we love, whose company we enjoy we don’t want to lose them. We hold on.

Attachment is not only for physical things, but thoughts and ideas.

Attachment to things/people we dislike.

If there is someone in our work, our industry whom we dislike. We spend time, and energy finding out what they are doing, where they are going. We spend time contemplating them and holding on to them.

Let’s say for example we have a glass full of water. We raise it above our shoulder and hold it. After some time it is heavy. And as time passes it becomes more and more heavy. But the truth is that the weight of the glass of water is not increasing, the time we are holding on to it is what makes it heavier.

The True Solution to Dissatisfaction

The solution to Dissatisfaction is Nibbana- eternal happiness. And eternal happiness is letting go.

IF we let go of the glass of water, we will no longer feel the weight of it. We will be relieved and we will no longer be dissatisfied.

Someone who has attained eternal happiness they must let go in four ways.

-Let’s imagine there is piece of jewellery that you adore. A ring that was passed on from our grandparents to our parents and now it is yours. We spend days and nights in fear of losing it, we take measures constantly to make sure it is safe, and no one can steal it.
It is a point of pride and happiness and yet we worry and it causes a lot of discontent. Then imagine your sibling or child is getting married and you give this treasure of yours as a gift to this person who is also very important to you. How would it make you feel to part with it? Happy. In this way Buddha has shown us that letting go while appearing to be a sadness can actually be a great happiness.

-Next the Buddha warns us against Hoarding. We must throw away all that is unnecessary and un-useful. If something is broken, or has lost its value  get rid of it.

-We earn titles and positions in this life. We are enslaved to the responsibilities that are part and parcel of these titles. We must free ourselves of the responsibilities and pressures of these titles. A man in prison and a man outside carry through the same day to day functions; they eat, sleep, work. And yet the difference between the two is that the prisoner is unhappy, and the other is happy purely by not holding the title/position: “prisoner.”

-We have a network of relationships. Like a spider in a web, if there is any movement in the web, the spider at the centre of it can feel it. Similarly, if there is anything happening in our network of relationships they cause us pain.  It is impossible for us to live without relationships, the important thing to know here to how to have connection without having attachment. For instance, If we fry an egg in a non-stick pan, it will cook through the connection between the pan and the egg. And yet when we remove the egg there is a clean break. The egg isn’t  stuck to the pan. That is how a person who has found Eternal happiness can let go of attachment.


The True Path to the Solution

The true path is the Eight Fold Path.

  1. We must have a vision/purpose for our Life. The purpose of our life should be in line with removing unhappiness and seeking eternal happiness.
  2. Since some of our thoughts transform into Karma (Action with intention) we must have good thoughts.
  3. The words/language we use must promote further happiness within ourselves and others. (Not Lying, nor using harsh words etc.)
  4. Our physical actions must be good. (Not killing, stealing etc.)
  5. The career or job we choose must be something that causes us happiness, and also does not cause unhappiness to others in society. (Not selling drugs, running casinos etc.)
  6. Make an effort to do wholesome deeds you have not done, and improve the wholesome deeds you have done. Make an effort to continue not to do unwholesome deeds and stop the unwholesome deeds you have partaken in in the past.
  7. In order to stay on this true path without diverting here or there, we must do everything with mindfulness.
  8. While you follow this path, you must train your mind not to divert from wholesome thoughts, action and speech.

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