The Four Noble Truths

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1 Buddhism is a soteriology. It is concerned with bringing about for its practitioners, liberation, freedom from states and experiences held to be negative, unpleasant, not wanted. The primary orientation of Buddhism therefore is towards the transformative experience of the individual. Buddhism is thus also concerned first and foremost with the mind or to be more precise with mental transformation, for there are no experiences that are not in some sense reliant on mind. Professor Paul Williams Buddhist Thought There are two reasons why it is important to understand the nature of mind. One is because there is an intimate connection between mind and karma. The other is that our state of mind plays a crucial role in our experience of happiness and suffering. - Dalai Lama (1991)

2 The Four Noble Truths The core of the Buddhist teaching is the Four Noble Truths: 1.The reality of suffering 2. The cause/origin of suffering (ignorance/attachment) 3. The cessation of suffering is attainable 4. The path to the cessation of suffering (8 fold path)

3 1. The reality of suffering To live means to suffer. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure suffering : sickness, old age and death and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear and disappointment. There are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life, perceived as the opposite of suffering, i.e. comfort pleasure and happiness. However, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. Thus, we are never able to permanently keep what we desire, and just as happy moments transpire, we ourselves and all our loved ones will eventually die.

4 2. The origin of suffering is attachment (resulting from ignorance) The origin of suffering is ignorance and attachment to transient phenomena. Transient phenomena do not only include the physical objects surrounding us, but also ideas, and in a greater sense, all objects of our perception. Ignorance is an absence of wisdom which obscures the process of how our mind becomes attached to impermanent phenomena. The principle causes of suffering are attachment, desire, and craving. The desire for sense pleasures manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant experiences: the taste of good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful music. There is desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have (aversion) desire for sense-pleasures - kama-tanha, desire to become - bhava-tanha, desire to get rid of - vibhava-tanha. The desire to become is the ambition that comes with wanting attainments or recognition or fame. It is the craving to be somebody. The clinging to desire comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction comes from following desire. We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires doesn't bring an end to them. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, accordingly, suffering will follow.

5 3. The cessation of suffering is attainable The cessation of suffering is referred to as nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion and wisdom. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human action, through removing the causes of suffering. The end of suffering is nonattachment, or letting go of desire or craving. This is the state of Nirvana, where greed, hatred and delusion are extinct. Freedom from attachments to the five aggregates of attachment is the end of suffering. Nirvana is the non-attachment to conditioned experience. To understand the unconditioned, we need to see for ourselves that everything that has a nature to be born has a nature to die, every phenomenon that has a cause is impermanent. By letting go of attachment to desire for conditioned phenomena, desire can come to an end and we can be liberated from suffering.

6 4. The path to the cessation of suffering There is a path to the end of suffering - a gradual path, which is described in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive selfindulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism) and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth/samsara. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.

7 The Noble Eightfold Path Considered from the standpoint of practical training, the eightfold path is divided into three groups: 1. Ethical conduct/moral discipline group made up of right speech, right action, and right livelihood 2. Concentration/mental development group made up of right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration 3. Wisdom group made up of right view and right intention.

8 These three groups represent three stages of training: the training in the higher moral discipline, the training in the higher concentration and the training in the higher wisdom. Bhikkhu Bodhi The Noble Eightfold Path: The way to the cessation of suffering.

9 Samsara The wheel of life, depicting samsara or cyclic existence is an ancient symbol that symbolises the cycle of birth, life, and death. When one revolution of the wheel is completed, life begins again with rebirth.

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11 Buddha taught that the three fires/poisons were greed (rooster) hatred (snake) and ignorance/delusion (pig). The Pali word nibbana (Sanskrit: nirvana) means blowing out or extinguishing, as in a fire, like a candle flame which can be extinguished. This is especially true when the fuel for a fire is no longer present. The Buddha taught that when the three fires of greed, hatred and ignorance that are burning within are extinguished, then one will experience nibbana. This is taught in the Magga samyutta Sutta. To rid oneself of these fires or poisons is the process of attaining nibbana. Nibbana is not a place which exists in any outer worldly way.

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16 Dependent on Ignorance arise Mental formations From Mental formations arises Consciousness (Re-birth Consciousness) From Consciousness arise Mind and Matter From Mind and Matter arise the six spheres of sense From the six spheres of sense arises Contact From Contact arises Feeling From Feeling arises Craving From Craving arises Grasping/attachment From Grasping arise Becoming From Actions arises Re-birth From Birth arise Decay, Death, Sorrow, Pain, Grief and Despair.

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