Attempting to Explain the Four Noble Truths
After Buddha’s enlightenment, he taught what is known as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are comparable to a medical diagnosis:
1. Disease and symptoms – Dukkha (unease, stress, suffering, anguish, unsatisfactoriness, imperfection, etc).
When you’re born, the doctor slaps you on the ass and you begin crying. When you get older, things start changing and eventually some things just don’t make sense or work the way they used to. You can catch a cold or H5N1; you have bills and mortgage payments; the beer can get warm. Eventually, you’ll die. Sometimes you don’t get what you want, and sometimes you can lose things that are dear to you. But cheer up emo kid, there is hope.
2. Cause or diagnosis – Samudaya (Tanha or craving)
We’re not born as Rhodes scholars or little Einsteins. In fact, we’re not completely developed and, quite frankly, we’re pretty ignorant. Born out of ignorance, we crave for material things, sensual experiences, opinions and ideas, beliefs and concepts, existence, etc.- and when disappointed, we even crave for extinction. However, because these things are impermanent, changeable, perishable, etc. we always fail to satisfy our desires and it thus causes disappointment and suffering. It is by not seeing things clearly as they truly are that we continue to desire and crave attachment.
3. Prognosis – Nirodha (cessation of that same craving)
Hey, there is a bright side to all of this. We don’t have to be ignorant, crave for existence or nonexistence, or suffer. This is achievable by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path.
4. Prescription – Aryastangamarga (the Noble Eightfold Path)
The Noble Eightfold Path can be explained briefly as follows:
1. Right view or understanding of the Four Noble Truths – that is, knowledge with regard to dukkha, the origination of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the way of practice leading to the cessation of dukkha. This may seem redundant at first, but we will find that we have to keep coming back to this throughout our practice.
2. Right aspiration (or resolve) is for the renunciation of selfish desires and ill-will for benevolence and harmlessness.
3. Right speech is abstaining from lying, slander, and frivolous idle talk.
4. Right action is abstaining from taking life, stealing, and promiscuity.
5. Right livelihood is abstaining from profiting in dishonesty, corruption, or harm.
6. Right endeavor (or effort) is to develop skilled mental states.
7. Right mindfulness is to see things as they truly are, in and of themselves, and putting away greed and distress with reference to the world.
8. Right concentration is jhana (or dhyana), or meditation.