Four Noble Truths


1. Fundamental Principles of Buddhism

After Buddha Śākyamuni reached Enlightenment he gave many teachings to his students according to their predispositions and capacities to understand the great attainment:

The purpose of Buddha was to provide the best solution for everyone to develop the full potential of their consciousness in their particular circumstances.

For this reason Buddhism today offers a comprehensive set of teachings and profound methods how to work with your own mind, develop the highest qualities characteristic to enlightened mind and reach enlightenment – the complete unity of compassion and inner wisdom, the oneness of mind and heart, the oneness of everything existing, both inside or outside.

Buddha’s teachings contain some moral values, but not because of some mighty god, but because they are helpful for us and all beings to develop healthy, stable mind, compassion, willpower, protect us from anger of others, give peace of mind and many other good qualities that can put an end to our own sufferings and that of others.

Buddhism contains not only this, but a complete system of gnoseology, perception, psychology to work with mind and also methods of meditation, contemplation, training of mind, tested by many generations of people and many realized Buddhas.

The short summary of all Buddhist teachings was given by Buddha Śākyamuni, the great and venerable teacher himself, soon after his Enlightenment in the place near Sarnath in India, known also as Jetavana or Deer Park:

This event is known as the First Turning of the Dharma Wheel in Buddhist history:

Often you can find it portrayed in Buddhist symbols, such as gazelles squatting on each side of the Dharma Wheel.

Buddha’s first sermon was the teaching of the Four Noble Truths, the summary of all Buddha teachings, experienced by Buddha himself.

2. The Noble Truth of Suffering

Truth of Suffering

First of all Buddha expounded the Noble Truth of Dukha or Suffering or dissatisfaction with the current situation we are in, characteristic to our state of existence.

The Truth of Suffering encompasses all disadvantages of our current imperfect state, be it something clearly observable or very subtle imperfections. It includes sufferings of sickness, aging, poverty, death and many others.

The goal of Buddhist spiritual path is to achieve complete liberation from suffering:

This liberation could be obtained through personal efforts and determination to follow certain methods, proposed by Buddha

and to do so we should have a clear understanding and motivation why we would like to do it and if the goal is worth it to be reached.

To grasp this understanding it is necessary to recognize this state of Suffering without being caught by some nihilistic or pessimistic attitudes, without running away from situation, but accepting it as integral part of our lives.

3. The Noble Truth about causality of suffering

Causes of Suffering

Once we understand the Noble Truth of Suffering, it is necessary to investigate the Origin of the Suffering. Buddhist philosophy identifies the origin of suffering on the basis of the law of cause and effect:

It means that each phenomenon we are perceiving or thinking, each situation we are in or may be some sickness is the result of our actions, decisions and words done earlier.

Our former actions, thoughts and words have left some very subtle impressions in deeper layers of our consciousness and forms our world, perception an understanding today.

Truth of Causality means that we are not free; even we might appear like we are:

But actually inner impressions or causes, our predispositions that we have created by ourselves rules over us and creates all sufferings.

Buddhism means a Path out from this pitiful condition we are in.

Buddhism states that there are 3 main causes or mental poisons that create all sufferings:

1) Ignorance, 2) Greed and 3) Hatred.

Greed or sometimes called an attachment means that we something wish too much and it creates sufferings.

Hatred or aversion means there is something we don’t like or don’t understand and it creates sufferings.

Ignorance or confusion means we take for really existing something that is not real, like I or Me, we are not aware about the law of cause and effect, we don’t know what actually create suffering and what creates freedom from sufferings.

The fundamental three poisons can be divided further into many other disturbing symptoms and causes of suffering like envy, pride, doubt and many others.

Based on these mental predispositions later are done such negative actions of body and speech as stealing, killing, sexual misconduct, lying, slander or use words that cause pain or lead to conflicts, causing suffering for others and ourselves.

Actually, Buddhism thinks it is impossible to determine one exact cause that is creating our troubles:

It is rather the sum of all causes of the past, and not from only one life, but many others, because we can see that all beings are not born equal:

Buddhism considers the elements for our physical body we get from our physical parents. But not the consciousness:

Consciousness is not considered a real self or I, because it is constantly changing. It is a flow or stream, without a fixed essence. But it is kept together by the law of cause and effect. Like a river.

As long there would be causes, as long the birth, old age and decay would go on. This law of cause and effect is called Karma in Buddhism.

4. The Noble Truth of Cessation of Suffering

Enlightenment - End of all Suffering

The Noble Truth of Cessation of Suffering is the great news of Buddha’s realization:

It means there is a state of mind which is not anymore influenced by causality and puts an end to all suffering – Liberation and Enlightenment. This is the paramount goal of Buddhist spiritual path.

We can pursue this highest realization by learning what brings sufferings and what bring happiness to sentient beings, avoiding creating causes of sufferings, accumulating good impressions in the mind and good merit

and identifying our mind with the essence of mind of all Buddhas – the empty space where is no suffering and it can’t arise, because it doesn’t depend on causes anymore.

Causes are attributes of conditioned states of mind, conditioned world. It means – when something good happen, we are happy, if not so good happen – we suffer.

But Buddha-mind presents an unconditioned state of mind, which is free from causality:

The conditioned world has no influence over it. Often it is described as “Thus-ness”, it is behind the conditioned duality – good, bad, conditioned joy or sorrow. It is before the judgment or discernment.

5. The Noble Truth of the Path

There is a Path to End of Suffering

The Fourth Noble Truth – There is a Path leading to cessation of sufferings. In general lines given by Buddha at First Turning of Dharma Wheel, it consists of Noble Eightfold Path

  1. Right Views
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration.

The Noble Eightfold Path guides the practitioner towards the abandonment of all negative actions of body, speech and mind, teaches the right methods of concentration and meditation

and recommends to cultivate all good merits and to abandon the Three Poisons of the Mind –

1. Ignorance, 2. Greed and 3. Aversion – already discussed above.

The Noble Truth of the Path means – method, how to reach the Enlightenment and Nirvāṇa:

Here Buddha stressed the importance of avoiding the extremes, the pursuit of happiness through mere sensual pleasures and extreme self-mortification and asceticism. That’s why Buddhism is called the Middle Way.

Mahāyāna Buddhism or the “Great Vehicle” teachings are putting a great emphasis on the teachings of compassion, altruistic motivation, attaining Enlightenment for the benefit of all beings and leading all beings to the Great Liberation from all sufferings, not only for our own benefit:

This is usually expressed in Four Immeasurable:

  1. May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness
  2. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering
  3. May all beings never be separated from the supreme joy that is beyond all sorrow
  4. May all beings abide in equanimity free from attachment and aversion

This type of compassion is rooted in equanimity, compassion and love:

Equanimity means to dissolve our ordinary habits to distinguish between friends and enemies, loved and hated and so on, understanding that all living beings are equal, have the same wish for happiness and the same repulsion to suffering. For that reason they are worthy of our compassion, attention and help.

Practicing the enlightened qualities of our enlightened mind, being inspired by the compassion for all sentient beings, a deep wish to bring them benefit and liberation from suffering is the Mahayana Buddhist practice:

This kind of motivation is traditionally called “Bodhichitta” or the practice of all Bodhisattvas and is further deepened and developed with the practice of Six Perfections or Six Pāramitās:

1. generosity, 2. morality, 3. patience, 4. enthusiastic effort, 5. concentration and 6. wisdom.

This was the explanation of Four Noble Truths.