II. The Four Noble Truths


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    The Four Noble Truths are: Suffering, the Causes of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering or Nirvana, and the Path to the Cessation of Suffering (e.g. the Eightfold Path). We must first recognize suffering. Then we need to find out the causes of our suffering. Only then do we have a chance to end our suffering. The cessation of suffering is liberation, it is true and lasting bliss, it is nirvana. And it can be achieved.

First Noble Truth: Suffering

    When we observe the world, and everything surrounding us, we can see that everything comes from a certain set of causal conditions. We also see that everything is impermanent. For example, a tree needs seed, earth, water, air, and sunshine to grow. Because the causal conditions are always changing, the resulting phenomena must always be changing. When the causal conditions fall apart, things fall apart. Everything invariably dissolves away, or passes into another form. Nothing in nature is fixed; everything is always in a flux. This "everything" includes people, property, money, fame, power, love, family, enemy, pleasure, pain, life, and the cosmos. All things come and go.

    Even though impermanence is all around us, we often choose to ignore it. Instead, we think, or we wish, that things would stay the same. Friends would always be there. Wealth and fame would stay around. We would live for a long time. We cling to the past or the future, and ignore reality. Therefore we are unprepared when changes hit us. Consequently, we suffer.

    Buddha observed that suffering is a universal human condition. There are eight kinds of suffering common to all people: birth, aging, illness, death, separation from the ones we love, being with people we dislike, desiring things we cannot have, and mental irritation. All people have or will experience the eight kinds of suffering during each lifetime, whether they are men or women, Eastern or Western, wealthy or not. This is a true observation. This is the first of the Four Noble Truths that Buddha discovered: that there is duhkha, which means suffering, dissatisfaction in life, or that something has gone wrong.

    There is a strong relationship between impermanence and suffering. If we are not conscious of the impermanence of all things, then we will cling to fantasies, wish for impossible things, and suffer. Recognizing suffering is the first step to ending suffering.

Second Noble Truth: Cause of Suffering

    The Second Noble Truth explains the cause of suffering. The various kinds of causes have a common name: kleshas, often translated as defilements, vexations, or afflictions. There are two classes of kleshas: The first are erroneous views, and the second are erroneous behaviors. Erroneous views are those due to delusion, or misperception of reality. They include the perception of an ego-identity, dualistic views, and disbelief in Causality. Erroneous behaviors are those patterns of behavior developed from the above delusions. These include greed (craving), anger, ignorance, arrogance, doubt, jealousy, etc.

    When kleshas arises, suffering follows. When kleshas is extinguished, suffering ceases. Therefore, it is important to understand the cause of suffering in order to eliminate suffering. If we are ignorant of the cause, we will behave foolishly, and hurt ourselves as well as others. It is very important for us to think deeply about the relationship between the various kinds of causes and their consequences in order to convince ourselves of the veracity of the Second Noble Truth.

Third Noble Truth: Extinction of Suffering

    The Third Noble Truth says that there is a state of being wherein all suffering has ceased. It is called nirvana. Suffering comes from the various kleshas: erroneous views, greed, anger, ignorance, pride, and doubt. In order to end suffering, its causes must be eradicated. Therefore nirvana is also a state free of kleshas, these impurities of the mind. Being free from all delusions, defilements, and suffering is nirvana.

Nirvana can also be described in the following ways:

Extinction: Cessation of all suffering, and all causes of suffering.
Transcendence: Transcending the mundane existence; being free of reincarnation.
Tranquility: absolute serenity, unperturbed by anything.
Unborn, Deathless: No more rebirths.
Liberation, Bliss: Forever liberated from all misery, state of ultimate bliss.



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