THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
| 1. THE NOBLE TRUTH OF SUFFERING
(Dukkha Ariya Sacca)
|2. THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE CAUSE OF
(Dukkha Samudaya Ariya Sacca)
|3. THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE CESSATION OF
(Dukkha Nirodha Ariya Sacca)
|4. THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE WAY TO THE CESSATION OF
(Dukkha Nirodha Gaminipatipada Ariya Sacca)
Blind is the world, the Buddha taught. Many a man born in this sensuous world rarely sees Truth. In fact, the Truth is existing and prevailing all the time everywhere in the whole universe. Yet man, being ignorant, finds it very hard to see the truth due to the darkness of his ignorance and craving desire:
Having the brilliant light of the Noble Teaching and the true Dhamma in our present, we human beings are virtuously given the unique opportunity to know and understand the Noble truth of the Dhamma. (Ariya Sacca)
Man, as the supreme master of himself, has the potential to attain real Blissful Peace and Happiness of liberation. If man actually abides by the principles of the Buddha's teaching, he is ascertained to attain the Noble Path, Fruition and Nibbana found out and admonished by His fully Enlightenment.
May all be enlightened in the four Noble Truths!
Mankind today, with the scientifically advanced mind, pondering and searching for a happier state and betterment of living, has been engaged in trying to find a solution to the problems of life. From the time man became inquisitive to investigate into everything he had come across, he often asked with rational thinking questions such as; What is life?, How does it originate? Is life miserable or happy? What is the true philosophy of life? What constitutes man? From where did he come? Where will he go after death? How did the universe emerge? How was man related with the universe? How were man and the universe created? Is it true that man and the universe were created by a Supreme Being? Why is man faced with miseries? Is it possible for him to escape from these painful miseries or not? Is there any actual ways and means for his deliverance? and so on and so forth.
These queries and questions concerning man and the universe had been thought of and pondered over a long time ago Yet, so far as man is concerned, he is still unfolding the real answer and thus vaguely groping in the unawareness of the Real Truth due to the lack of knowledge of the absolute true philosophy
How fortunate mankind is to get the golden opportunity of knowing the true philosophy of the Noble Truths (Ariya Sacca) enunciated by the Buddha! It is more correct to say that Buddhism should be regarded not as a religion but as a way of life or moral principles for man's living for the attainment of peace and happiness, since the Dhamma discovered by the Buddha is a universal law or norm. The Dhamma which consists of the Four Noble Truths as a main theme, and discovered by the Buddha, is conceivable by each and every one, provided that one is in actual quest for it.
The Buddha was the real proof of Himself that before His final enlightenment, as a Bodhisatta (Buddha-to-be), the Prince Siddhattha had encountered religious leaders of various sects who were also searching for the same truth, or who claimed to have discovered it. Among them the two well known sages, Alara and Udaka could teach him only up to a mental stage of Jhanic trance. Thus the Bodhisatta was not satisfied with the knowledge he had gained from them as it was not the final deliverance that he sought for.
At that time, there were two kinds of beliefs which were most prevalent and generally accepted as a true path leading to supreme happiness. One belief was that after death there was no rebirth and what ever one did during the present life there would be no resultant effect in the future. Death is merely the end of one's life. Those who had accepted such a belief would indulge in all the available joys and pleasures of life called in Pali (Kamasuk allikanuyoga) meaning an indulgence in enjoyment of all sensual pleasures of life.
The other belief was that those who were seeking for the supreme happiness could gain it only when they exert their utmost submitting themselves to a life of austere hardships and trials, such as lying on thorny beds exposing themselves to extreme heat or cold even naked, sinking in the water, sitting with unsuitable postures, not taking any food for long periods of time and the like. Such severe practice which torments the body and mind is called self-mortification (Attakilamathanuyoga) in Pali.
The Bodhisatta as Prince Siddhattha had undergone these two extremes. The former up to the age of 29 and the latter up to the age of 35. Finally he came to realize that both these extremes led him only to unworthy, harmful as well as painful ends not conducive to attaining intellectual wisdom. Thus, having recalled his early experience of the first Mental Absorption, the Bodhisatta, avoiding the two extremes, changed to the way of practice known as (Majjhimapatipada) the Middle Way called the Golden Path.
When the Bodhisatta, seated under the Bodhi Tree and applied himself to inducing the first Jhana once more, and then the second, then the third and the fourth Absorptions, he attained the perfect tranquility. And he went on to apply mental concentration to the analytical examination of his own interior world-the body, the mind and the mental object.
The technique of tranquillizing the mind, known as Samatha bhavana is the precedent to the cultivation of insight meditation (Vipassana). It is only with the insight meditation that the mind finally penetrates the Four Noble Truths and so comes to distinguish reality from illusion. The ultimate truth is then seen face to face by the intuitive and enlightened wisdom. From being descriptive truths that are merely grasped intellectually, the Four Noble Truths become known, understood and felt as certainties, on a new level of realization. In a quite indescribable way they can be experienced only by the super conscious wisdom.
Thus it was by intuitive penetration that the Bodhisatta attained Buddhahood. As a Buddha who was fully Enlightened in the Four Noble Truths. He was able to see through and beyond the cosmic processes, passing the boundaries of space and time. At last, after six long years of arduous suffering and fruitless austerities, not being indebted to anyone for His realization of them, He was able to say "I discovered the profound truth, so difficult to perceive, difficult to comprehend, exalted tranquil and sublime, subtle which is not to be grasped by mere reasoning and is visible only to the wise." (M.26)
These noble Truths are ever in existence whether the Buddhas appear or not, but it is only a Buddha who reveals them to the deluded world. They do not and cannot change with time because they are eternal Truths.
The Truth He had realized was the fourfold division of knowledge - the basis of all that is comprehended only in the term Nanadassana, Insight-vision or Wisdom. In fact, the Buddha's Teachings can be summarised in these Four Noble Truths. Concerning the first declaration of these Truths the Buddha said, "The Perfect One, O Bhikkhus, the Fully Enlightened One has established at Isipatana the Supreme Kingdom of Truth which none can overthrow neither ascetic nor Brahman, nor Heavenly Being, nor God, nor anyone whatsoever in the universe - by proclaiming, pointing out, revealing, setting up, explaining and making clear the Four Noble Truths."
These Four Noble Truths constitute the uniqueness of Buddhism for, as the Buddha said," O Bhikkhus, so long as the Four Noble Truths were not understood and not comprehensively realized, I as well as you had wandered and gone round in Samsara.
These Truths are termed in Pail "Ariyasacca" which are so called because they are discovered by the Greatest Noble Ariya, the Buddha, who was utterly released from all passion and fully-enlightened in it.
The Buddha formulated the first Truth in different discourses through the scriptures:
The Pali term "Dukkha" which for need of a better English equivalent, is generally translated as suffering or sorrow. As a feeling, Dukkha means that which is difficult to endure (du=difficult, kha=to endure). As a literal sense, the term "Dukkha" is a compound world consisting of Du-(duvakham assati dukkham) meaning loathsome or contemptible; Kha-meaning void or emptiness. The world rests on suffering, hence it is contemptible or loathsome. The world is devoid of any reality, hence it is empty or void. Dukkha therefore means contemptible void.
And "Sacca" (satanam saccam) meaning absolutely or immutably true. The word indicates that in the fullest sense of the term, it is absolutely true that every conditional phenomenon in all psychophysical existences is suffering. Dukkha sacca therefore means the absolute Truth of Real Suffering.
It is rather hard for average people to see things as they truly are since they are mostly superficial lookers. However, to an Ariya who has realized the Noble Truth and attained supreme wisdom, all life is suffering and therefore finds no real happiness in the world which deceives mankind with illusory pleasures. Material happiness is just a temporary feeling and merely the gratification of some desires. For no sooner is the desired thing gained that it begins to be scorned and grieved. As the Teaching says: "Insatiable are all desires."
All are subject to birth (jati), and consequently to decay (jara), to disease (vyadhi), and finally to death (marana). No one is exempt from these four inevitable causes of suffering.
All beings are born naturally amidst the threat of pain and suffering from the time of their pregnancy to the final end of death. But to them the world seems a happy place. They view this world as the abode of happiness and joy. So all beings pursue a life of joy and merriment, ignoring all pain and suffering. They think that such pain and misfortune would never fall upon them and thus they spend their life in the sensual pleasures under a self-delusion.
The world is indeed filled with pain, grief, sorrow, misery, anguish and lamentation. Birth, life and death - the whole process is in the nature of suffering and it has remained as unsolved riddles for every living being. Since the time when a being comes into existence, the child as well as the mother feels suffering all the time in one way or the other. Then the child is getting older and older decaying ceaselessly. Even during such a short moment, various kinds of diseases may affect one at any time. We don't want to get old, to have diseases, to face death, to associate with unloved ones, to separate from the loved ones, not to get our desires. But it is impossible to get whatever one desires in human life, since every one is governed by the law of nature of psycho-physical existence; i.e. the process of first coming into begin (jati), secondly, appearance of being (bhuta), thirdly, conditioning (sankhata) and finally passing away (palokadhamma). In short, to find for one's own eating, dressing and living and on the whole every conditioned activity of the grasping aggregate of the five Khandhas i.e. material form, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness, are all suffering. Therefore Dukkha is meant in four categories, (1) in the sense of oppression (pilanattho),(2) of conditioning (sankhattho), (3) of distress (santapattho) and (4) of dissolving (viparinamattho).
There is no home where old age, disease and death have not come and no one can escape from all these three great fires of woes or miseries, distress, calamity and agony. Almost everyone might have experienced the bitter grief and sorrow for the loss of lives and properties. In fact, all creatures are restlessly struggling under the stormy-waves of pain and sorrow.
Men are born into the world where pain and sorrow exist. This is a universal truth and it applies to all beings. It was the experience and awareness of this Universal Truth of pain and sorrow that made Prince Siddhattha leave his royal palace and his beloved ones. Therefore everyone should endeavour to realize the Noble Truth of pain and sorrow, which permanently exists in the world of beings. This is the true nature of the world of which everybody should be aware as it is Most of the worldly people are rather hard to realize this pain and sorrow in its reality just like the blind man who cannot see the light of day.
A human body is like a hospital frill of sick persons, for it contains millions of germs and bacteria hidden within it. So everybody is suffering one form or another now and again from so many kinds of diseases. Youth ends in old age; gladness ends in sorrow; health ends in disease; laughing ends in weeping; pleasure ends in misery and pain; birth ends in death; all beings traverse from birth to death and from death to birth again, cycling from life to life or from plane to plane in the process of Samsara. People may escape from all these woeful pain and sorrow only when they realize that they are carrying the great burden of a highly decomposed body and fling it away.
Unless one contemplates on the old age, disease and death, one may be proud of oneself that one is still young in age, healthy and lives long, and thus one cannot realize the true nature of life By contemplating on the true nature of life, one would not presume that Buddhism is a pessimistic religion. In fact Buddhism is neither pessimism nor optimism, but realistic or may be both, for in Buddhism the follower must try to comprehensively understand the evil as evil, good as good, suffering as suffering, happiness as happiness and so on, in its ultimate sense of the term, whenever and whatever he may experience in life.
The Buddha not only emphasized the Existence as the Truth of Suffering, but also advocated a means to suffering and gain eternal happiness. He perceived the universality of pain and sorrow and prescribed a remedy for this universal sickness of humanity. The highest conceivable happiness, according to the Buddha, is Nibbana, which is the total extinction of all suffering of life.
In brief this composite body itself is the very cause of suffering. This First Truth of Suffering which depends on this so-called being and various aspects of life, is to be carefully analysed and scrutinized. Such a scrutiny leads to a proper understanding of oneself as one really is.
Having realized that the existence of mind-body aggregate is merely the embodiment of untold miseries whirling in the process of Samsara, the Lord Buddha probed into and discovered its root cause,
Samudaya, The present life what we experience here is due to the cause we did in previous lives. Buddhism therefore takes for granted a system of moral law which indicates a continuation of the life-process. It is a continuation by way of cause and effect, the cause being (Kamma) or volitional actions, and the effect (vipaka) or the pleasant, unpleasant and neutral experiences that follow from them.
The succession of lives which the term "rebirth" signifies, is not the reincarnation of a soul-entity. It is an individual current of relation ship in a cause-effect continuum, expressed as "that having been, this comes to be." Obviously we know that we are in existence today as we have been existed yesterday and also that we will be in existence tomorrow. Death is not the total end of life-energy which changes into another psycho-physical form owing to one's craving or clinging. The Kammic force or energy for what we did wholesome or unwholesome in past births has evolved as we are here in the present life. The phenomenal personality in which no single element of the five Aggregates survive, but all is incessantly renewed according to the universal rule that where a cause he existed a result must follow from it. Samudaya literally means that "Sammaundeti phalam etenati samudayo"it consequently causes the result of suffering.
Therefore Samudaya is meant in four categories (1) in the sense of causing suffering (Nidanattho); (3) conjoining with the process of Samsara (Samyogattho); and (4) Impediment of the Path and Fruition (Palibodhattho).
The Buddha through His Supreme Enlightenment, discovered the origin of suffering not only in the current life but also in former states of being. It is nothing but the craving or attachment or thirst (Tanha) for sentient existence, which is the Second Noble Truth.
Craving is threefold, namely, craving for sensual pleasures (Kamatanha); craving for sensual pleasure associated with the view of eternalism (Bhavatanha), i.e. enjoying pleasures viewing that they are imperishable, and craving for sensual pleasures viewing that everything perishes after death. The last is the materialistic standpoint. In other words, craving for existence in the Sensual Spheres (Kamaloka), in Fine- material Spheres (rulpaloka) and in the Formless Spheres (arupaloka) or mental plane. Usually the two terms, (bhavatanha and (vibhavatanha) are rendered by craving for existence and nonexistence
There are six kinds of craving corresponding to the six sense organs such as, eyes, nose, tongue, body and mind, and six sense objects such as, form, smell, sound, taste, touch, and mental objects They become twelve when they are treated as internal and external. They are reckoned as 36 when viewed as past, present and future. When multiplied by the foregoing three kinds of craving, they amount to 108 altogether.
It is natural for a worldling to develop a craving for the pleasures of senses. To overcome sense-desires is extremely difficult. This craving is a powerful mental force latent in all, and is the chief cause of most of the ills of life. It is this craving, gross or subtle, that leads to repeated births in Samsara and makes one cling to all forms of life altogether.
The Buddha said in the Dhammapada
The Buddha also said in the Anguttara and Digha Nikaya that the worldlings who are conjoined with attachment of craving have to go through the following process of dependent origination
According to the sequence of the above process, one has invariably to encounter manifold sorrows and suffering as long as one is unable to dispel this very craving.
Ordinarily the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest or even the only happiness to an average person. There is no doubt a momentary happiness in the anticipation, gratification, and recollection of such fleeting material pleasures, but they are illusory and temporary. According to the Buddha, non-attachment or non-passion (virage) or transcending material pleasure is a greater bliss of happiness
Here the Buddha, the Enlightened One said: "not getting what one desires is indeed suffering "(Dhammacakka sutta). Yet man does not understand what his suffering really is and from where it emerges. He is all the time craving for something more and more, never stopping his discontentment in enjoying sensual pleasures. Man's mind is thus never contented, at ease, and in peace, but flitting and fleeing from one object to another with more expectations for better ways of life. He always falls victim to the domain of sense desires. Thus his mind is most of the time full of attachments, clingings, anxieties, worries, sorrows, etc., since he is nearly always hankering after sensual pleasures.
The commentator of the Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga) mentioned in Pail.
The grossest forms of craving or sensuous desires are attenuated on attaining the first stage of the Stream-winner (Sotapanna) and more weakened at the second stage of Once-returner (Sakadagami and are completely eradicated on attaining the third stage of Non-returner (Anagami). All the latent craving is utterly eliminated on attaining the fourth and final stage of Arahathood. (Sam-3,3 55). This is the one who has been completely released from the endless cycle of birth and death (Samsara) and has reached the Lasting Blissful Happiness of Nibbana for ever.
The Buddha, having attained the Supreme Enlightenment, not only probed into the real Truth of Suffering and its root cause, but also its complete cessation and the Way how to attain it. The cessation is total exhaustion of rebirth, pain, sorrow and so on, i.e. Nibbana, the Supreme Blissful Peace. Nibbana is not an abode, nor a plane, but the accomplishment of the Noble Eightfold Path. It is the highest stage of purity of mind which can be obtained only by the highest degree of morality, concentration and insight wisdom. Hence, there is no attachment to life or existence, no selfhood, no desire for passion and lust. On the whole, not a single taint of craving is found in Nibbana.
As the flame of a lamp is extinguished when the oil is dried up and the wick is burnt out, so it is with the nature of Nibbana, where greed, anger and ignorance are absolutely destroyed and uprooted, not only is the stratum of mind-body existence totally terminated, but also the Supreme Blissful Peace (Santi sukha) can be experienced by self- realization. The evolution of life-process comes to a final stop in Nibbana.
The Nibbanic state or nature, of transcendental Peace cannot be fully expressed in words, in thought, or in any form of similes in the worldly sense of the term. But in actuality, it is the most supreme state of peace where there is no rebirth and as a result all suffering, pain, sorrow grief, lamentation, etc. exist no more.
It is absolute peace, tranquillity and fulfillment: no anguish is there for him who has ended his journey and is free from all sorrow who is emancipated in every way and has destroyed all attachments.
There are no more wanderings in Samsara for such a one, who like the earth has no resentment, is firm in character like a city gate-post and as pure as a deep pool free from mud .... Calm is the mind, calm is the speech and calm are the actions of him who rightly understanding, is wholly liberated and at peace." (Dhammapada Arahhanta-vagga)
The Pali term "nirodha" means "Nirujjhatia ettati nirodho"that in Nibbana all sufferings ceases, Anuppadoeva nirodho anuppada nirodho" means that in Nibbana, there is no state or nature of whirling in Samsara, i.e., total void of all planes of existences for one who has attained.
Therefore "nirodha" is meant in four categories: (1 ) in the sense of release from Samsara (nissaranattho); (2) tranquil peace (vivekatho); (3) unconditioned state (asankhatattho) and (4) deathlessness (amatattho).
With reference to this truth the Buddha declared in the Dhammacakka Sutta:
We know that Nibbana which is free from all suffering is attain able in the present life by treading the Path shown by the Buddha In the first discourse after His Enlightenment, the Buddha delivered to the five disciples that there are two extreme courses to be avoided, on the one hand, that of sensual indulgence, which is impure, low vulgar, worldly, unworthy and unprofitable, and on the other, the practice of extreme physical asceticism, which is painful, vain and unprofitable in contrast to these stands "The Middle Path" which the Enlightened One has discovered - the Path which enables one to see and to know which leads to peace, to discernment, to full knowledge of Nibbana. Free from pain and torture is this Path, free from lamentation and anguish, it is the perfect Path." (Samyutta, 56)
It is called the Path because it destroys defilements and goes to Nibbana (In Pali - kilese marento nibbanam gacchatiti maggo), and it also searches for Nibbana (in Pali - nibbanam maggti gavesati maggo).
The Path has its characteristics of release, the essence of dispel ling defilements and also foundation for setting free from Samsara. Regarding the Path, there are four categories, namely, it is so called Path in the sense of release from Samsara (nissaranattho), the base for attaining Nibbana (hetuttho), of seeing Nibbana (dassanattho) and of dominance in leading to the Path of Nibbana (adhipateyattho).
The Noble Eightfold Path, therefore, is a way of life that begins with the mind and ends with the transcended. Its first requirement is Right Understanding, which means an intellectual grasp of the nature of existence. "What now is Right Understanding?" Truly, it is to understand suffering, the extinction of suffering and the Way to its extinction (D.N.22). Elsewhere it is explained that it also means the understanding of the law of moral causality, the roots of meritorious action. In Samyutta Nikaya it is also said that "When one understands that physical body, feeling, perception, the mental formation and consciousness are all Impermanent (and hence subject to suffering and devoid of selfhood), in that case also one possesses Right Understanding.
"And what now is Right Livelihood? Truly it is to reject wrong means of livelihood and to live by right means. A man of right livelihood therefore follows only harmless occupation without any selfish motives. He never commits himself to deceit, trickery or fraud in his living but deals only with work which is fair, just, profitable and virtuous for himself as well as for others. In his earning of a living, he avoids trading in arms, poisons, flesh, intoxicating drinks and living beings."
By living up to the above three moral principles of body and speech, the average person or ignorant worldling becomes a good or virtuous worldling (Sappurisa), because he can keep the observance of the five Precepts, namely, abstaining from killing, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, telling lies and indulgence in intoxicating drinks. In this way, when a person abstains from bodily and verbal vice he becomes a perfect virtuous worldling (kalyana), who has attained the stage of Purification of Morality (Sila Visuddhi).
With regard to the mental training or the state of concentration (Samadhi), there are three factors, viz. Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
The Path is conveniently divided into three parts, namely Right Understanding and Right Intention belonging to (Panna), Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood to (Sila) morality, and Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration to (Samadhi) concentration. Though there are three stages of attainment towards the Path and Fruition, the way of practice is the only one. i.e. the practice of in-and-out breathing, or in other words, touch and awareness of the breath at the nostrils, For instance, just by concentrating on the object of in-and-out breathing, the three stages are simultaneously fulfilled resulting in bodily and mental purity together with insight knowledge.
So in order to realize the Four Noble Truths, an aspiring person must find them out within himself, i.e., one must meditate to fully understand the true nature of the aggregate of Mind and Matter within one self. On this point, the Buddha therefore states: "In this way one fathom long body with its perception and thoughts, do I proclaim the world (of Suffering), the Origin of the world (of Suffering), the Cessation of the world (of Suffering) and the Way to the cessation of the world of suffering.
This main and interesting passage refers to the essence of the Four Noble Truths which the Buddha Himself discovered by His own Enlightened Wisdom and proclaimed to the world of all beings to search like Himself for the realization of Truths within the inner realm of them selves as that they can be released from the whirl pool of Samsara and attain the Lasting Supreme Happiness of Nibbana.
May you all be able to realize the Four Noble Truths!
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