The teaching on 4 Noble Truths is a fundamental one because it sets the base for all further teachings. Buddha gave it in his first Sermon“setting the wheel of dhamma in motion” (and many times afterwards). This is how the teaching goes:
On that occasion Buddha addressed the group of five ascetics and proclaimed the following:
1. This is the noble truth of stress: Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.
2. This is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.
3. This is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.
4. This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
Four Noble Truths Video
First Noble Truth,
the truth of stress (pali. Dukkha- translated also as suffering, non-permanent happiness) has it’s active and passive component. Ageing, illness, death and other negative phenomena present the active component because they “hurt” instantly so the stress is easily recognisable.
Living beings are not limited to hurtful experiences only, we experience joy, bliss, harmony, sense of accomplishment as well- those are passive components of stress, because of our ignorance many times we fail to see Dukkha in them. Everything is impermanent so the loss of joyful experiences is inevitable. They do provide pleasurable experience but in a long run they hurt as well when we lose them. We yearn for permanent peace, permanent happiness but because of impermanent nature of all phenomena we can’t find them which inevitably causes stress.
Second Noble Truth
points to the cause/ origin of stress which is craving. Let us explain what craving is- it is a powerful desire for something pleasant to happen and for something unpleasant not to happen. We don’t have control over it. If we’re hungry and see a nice cake our craving gives us stress until we decide to get that cake. It controls our life, it is the fuel of misery. Craving generates becoming- not just becoming as in life after life after life rebirth becoming but it directs our moods and actions in everyday life.
Old age, sickness and death are inevitable (first noble truth) but the reason we suffer is not sickness in itself but our craving that things should be different where they aren’t, the laws of nature are such that we must die eventually, it’s normal process but our craving for existence still gives us stress when we face death of someone dear to us.
Third Noble Truth
is that the craving can be abandoned by letting go. If we let go of the craving we’re cutting off the circle of suffering. Without craving no phenomena, be it pleasant or unpleasant, can cause us stress. Some things in life can’t be changed but we can make the difference by not attaching to those.
When we first hear this teaching, it is a natural instinct to ask ourselves something on these lines: If I let go, if I don’t get happy or sad over anything, am I not becoming passive, a vegetable so to speak?
And the answer that comes naturally from practising (really letting go) is no- no-attachment is actually opposite to being passive in many ways. By letting go we’re getting rid of stress and it gets replaced by peace, calmness and love. If you practise, you’ll see for yourself.
Fourth noble truth
gives the answer to the question “How to let go?”. It points out to the methodical instructions for those who want to walk the right path- the one that leads from the area of stress to the area of peace and happiness. This path is called the noble eightfold path because it has 8 components. And that path is to be studied and experienced by those who have gone forth. The components are:
right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration
Another way to understand 4 noble truths is by comparing our condition (inevitable suffering) to the disease.
If you are sick than the first truth is that you don’t feel well. You’re suffering.
Than you visit the doctor who establishes the second truth- the cause of your sickness, the diagnose (e.g. stomach flue).
Once the cause of your sickness is diagnosed, the third truth of cessation of disease becomes obvious- it is getting rid of the cause of disease.
Finally, the doctor prescribes the treatment that will cure you, that is the fourth truth.
Buddha gave us the treatment for our suffering. It is not a magic pill but a hard workout. Those who follow doctors orders, they get better and better.