The Four Noble Truths

You have most probably heard of the four noble truths, which was the Buddha's first teaching after his enlightenment. This post offers a basic, yet practical approach to one of the pillars of Buddhism.

I remember when I learned about the world religions in junior high school. At that time, the four noble truths seemed really foreign to me, representing a totally new way of looking at life.

Here we'll focus on a practical, hands-on approach as opposed to a theoretical one. Please keep in mind that Buddhism is a contemplative tradition that encourages you to investigate and test the teachings in real life.

Mindfulness is the tool that is used to verify a teaching, another word for it is awareness. To verify means to find out for yourself if the teaching is true or not. After having verified a number of spiritual teaching, blind faith becomes a bleak option.

The First Noble Truth

The essence of the first noble truth or statement is that life is full of suffering. This is not limited to deadly diseases and severe physical pain. Suffering also encompasses mundane experiences like headaches, stress and worry. As you can see, the commonly used term suffering is quite misleading. The phrase physical and mental discomfort is more to the point.

Now, in order to verify the first noble truth, you need to bring some awareness into your everyday life. Pay close attention to any unpleasant sensations such as mosquito bites, itching and tinnitus. Fueled by negative thoughts, these insignificant inputs can lead to really unpleasant mental states.

Have you ever seen anyone overreact while stuck in a traffic jam, or when troubled by a fly? That, is what the Buddha meant by suffering.

Try to verify the existence of suffering. In other words, become aware of suffering in your own life.

The Second Noble Truth

The second noble truth or pointer has to do with the cause or origin of suffering. Why do you get disappointed when it pours down with rain on your holiday? Why do you complain when your neighbors play loud music?

It's because you don't want a rainy holiday, or listen to the loud music. Resisting life as it unfolds, is the cause of suffering. Or phrased differently, trying to get rid of things you don't like, leads to suffering.

Craving something you can't have also results in suffering, such as wanting to get rich and famous.

In order to verify the second noble truth, be mindful of your negative reactions to sense impressions and thoughts. For practical reasons, the mind is considered the sixth sense in Buddhism.

It's essential to understand that thinking alone can give rise to negative mental states. For example, you may think about a memory from childhood, perhaps some kids teased you for being skinny. Those thoughts can give rise to anger and painful emotions. Again, resisting what happened makes for suffering.

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The Third Noble Truth

The third noble truth deals with the fading away or ending of suffering; when you stop resisting life, you no longer create unpleasant mental states. The key to success is mindfulness.

Imagine you are sunbathing at a beach that reeks of seaweed. You are clearly aware of the stench without resisting it - that's how you flow with life. The opposite would be to have a negative subconscious reaction to the foul smell, which generates suffering.

Invite awareness into your daily life to verify that accepting every moment as it is, leads to the cessation of suffering.

The Fourth Noble Truth

The fourth noble truth outlines how to practice and live your life to be free from suffering. This path ultimately leads to enlightenment. The two main components are mindfulness and morality. By being aware of your feelings and thoughts, in combination with the intention to do what is good and right, you are heading in a wholesome direction.

You can verify the fourth noble truth, over time, by gaging the positive effects of the practice on your overall mental state.

In conclusion, the four noble truths are most significant spiritual teachings that show us how to avoid suffering skillfully. I encourage you to verify the wisdom and learn to flow with life...

Best of luck!

Related:   Mindfulness Explained   Enlightenment   Buddhist Emotional Healing

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