The first wheel of dharma – FOUR NOBLE TRUTH

From the Kalama Sutra, the Buddha advised the Kalamas that one should not mistake belief for the knowledge, not to take any uncertain and in doubt of teachings but instead one should put the teaching into practice and the experiential testing-out with the importance of self-reliance to find the clarity of mind and wisdom which bring the happiness are to be engaged in. The Buddha emphasized that his teachings had a practical purpose to reduce one’s greed, hatred and delusion and find it’s fruitful to bring non-greed to generosity, non-hatred to loving kindness, compassion, and non-delusion to the clarity of mind. Then this would increase the trust and confidence to the power of the teaching and developed a much-deepened faith with Buddha. According to Snelling (1991 p.42) stated that Buddhism is not a fundamentalist religion. Its teachings are not dogmas or articles of faith that have to be blindly accepted at the cost of suspending reason, critical judgment. In fact, the basic aim is to help us gain direct insight into the truth for ourselves. He continued to state that Buddhism does not take its starting-point on grand metaphysical questions like: Who made the world? What is the meaning of Life? What happens to us after death? Buddhism is not concerned with proving the existence of a God or Gods. Rather its root focus is on the down-to-earth fact that all existence, including human existence, is imperfect in a very deep way. So the Buddha’s first teaching on the reality of the nature of the present world – the Four Noble Truths. Four Noble Truths There are the truth of nature of suffering, the truth of the nature of its cause, the truth of the nature of its cessation, and the truth of the nature of the path leading to its cessation. Gethin (1998 p. 59) explained that: –  The Noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, ageing is suffering, sickness is suffering, dying is suffering, sorrow, grief, pain, unhappiness and unease are suffering; being united with what is not liked is suffering, separation from what is liked is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in short, the five aggregates of grasping are suffering. –  The Noble truth of the origin of suffering: the thirst for repeated existence which, associated with delight and greed, delights in this and that, namely the thirst for the objects of sense desire, the thirst for existence, and the thirst for non-existence. –  The Noble truth of the cessation of suffering: the complete fading away and cessation of this very thirst – its abandoning, relinquishing, releasing, letting go. –  The Noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: the noble Eightfold path, namely right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. From the above four Noble truths, any of the truths is the reality to either ‘ Buddhist’ or ‘ non-Buddhist”, but these descriptions function not so much as dogmas of the Buddhist faith as a convenient conceptual framework for making sense of Buddhist thought. The existence of suffering is not to be related in external of ourselves like the creation of the world. Buddhist thought suggests that it is beings themselves who must take ultimate responsibility for their suffering. However, since it is our responsibility for it, it is also something that we can do to change it ourselves. From the Noble truth of the origin of suffering states the condition for the arising of suffering as the craving for repeated attachment of existence and continue to hold on to find the lasting happiness, which is unstable, impermanent and with constant changing. Therefore, we lost to realize the reality of the nature of the world, which we craved for, is the cause of the suffering. The goal of practicing the liberation to the cessation of suffering will lead us to the eternal highest happiness, nirvana. Gethin (p.77) then stated that to understand nirvana from three points of view: –  It is the extinguishing of the defilements of greed hatred, and delusion. –  It is the final condition of the Buddha and arhatas after death consequent upon the extinction of the defilement –  It is the unconditioned realm known at the moment of awakening. The Buddha told his disciples Arahats: “Monks, a person wandering in the forest, in the jungle, were to see an ancient path, an ancient road along which men of old had gone. And he would follow it, and as he followed it he would see an ancient city, an ancient seat of kings which men of old hand inhabited, possession parks, gardens, lotus ponds, with high walls – a delightful place. Just so, monks, I saw an ancient path, the ancient road along which the fully awakened ones of old had gone. I followed it and following it I knew directly old-age and death, the arising of old-age and death, the ceasing of old-age and death and the path leading to the ceasing of old age and death.” So, the Buddha taught that although there are various wholesome qualities of our mind with loving kindness, compassion, and generosity but there are still the defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion in it, which give rise to the suffering in our daily living. The Buddha gave his words that The Noble truth of the way would lead to the cessation of suffering with the cultivation of the Eightfold path. (Gethin p.81) –  Right view – seeing the four truths of reality –  Right intention – Non-desire to attachments, friendliness, and compassion. –  Right speech – refraining from: false speech, divisive speech, hurtful speech, and idle chatter. –  Right action – refraining from: harming living beings, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct. –  Right livelihood – not based on wrong speech and action. –  Right effort – to prevent: un-arisen unwholesome states, to abandon arisen unwholesome states, to arouse un-arisen wholesome states, to develop arisen wholesome states. – Right mindfulness – contemplation of body, feeling, mind and dharma. – Right concentration – practice of the four meditations. The Eightfold path can be group into three sections, and when cultivate them; one will gain wisdom, good conduct and right meditation. The three sections are:

  1. Acquire Wisdom from Right view and right intention.
  2. Acquire good conduct from right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
  3. Acquire right meditation from right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

Thus in conclusion, from the understanding of the Four Noble Truths and put into cultivation of the Eightfold path will enhance one’s cultivation to realize the reality of the present world to the cessation of suffering and on the path of Nirvana.

Snelling, John – 1991 The Buddhist Handbook – The complete Guide to Buddhist Schools, Teaching, Practice, and History published by Inner Traditions International
Gethin, Peter – 1998 The Foundations of Buddhism by Oxford University Press

By Master Lian Zhi M.A.