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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Opening to insight: The Four Noble Truths

According to tradition, the Buddha, as a young man living a life of privilege and ease, encountered dukkha, which can be translated as suffering or, perhaps more accurately, as dissatisfaction.  He sought to understand its nature and causes and the way it could be overcome.  Leaving his home and family, for six years he tried various contemplative and ascetic practices until he devised his own method and attained enlightenment.  At first he considered whether or not to teach what he had learned, but he decided to share his insight and met with a group of men with whom he had previously practiced.  He taught them the Four Noble Truths.  They became his first disciples.

Briefly put, the Four Noble Truths are as follows:
1)  Dukkha or suffering is a fundamental aspect of our experience.
2)  The cause of suffering is tanha or craving.
3)  The end of suffering is the cessation of craving, which is achieved in enlightenment or nibbana.
4)  The path to liberation from suffering is the Eightfold Noble Path (right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, right intention and right view).  

Although craving is identified as the cause of suffering, it is not the first cause or the only cause of suffering; it is simply the immediate and most palpable cause of suffering (Walpola Rahula, 1978).  It is a linked in a chain of dependent origination preceded by feeling, contact, and so on, and ultimately back to ignorance.

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