On the Fourth Day of Christmas my True Self gave to me…
4 Noble Truths
(3 Dharma Seals, 2 Satyas, and a Buddha by the Bodhi Tree)
The Four Noble Truths
- There is suffering (dukkha)
- The nature of the arising (samudaya) of suffering
- The cessation of creating suffering (nirodha)
- The path (marga) that leads to the cessation of suffering
The Buddha did not teach that Life is suffering. Because it’s not. Looking deeply at Life we may see suffering but also, perhaps deeper still, we are struck by bliss, simplicity and love. The Buddha, thus, taught that there is suffering, that suffering does exist- it must not be denied of that- but that’s not all there is.
The Sanskrit word used is dukkha and it covers a wide range of suffering; from a broken leg to a broken heart, from deep and dark depression to daily dissatisfaction. I think this is really important because if we only assume the Buddha is talking about a broken bone then most of us will think this teaching is irrelevant to them most of the time; but general dissatisfaction we can all relate to at some point weekly, daily or even hourly depending on situation.
I find it most interesting to have discovered during my meditation practice thus far that even when I feel content, like right now, I am also more subtly aware of dukkha in one form or another tied into the body or mind at some level, and just this recognition is vitally important, for me, in preventing those seeds of dukkha sprout and invade my consciousness.
I have said it in another post but in one teaching all the others reside and this is obvious here; if one does not penetrate into the message of the three dharma seals, in my opinion- nothing will make sense. If nothing makes sense that leads to a confused kind of dukkha that is likely to manifest itself with flavours of fear, anger, arrogance, suspicion. The mindset here would not be a humble “I don’t know” because that arises from true understanding of the three dharma seals, but the delusion of precisely the opposite, a firmly held notion that you know…
You are a separate self
Living in a world of others
and the good things must remain so
and the bad things won’t ever go.
What I am pointing at here is that ignorance is foundational to the arising of suffering (dukkha) and ignorance being a lack of experience in realising the three dharma seals is the surest way to let dukkha take hold of your life, if not yours then definitely mine.
But this message is not pessimistic because what this leads to in the Buddha’s first teaching is the four noble truths- a practical model for working with one’s own suffering, to understand it’s nature and roots more clearly (the second noble truth) and break free of it’s grip through the Noble Eightfold Path (the third and fourth respectively).
In one we see all. And in my own experience the Four Noble Truths is not some heavy and complicated bunch of formulas for dharmic self medicating; it’s clear. By touching our suffering, by listening carefully to our suffering in the stillness of meditation, the Way to peace can be realised. We may then look to the Noble Eightfold Path to let what is needed permeate all aspects of daily life but this again will unfold organically, if one has truly recognised their own suffering.
The Buddha said, “The moment you know how your suffering came to be, you are already on the path of release from it.” Samyutta Nikayn II.