According to Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths involve the essence of the teachings from the Buddha and help us in coping with physical, mental, and emotional suffering. Also known as ‘The Four Arya Satyas,’ these are believed to be the realities or truths for noble or spiritual people.
Origin of The Four Noble Truths
Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon, Dhammacakkappavattana Sūtra, to his disciples once he attained enlightenment. His teachings focused on suffering and included the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path. The realities revealed by the Buddha to his disciples are known as Dharma. According to an article published by Harvard University, “The Buddha’s sermons and teachings pointed toward the true nature of the universe, what is known within Buddhism as the Dharma.”
The truths are understood by individuals who are worthy and have attained nirvana or enlightenment. The four truths of life as explained by the Buddha are:
- Dukkha: The truth of suffering
- Dukkha Samudāya: The truth of the origin of suffering
- Dukkha Nirodha: The truth of the cessation of suffering
- Dukkha Nirodha Mārga: The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering
According to Buddhism, the Buddha realized these truths while he was meditating under a bodhi tree. He is often considered as a great physician who not only diagnoses a disease, but recommends medicine to cure the disease. In the first two truths, he masterfully diagnoses the issue, which is suffering, and then recognizes the cause or origin of the problem. In the third truth, he recognized the fact that suffering can be prevented with a cure, while in the fourth truth he prescribes a remedy and shows us how to be free from suffering.
Philosophy of The Four Noble Truths
Buddha’s four truths are widely accepted by all institutions of Buddhism and are found in many ancient Buddhist scriptures. These beliefs of Dharma depict his awakening and how these truths can enable other noble individuals to attain enlightenment. These are believed to be a crucial aspect of Buddhist teachings that explain their beliefs which need to be experienced personally. Experts believe that Buddha was mainly an ethical reformer and teacher, although many people mistakenly believe him to be a metaphysician. “Instead of discussing metaphysical questions, which are ethically useless and intellectually uncertain, Buddha always tried to enlighten persons on the most important questions of sorrow, its origin, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation,” explains the experts.
As the Buddha demonstrated his beliefs through his knowledge and experiences, instead of his miraculous abilities, his disciples realized this was the best way to attain liberation and enlightenment. The Four Noble Truths enable us to see our reality as it truly is, identify what is wrong with our perception and beliefs, and realize how our delusions can cause hardships and suffering. It is only by getting rid of or changing our wrong beliefs and perceptions we can overcome suffering, leading towards inner peace, wisdom and liberation. The Four Noble Truths of Dharma are related to the basic principles of Buddhism. When we lack self-awareness, we give in to craving and cling to things and states that are temporary. This craving and clinging nature causes dukkha or persistent suffering. However, there is a way to end this suffering through the cessation of craving and attaining nirvana. This can be done though self-awareness, discipline, meditation, mindfulness and self-control.
Understanding The Four Noble Truths of Dharma
These realities declared by the Buddha are considered “noble” as they are non-deceptive and superior instructions for eliminating suffering from our lives. Instead of seeking pleasure in life, which is fleeting, we should focus on acknowledging the existence of suffering. However, we should also realize that there is a way to end suffering and the key to that begins with understanding the four noble truths of Dharma. Let us explore and understand the four noble truths as mentioned in Buddhism:
1. The First Noble Truth: Suffering exists
The truth of suffering or Dukkha means pain, uneasiness, disease, discomfort and ill-being exists in the world. The Buddha believed that our lives are riddled with struggles and challenges. As happiness is temporary and fleeting, we can never be satisfied in life. According to the Pāli Canon, the Buddha stated “Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering – in brief the five factors of skandha or aggregates are suffering.”