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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Buddha’s Noble Truths

Buddha’s teachings are often summarised as four noble truths.

Buddha found;

1. despite wealth, culture, art, yoga, religion and war, there was no peace. Even the seemingly well off were dissatisfied (also called dukkha or suffering).
2. By repeatedly and incorrectly trying to alleviate this suffering through material pleasures, we end up as addicts craving for more of the same. This craving is responsible for the suffering.
3. This cycle of craving and dissatisfaction can be broken through a state called nirvana, which means extinguished desires and cravings.
4. And he laid out a path, an eightfold path to achieve such a state.

The first two noble truths can be verified by using our intellectual capacity and carefully looking at our lives. It doesn’t take much to realise that our life is indeed full of dissatisfaction caused by clamoring or craving. 

The process starts early when a child seeks and finds satisfaction through material pleasures. As identification with the body is entrenched, an addiction sets in; more material will give me more pleasure.

Buddha is pointing to our mind. So his third noble truth of ending this cycle of more material, more addiction, more suffering, through Nirvana appears as beacon of hope to the dissatisfied.

Nirvana and the path to liberation can only be verified by personal practice albeit it may take time. Over the millennia, thousands of Buddhists have experienced this freedom by following the path.

The eightfold path is a process of behavior modification to break this vicious circle. Similar techniques were taught by many teachers like Patanjali, Jesus, Krishna, Moses, Gandhi.

The Eightfold Path consists of

1. right view, to see clearly the nature of existence, impermanence of all material and nonmaterial realms, interconnectedness and non-self.
2. right resolve, to earnestly pursue this understanding and liberation
3. right speech, to carefully use words that are congruent with this goal
4. right conduct, to behave in a manner consistent with the right view
5. right livelihood, that doesn’t conflict with the path, do no harm
6. right effort, diligent and consistently applying ourselves to nirvana
7. right mindfulness, to be mindful of our attention in our daily life
8. and right samadhi (meditation), to regularly practice.

Order of these eight paths is not important but the first i.e. the Right View is critical. It answers the question, why is any of these true?

Only then it becomes clear what right resolve, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and meditation should be. Without the Right View, the motivation to do the right things wanes. Sometimes we meditate, sometimes we doubt. 

Right view is to know the marks of existence. these are summarised as,

1. Impermanence, all is temporary manifestation, a story in the mind.
2. Not understanding impermanence, wanting good times to continue, is suffering
3. There is no self which suffers.

Impermanence is Buddha’s answer to why is life suffering? We seek satisfaction through material pleasures which disappear, sooner or later. Mind searches for more.

Last of these, i.e. no self is taught as the heart sutra, considered the core or heart of Buddhism. This is Buddha’s magic bullet. Considerable insight meditation reveals that there is no separate self that appears to be running our lives. It seems to be happening all by itself. No god, no consciousness.

Right view is to see the interconnectedness of all material things as well as mental formations. What appears unique to us, is not. All appearance is fiction manufactured by the mind to serve a conjured-up vision of a separate self.

By keeping the right view, every action comes under scrutiny and the right path appears. This patient practice slowly diffuses the addiction and craving thereby reducing suffering or dissatisfaction, eventually snuffing out the fire of ignorance or ego, which Buddha called Nirvana.

May you have no needs, no wants and no worries.

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