The Sublime Truth – The Four Noble Truths

Ven. Dhammagaru Thero
The Sublime Truth
The Four Noble Truths
The True Nature of the World

The happiness which is the main purpose of everyone depends on purifying one’s mind and understanding the world truth as it is. The Buddha who attained enlightenment discovered the world reality and explained it to the world kindly. He purified his mind completely eradicating all defilements in his mind. The Buddha is not a God or a God’s messenger. There are no creations or God’s messages in his teachings. Whether a Buddha appears or not in the world this world reality is forever. Therefor the Buddha’s message is the truth that anybody can discover (achieve) by his wisdom. The Buddha’s main teaching is the way how to achieve real happiness. According to the Buddha’s message, the real happiness depends on how much we have overcome suffering about old age, death and rebirth. The main reasons, that we suffer, are desire, anger and delusion. Desire is the attachment, craving or lustful desire. Anger is aversion (=hatred). Delusion means less understanding about the reason of suffering. Because of these three reasons when the world changes, and when the world is out of our control, we suffer. If we are intelligent to overcome delusion, big attachment and anger gradually decrease. Simultaneously, we gradually overcome suffering in this life itself.
The Buddha’s message that leads to getting rid of unsatisfactoriness and achieve real happiness is very clear and systematic. Listening to this message is a very rare chance. Today we have to listen to it because of a lot of merits and blessings that we have done in previous lives. The sublime truth that the Buddha explained is well expounded (Svākkhato), directly visible (Sanditthiko), immediately effective (Akāliko), calling one to come and see (Ehipassiko), leading onwards (Opanaiko), to be personally realized by the wise (Paccattam Veditabbo Viññuhi). The Buddha’s main purpose was to point out the path of liberation from suffering. If the Buddha has preached any teaching to get rid of suffering, nobody can prove that it doesn’t cause to get rid of suffering. According to Buddhism, understanding of suffering and cessation from suffering depend on how far we have achieved intelligence. There are four causes (Pannavuddhi Karanani) which help to achieve intelligence (wisdom).
They are;
1. Association good friends who explain the Buddha’s real message (Sappurisa sansevo)
2. Listening to the Buddha’s Message (Saddhamma savanam)
3. Wise Reflection (Yoniso manasikāro)
4. Practice (Dhammānudhamma patipatti)
As much as if we are able to receive these four things to our life, we can develop wisdom and overcome suffering.
At the very beginning of the path of liberation, we should have clear knowledge of what we practice and where we go to. That is why the Buddha say; I declare the cessation of suffering to whom he who
knows and sees the Dhamma. Here understanding of the Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppāda) is very important. Understanding of Buddhism depends on an understanding of the Dependent Origination.
He who sees the Dependent Origination sees the Dhamma
(Yo paticcasamuppādam passati so dhamma passati)
Ho who sees the Dhamma sees the Buddha
(Yo dhamma passati so mam passati)
This is the real way how to see the Dhamma and the Buddha as well.
Understanding of the Dependent Origination causes to understand suffering and understanding suffering helps to understanding the Four Noble Truths which is the main teaching in Buddhism.
The Four Noble Truths
(Cattāri ariyasaccāni – චතුරාර්ය සත්‍යය)
The Four Noble Truth, the heart of Buddhism, includes all kinds of doctrines that the Buddha explained to deities and humans in his entire life, 45 years. His main effort was to point out the path of liberation from all kinds of sufferings. The Buddha said very clearly, he preached in the past and present only two things which are suffering and the cessation of suffering. Also these four things are centered in one theme that is suffering or unsatisfactoriness. If someone can understand only suffering according to the Buddha’s advice, he is qualified to realize all four things. As much as he can realize the unsatisfactoriness, he has overcome suffering at that level. They are:
1. The unsatisfactoriness or Suffering (Dukkha ariyasacca – දුක්ඛ සත්‍යය)
2. The cause (origin) of unsatisfactoriness (Samudaya ariyasacca – සමුදය සත්‍යය)
3. The cessation of unstasfactoriness (Nirodha ariyasacca – නිරරෝධ සත්‍යය)
4. The path that leads to get rid of unsatisfactoriness (Magga ariyasacca – මග්ග සත්‍යය)
The main goal of every person is happiness. They do all things in their lives in the name of happiness. They learn, do jobs, raise children, earn money and wealth. Even though they do all of them for happiness, they only loose happiness. When they earn everything and grow up with wealth day by day, unfortunately their happiness goes away. The main reason of this situation is they mostly trust in external things such as children, money, education, health, physical appearance, properties. When those things change and go out of control, they worry, they are upset. They think that happiness comes from outside. That is why they fully trust in sensual pleasures. In this situation, the Buddha has explained the nature of suffering and how to overcome it.
The Buddha pointed out if we suffer about something, the nearest reason is big attachment, desire or craving. If we like something greedily, when it changes, when it is out of control, when someone steals it,
we worry, we suffer, and we get angry. If we have no desire with anything, when they change or stolen, it is nothing to suffer or get angry. Further, the Buddha explained what the reason of big attachment or craving is. It is said as ignorance or delusion. What is the nature of our experience? We receive all experiences in our life through our senses which are eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. When objects such as matters, sounds, smell, tastes, touching on senses and contact mind, we have experience about the world. The nature of this experience is suddenly arises and ceases. After the experience we only have the memory as we think about it. Because of ignorance after experience we think it is still happening. When we think about our previous experiences, we suddenly run to the past. This misunderstanding brings us suffering. If we have real knowledge, mindfulness and wisdom to see this reality according to the Buddha’s guide, we are able to overcome suffering. The nearest cause of suffering is craving or desire, and the major reason is ignorance that inability to see this nature. As the result of understanding of this truth, if we can live every moment with mindfulness and intelligence reflecting impermanence, we can reach the real happiness.
When the Buddha explained the four noble truths, he analyzed what we should do in every step. The very first thing that we should do is listening to this message with good attention, reflect on it wisely and practice it in our day to day life promptly. According to four steps of the truth, we have to do four things. First we have to understand what unsatisfactoriness is. Then cease its cause. After that we acquire liberation as the result of cessation from unsatisfactoriness. Finally, we practice its path that the Noble Eight fold path. The very especial thing here is we practice this path with clear understanding about every step.
1. The Noble Truth of unsatisfactoriness or Suffering (Dukkha ariyasacca)
The Buddha explains all kinds of sufferings in this first step. Birth (jātipi dukkhā), aging (Jarāpi dukkhā), sickness (Vyādhipi dukkhā), death (Maranampi dukham), union with what is displeasing (Appiyehisampayogho dukkho), separation from what is pleasing (Piyehivippayogho dukkho) and not to get what one wants are sufferings (Yampiccham na labhati tampi dukkham). These are the negative things that we dislike in our life. When they come to our life, we suffer, worry, upset, lament or get angry. All of these sufferings depend on ignorance of five aggregates. Finally It is said as “In brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering” (Sankhittenapañcupādānakkhandhā). First seven things are not difficult to understand as suffering. Anybody, who is wise, can understand as they are suffering. The especial reason of suffering, that is never understood without a Buddha’s advice, is the five aggregates. Five aggregates are;
i. Matter (Rupa)
ii. Feelings (Vedanā)
iii. Perception (Saññā)
iv. Mental formations (Sankhāra)
v. Consciousness (Viññāna)
When we experience through our senses about the world, these five aggregates arise together. They can’t be separated. As the result of arising of these five things, we have an experience. These five aggregates suddenly arise and also cease instantly. When we experience something, they have not only arisen but ceased also. When we experience something through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue or body, these five senses can’t get pleasure or pain. Those experiences ceased instantly, we get pleasure or pain in sense of mind as a past experience. However, we think that we experience in the present because of ignorance. That is why we suffer. If we can understand as these five aggregates arise and cease at the moment with the condition, we are able to understand its impermanence. Then we know we have nothing to desire or hate. It means we have overcome suffering. As much as we have this understanding we have liberated from unsatisfactoriness.
2. The Noble Truth of the cause of unsatisfactoriness (Samudaya ariyasacca)
The second step of the four noble truths is the cause of suffering. We mostly desire because of no understanding of the nature of the five aggregates. If we have a clear knowledge about five aggregates in our experience, we can get rid of desire and cravings which disturb our peace of mind. The Buddha pointed out the closed reason of suffering as desire. If somebody can overcome suffering, he has no anger as well.
3. The Nolbe Truth of the cessation of unstasfactoriness (Nirodha ariyasacca)
We already know the cause of suffering as desire and major reason as ignorance. With this understanding if we can reflect on impermanence, we are ready to overcome desire. We have liberation from unsatisfactoriness. Seeing liberation, we enter the path that leads to liberation in next step.
4. The Noble Truth of the path that leads to get rid of unsatisfactoriness (Magga ariyasacca)
With the full understanding of the above three steps in suffering, the Buddha’s disciple enters the real path to get rid of suffering. The Buddha emphasized the real path as the noble eight fold path with his experience. As the result of listening to the Buddha’s message, our view becomes clear. It is said in Buddhism as ‘Right Understanding”.
When we have ‘Right Understanding’, we don’t stop since we have to practice other seven steps too. Then we meet a path to follow ‘The Noble Eight Fold Path’ –
1. Right Understanding (Sammā ditthi)
2. Right Intention/ Thoughts (Sammā samkappa)
3. Right Speech (Sammā vācā)
4. Right Action (Sammā kammanta)
5. Right Livelihood (Sammā ājiva)
6. Right Effort (Sammā vāyāma)
7. Right Mindfulness (Sammā sathi)
8. Right Concentration (Sammā samādhi)
Here the most important thing that we are compulsory to do is to develop mindfulness. At the very beginning of practicing mindfulness, we have to identify ‘the sign of mindfulness’ (Sati nimitta). By focusing our attention on the tip of our nose or upper lip, we try to do all our acts not only breathing meditation but other meditation techniques and all our daily activities. Our success of meditation depends on how much we practice this sign of mindfulness. Every day we have to try to increase the time that we practice mindfulness. When we practice this, we can see the result that is happiness. The very important thing of the practice of mindfulness is the visible results. Seeing the results we can go forward on the path getting rid of suffering towards the purification of mind in this short life itself. That is one of the qualities of the Dhamma which is with immediate results (Akālika). If we can put this knowledge into practice and get the result, we are the most fortunate people in the world. The reason is that this is the happiest thing among everything in our life such as money, relatives, education, properties, etc. For that we have to be diligent. We should dedicate our time for that than we do for other things.
At the very beginning on this spiritual path first of all we should be honest, intelligent and kind. To achieve the final bliss of liberation or enlightenment, we have to listen to the Buddha’s message with good attention for our knowledge. At the very first level in Buddhism the knowledge is very important. Buddhism compares knowledge as wealth (Suta Dhanam). To achieve all kinds of results such as intelligence that Buddhism teaches, knowledge plays a major role. It is not only enough knowledge but reflecting on it again and again is also very important. Furthermore, we have to practice it in our daily life as morality (Sila) and meditation (Bhāvanā) to see the results in our life. Meditation is further divided into two as tranquility (Samatha) and insight (Vipassanā). In short, all doctrines that focus on liberation can be included in three steps those are discipline, tranquility and wisdom.
May the Triple Gem Bless you!
May all Beings be Well, Happy, Healthy and Peaceful!
Saturday Dhamma Discussion of Leicester Buddhist Vihara (EMBA)

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