the fourth noble truth

Approaching Vajrayana - Part One

By Jakob Leschly

The path of liberation can be seen in terms of two approaches: the gradual path of the Sutra teachings and the resultant path of the Mantra Vajrayana teachings. In the Sutra approach, we purify confusion and gradually uncover wisdom; in the Vajrayana, the practitioner takes that innate wisdom as the path. This first of four bi-monthly articles discusses the foundation of Buddhism, and how the view and practice of the Sutra teachings naturally serve as the foundation of the Vajrayana. Neither an academic analysis nor an actual Vajrayana teaching, this series aspires to clarify the Mantra teaching as we encounter it as laypersons in a modern context.

THE FOUNDATION OF BUDDHISM

The premise for Buddhism is the potential all life has for awakening, and the empirical fact that we can experience more or less confusion, more or less happiness. We observe how our positive and negative states of mind don’t just happen randomly, but happen due to causes and conditions. With less confusion we feel more at home in our reality, more awake, more at ease with our world.

The Buddha taught that we are in a position to do something about these causes and conditions, yet, the premise is the abiding unchanging reality of enlightenment, our true abiding nature, referred to as Buddha nature. The Sutra path approaches the path through working with the immediate reality of our ordinary confused mind; the Mantra path approaches it with the recognition of the innate abiding reality of the timeless wisdom of Buddha nature.

Although the Buddhist understanding of consciousness extends beyond the scope of contemporary psychology or neuroscience, it still operates within familiar parameters of human experience. The discussion of the practice of the path also does not extend beyond a rational and recognisable dimension of human potential.

The Buddha’s first teaching, on the Four Noble Truths, recognises the observable fact that while every one of our actions is based on a desire for happiness and pleasure, the truth is that we fail in our objective; the first Noble Truth is that we suffer.

The second Noble Truth is to identify the cause of suffering. According to the Buddha’s teaching, suffering is not inflicted upon us by some higher power, nor is it inevitable in a meaningless universe of random chaos. The second Noble Truth is that our suffering is caused; our suffering is due to a confused consciousness that mistakenly conceives of a self that, when investigated, doesn’t actually exist.

The Buddha discovered that confusion and suffering are not basic to us. We are not trapped in our delusion. The Buddha discovered the cessation of suffering, which is the third Noble Truth. He discovered freedom from the conceptual constructs that rule our consciousness.

The fourth Noble Truth is the Buddha’s prescription for how to practically address this condition of confusion. Nobody can save us, but we can apply practical measures to address the cause of suffering. The Buddha taught a remedial path of ethical action, of training the mind through meditation, through which wisdom emerges. Hence the Buddha empowered the individual, and taught how any person can attain the same freedom and awakening.

These Four Noble Truths are basic to all Buddhist teachings and paths. In these four truths, we can see that the Buddha did not introduce any mystical or metaphysical assumptions. His teaching never extended beyond the familiar pragmatism of remedying a problem.

It is not just contemporary people who appreciate such pragmatism. Assaji, one of the Buddha’s disciples, defined the Buddha’s teaching as follows:

All phenomena originate from causes; these causes were explained by the Tathagata [the Buddha]. The cessation of these causes was also explained by the Great Renunciant.*

NO-SELF AND BODHICITTA

The delusion of self is never an essential reality: self is a non-essential construct that arises from ignorance, on the basis of non-essential causes. This condition, known as samsara, is extensively described in the teachings on the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising (Pratityasamutpada). As long as we suffer from this delusion, we continue to wander in the cycle of rebirths.

The Buddha taught that if we investigate, we will find no absolute self, neither in the subjective aggregations that we refer to as our “self,” nor in the objective aggregations of outer phenomena that we refer to as “other.” This does not mean there is no functioning person or phenomena, but it means that if we investigate, we will not find any absolute essence. The Buddha encouraged us to look, because it is this blind assumption that is our downfall.

Through mindfulness, or shamatha, meditation, the practitioner discovers the wider perspective of selflessness — vipashyana — and continues to gradually enhance this experience in ordinary life. Selflessness, or emptiness, is not an otherworldly experience, but a very real sense of presence, of relinquishing fixation on mental content, and providing wider perspective. With such vipashyana, the practitioner ceases to define his or her outlook in terms of self. This ultimately leads to freedom from the conceptual constructions of the ordinary mind (nishprapanca) and the realisation of complete awakening.

The sage’s vision of selflessness leads to renunciation of a private nirvana, and a corresponding vow to assist all sentient beings and liberate them from suffering, which is known as the bodhisattva vow. Such a vow ensures that wisdom doesn’t fall into self-absorption, and also ensures that compassion doesn’t become a personal project. A sage possessing wisdom devoid of warmth would be pitiful, as would a sage possessing love and compassion, yet with the dualistic strings of expectation.

This vision of awakening is called “bodhichitta” — a mind or heart of awakening — and is the core of the bodhisattva’s spirituality; it informs a greater vipashyana, and a greater courage and commitment to the world. Bodhichitta is the heart of the Mahayana path.

We might not be sages ourselves, yet we can appreciate the magnanimous qualities of the bodhisattva. This appreciation reflects a corresponding nature within ourselves — that we have the pure DNA that resonates with wisdom and compassion. This purity is innate to all life as the abiding ground of reality, and to realise this purity is the difference between ordinary sentient beings and a Buddha. All life has basic purity, while Buddhas have the additional purity of awakening.

SUTRA AND MANTRA PERSPECTIVES

In the Sutra path, this two-fold purity is realised gradually. Delusion is eliminated gradually through the practice of the path, in which realisation of wisdom and compassion dawns gradually. The Mantra view sees the same reality from a “glass-full” perspective: as much as we might be neurotic and suffering beings, innately we are Buddhas. Otherwise why practice the path? Unless the condition is curable, why treat it? The good news the Buddha had for us is that our delusional condition is very curable indeed.

While both the paths of the Sutra and Mantra are based on our humble recognition that we are indeed confused and suffering individuals, the Mantra Vajrayana approach banks on the undeniable fact that, being curable patients, we are in reality in possession of the same healthy disposition as the physician, the Buddha. So while this physician prescribes a gradual treatment, the implication is that he or she is empowering our innate untarnished potential to be just as it is.

As the practitioner travels the Mantra path, confusion is purified, giving way to the vipashyana that sees the abiding innate ground of wisdom. Here mind is no longer seen as entirely a confused subjectivity, but rather is seen as a deity, with the world around seen as a pure realm. This is the dawning of sacred reality, also called pure perception, which is the scope of the Vajrayana yogi.

We may temporarily perceive and construct ourselves and others in terms of our delusion and our confused projections, yet the truth is that these constructions are merely temporary fleeting conditions. As it says in the Hevajra Tantra:

Sentient beings are Buddhas;
Temporarily obscured as they might be by fleeting stains,
When these stains are eliminated, they are actual Buddhas.

We are not dreaming up some new reality. We are embracing reality as it is, and this is why even in our obscured state we are presently able to recognise and value wisdom and compassion. While both the gradual and resultant vehicles consist of gradually eliminating obscurations and their causes, and gradually realising our potential, the resultant Vajrayana path acknowledges our true nature as the ground of our journey. We might perceive ourselves as ordinary beings, but we travel the path with an empowered perspective of our true worth.

*Ye dharma hetuprabhava hetum tesham tathagato hyavadat tesham ca yo nirodha evamvadi mahashramanah. The value of this statement is reflected by the fact that in Buddhist ceremonies, this is chanted as an auspicious invocation of the power of truth.

Alan Watts on the 4 Noble Truths and the 8-Fold Path

WARNING: Very long.

The first Noble Truth is duhkha, which in a very generalized sense means suffering. You could as easily say it means chronic frustration. Life as lived by most people is duhkha. It is, in other words, an attempt to solve insoluble problems, to draw a square circle, to have light without dark or dark without light. The attempt to solve problems that are basically insoluble, and to work at them through your whole life, is duhkha.

Buddha went on to subdivide this The First Noble Truth into the Three Signs of Being.

The first sign is duhkha itself, frustration.

The second is anitya, impermanence. Every manifestation of life is impermanent. Our quest to make things permanent, to straighten everything out and get it fixed, presents us with an impossible and insoluble problem, and therefore we experience duhkha, the sense of fundamental pain and frustration that results from trying to make impermanent things permanent.

The third Sign of Being is anatman. The word atman means “self.” Anatman means “nonself.” I have explained elsewhere-in talking about Hinduism-that the idea of the ego is a social institution with no physical reality. The ego is simply your symbol of yourself. Just as the word water is a noise that symbolizes a certain liquid reality without being it, so too the idea of the ego symbolizes the role you play, who you are, but it is not the same as your living organism. Your ego has absolutely nothing to do with the way you color your eyes, shape your body, or circulate your blood. That is the real you, and it is certainly not your ego, because you do not even know how it is done. So anatman means, first, that the ego is unreal; there isn’t one.


This brings us to the second of the Four Noble Truths, which is called trishna. Trishna is a Sanskrit word and the root of our word thirst. It is usually translated “desire,” but it is better translated as “clinging,” “grabbing,” or to use excellent modern American slang, “a hang-up.”

That is exactly what trishna is: a hang-up. When a mother is so afraid that her children may get into trouble that she protects them excessively, and as a result prevents them from growing, that is trishna. When lovers cling to each other excessively and feel they have to sign documents that they will swear to love each other always, they are in a state of trishna. When you hold on to yourself so tightly that you strangle yourself, that is trishna.

The second Noble Truth leads back to the first: clinging is what makes for suffering. When you fail to recognize that this whole world is a phantasmagoria, an amazing illusion, a weaving of smoke, and you try to hold on to it, then you will suffer seriously. Trishna is itself based on avidya. Avidya is ignorance, and it means to ignore or overlook. We notice only what we think noteworthy, and so we ignore all kinds of things. Our vision of reality is highly selective; we pick out a few things and say that they are the universe. In the same way, we select and notice the figure rather than the background. Ordinarily, for instance, when I draw a circle on the blackboard, people see a ball, a circle, or a ring. But I have drawn a wall with a hole in it. You see? Similarly, we think we can have pleasure without pain. We want pleasure, the figure, and do not realize that pain is the background. Avidya is this state of restricted consciousness, or restricted attention. Bound by that state, we move through life, concentrating on one extreme or another, unaware of the fact that “to be” implies “not to be,” and vice versa.


The third Noble Truth is called nirvana. This word means “exhale.” You know that breath is life, and the Greek word pneuma conveys this same idea. It can mean either breath or spirit. In the Book of Genesis, when God had made the clay figurine that was later to be Adam, He breathed the breath of life into its nostrils and it became alive. Life is breath; but if you hold your breath you will lose your life. He who would save his life must lose it. Breathe in, in, in, get as much life as you can, and if you cling to it, you lose it. So nirvana means to breathe out: it is a great sigh of relief. Let the breath of life go because it will come back to you if you do. But if you do not let it go you will suffocate. A person in the state of nirvana is in a state of exhalation. Let go, don’t cling, and you will be in the state of nirvana.

I reemphasize that l am not preaching to you about what you ought to do with your life. I am simply pointing out the state of affairs of the world as it is. There is no moralism in this whatsoever. If you put your hand into a fire, you will get burned. It is all right to get burned if you want to, but if it so happens that you do not want to get burned, then don’t put your hand in a fire. It is the same if you do not want to be in a state of anxiety. It is perfectly all right to be anxious, if you like to be anxious. Buddhism never hurries anyone. It says, “You’ve got all eternity to live in various forms, therefore you do not have just one life in which to avoid eternal damnation. You can go running around the wheel in the rat race just as long as you want, so long as you think it’s fun. And if there comes a time when you no longer think it’s fun to be anxious, you don’t have to continue.” Someone who disagrees with this may say, “We ought to engage the forces of evil in battle and put this world to right, and arrange everything in it so that everything is good and nothing is bad.” Try it, please. It is perfectly okay to try. And if you discover that these attempts are futile, you can then let go. You can give up clinging. Relax in that way and you will be in the state of nirvana. You will become a buddha. Of course, that will make you a rather astonishing person, although you may be subtle about it and disguise your buddhahood so that you will not get people mixed up.

The Buddha explained that his doctrine or method was a raft, sometimes called a yana, meaning a vehicle or conveyance. When you cross a river on a raft and you get to the other shore, you do not pick up the raft and carry it on your back. People who are hooked on religion are always on the raft. They are going back and forth and back and forth on the raft. The clergyman tends to become a ferryman who is always on the raft and never gets over to the other shore. There is something to be said for that, of course. How else are we to get the raft back to the first shore to bring over more people? Somebody has to volunteer to make the return journey. But one must realize that the real objective is to get the people across and set them free. If you dedicate yourself to ferrying people across, do not ask them to come back on the raft with you. People must not think that the raft is the goal; they must understand that it is simply a conveyance to the other shore, which is the real goal. When clergymen say, “We would like your pledge, your voluntary contribution,” and nobody knows how much money to give, that is attachment to the idea of the raft.


We come now to the fourth Noble Truth, which is called marga. This word means “path.” The way of Buddhism is often called the Noble Eightfold Path because of the eight methods or practices that are components of this last noble truth. These eight steps can be divided into three phases. They are not sequential and so do not need to be followed in any particular order. They are described by the word samyak, which, though it is usually translated as meaning “right,” is actually the same, really, as our word sum: total, complete, all-inclusive. We might also use the word integrated-as when we say a person has integrity, is all of a piece, is not divided against himself-as a synonym for samyak.

The first phase of the eightfold path of the fourth Noble Truth consists of three components: right view, right consideration, and right speech. Right view, samyak drishti, is related to samyak darshan, which means a point of view, or a viewing. When you go to visit a great guru or teacher to have darshan, you look at him and offer your reverence to him. Darshan has many senses, but it means, simply, to view, or to look at the view.

As an example of right view, let us consider the right view of the constellation called the Big Dipper. When we look out from our specific, earthly point in space, it seems that the stars that form the Big Dipper must naturally form it, and always will. But imagine looking at them from somewhere else in space altogether. Those stars would not look like a dipper. They would be in an altogether different position relative to each other. What is the true relationship of those stars, then? There isn’t one? Or else you could say that the true view of those stars would be their relationship when looked at from all points of view simultaneously. That would be the truth. But there is no such thing as the truth. The world, in other words, does not exist independently of those who witness it. Its existence derives from the existence of a relationship between the world and its witnesses. So if there are no eyes in this world, the sun doesn’t make any light, nor do the stars. That which is, is a relationship. You can, for example, prop up two sticks by leaning them against each other. They will stand, but only by depending on each other. Take one away and the other falls. So in Buddhism it is taught that everything in this universe depends on everything else.

This is called the Doctrine of Mutual Interdependence. Everything hangs on you and you hang on everything, just as the two sticks support each other. This idea is conveyed in the symbol of Indra’s net. Imagine a multidimensional spider’s web covered with dewdrops. Every dewdrop contains the reflection of all the other dewdrops, and in each reflected dewdrop are the reflections of all the other dewdrops in that reflection, and so on, ad infinitum. That is the image of the Buddhist conception of the universe. The Japanese call that ji ji muge. Ii means a thing, event, or happening. Muge means “no separation.” So, between happening and happening there is no separation: ji ji muge.

The second phase of the fourth Noble Truth has to do with action. It consists of three more paths: the paths of right action, right livelihood, and right effort. The Buddhist idea of ethics is based on expediency. If you are engaged in the way of liberation and you want to clarify your consciousness, your actions must be consistent with that goal. To this end, every Buddhist takes comfort in three refuges and makes five vows.

The Three Refuges are the Buddha; the dharma, or doctrine; and the sangha, or the fellowship of all those who are on the way. The Five Precepts are to undertake to abstain from taking life, from taking what is not given, from exploiting the passions, from falsifying speech, and from being intoxicated.

If you kill people you have to become involved in the consequences of that action. If you steal you have to suffer attachment to the consequences of that action. If you exploit your passions you must pay the consequences of that. A lot of people who suffer from obesity are trying simply to fill their empty psyche by stuffing themselves with food, but it is the wrong cure. If you start lying, you will become involved with the consequences of that action. speech will collapse. So these five precepts represent a purely practical and utilitarian approach to mortality.

The last phase of the Eightfold Path concerns the mind, or its state of consciousness, and has to do with what we would ordinarily call meditation. In this phase are the two final aspects of the path, the seventh and eighth. They are called samyak smriti and samyak samadhi.

Smriti means recollection or mindfulness. The word re-collect means to gather together what has been scattered. The opposite of “remember” is obviously “dismember.” What has been chopped up and scattered becomes re-membered. In the Christian scheme- “Do this in remembrance of me”-the Christ has been sacrificed and chopped up, and the mass is a ritual of remembrance. One of the old liturgies says that the wheat that has been scattered all over the hills and then grows is gathered again into the bread, i.e., re-membered. In the Hindu View the world is regarded as the result of the dismemberment of the self, the brahman, the godhead. The one has been dismembered into the many. So remembrance means to realize that each single member of the many is really the one; that is re-collection.

You can think of this in another way. It is really the same way, but I will not explain exactly how. I will leave you with a few puzzles. This other way to be recollected is to be completely here and now.

There was a wise old boy who used to give lectures on these things and he would get up and not say a word. He would just look at the audience and examine every person individually, and everyone would start to feel uncomfortable. He wouldn’t say anything but would just look at everyone. Then he would suddenly shout, “WAKE UP! You’re all asleep.”

Are you here, recollected? Most people aren’t. They are bothering about yesterday and wondering what they are going to do tomorrow, and they are not all here. That is a definition of sanity, to be all here. To be recollected is to be completely alert and available for the present, which is the only place you are ever going to be in. Yesterday does not exist. Tomorrow never comes. There is only today. A great Sanskrit invocation says, “Look to this day, for it is life. In its brief course lies all the realities of our existence. Yesterday is but a memory. Tomorrow is only a vision. Look well then to this day.”

Beyond smriti, recollectedness, being all here, comes the last step of the Eightfold Path, samyak samadhi. Samyak samadhi is integrated consciousness; in it there is no separation between knower and the known, subject and object. You are what you know.

We think ordinarily that we are witnesses to a constantly changing panorama of experience from which we, as the knowers of this experience, stand aside and watch. We think of our minds as a kind of tablet on which experience writes a record. Eventually experience, by writing so much on the tablet, wears it out, scratches it away, and then we die. But actually there is no difference between the knower and the known. I cannot explain this to you in words; you can only find it out for yourself. When I say, “I see a sight; I feel a feeling,” I am being redundant. “I see” implies the sight. “I feel” implies the feeling. Do you hear sounds? No, you just hear. Or else you can say simply that there are sounds; either way of expressing it will do. If you thoroughly investigate the process of experiencing, you will find that the experience is the same as the experiencer. This is the state of samadhi.

I suggested before that the organism and the environment are a single behavioral process. Now I will put it another way: the knower and the known are the same. You, as someone who is aware-walong with all that you are aware of-are a single process. That is the state of samadhi.

You get to the samadhi state by the practice of meditation. Virtually every Buddha figure is seen in the posture of meditation, sitting quietly, aware of all that is going on without commenting on it, without thinking about it. When you cease categorizing, verbalizing, talking to yourself, the difference between knower and known, self and other, simply vanishes. What is the difference, anyway? Can you point to the thing that makes my fingers different from each other? There is no thing called difference. The idea of difference is an abstraction. It just does not exist in the physical world.

This is not to say, however, that my fingers are all the same. They are neither different nor the same. Difference and sameness are ideas. You cannot point to an idea. You cannot put your finger on it. This is what Buddhists mean when they say the world is basically sunya, empty, a void. Everything is sunya. You cannot catch the world in a conceptual net any more than you can catch water in a net. Sunya does not mean that the world itself and the energy of the world are nothing, however. It means that no concept of the world is valid. No ideas or beliefs or doctrines or systems or theories can contain the universe.

If you “exhale,” then, if you let go of conceptions, you will be in the state of nirvana, for no reason that anybody can explain. When you enter that state there will well up from within you what the Buddhists call karuna, or compassion. This is the sense that you are not separate from everybody else but that everybody else is suffering as you are. It is a tremendous sense of solidarity with all other beings. The person who reaches nirvana does not withdraw from the world, therefore, but comes back from samadhi into it and its difficulties and all the problems of life renewed and filled with compassion for everyone.

2

Three Teachings refers to Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism when considered as a harmonious aggregate.

Confucianism

Confucianism is a complex school of thought, sometimes also referred to as a religion, revolving around the principles of the Chinese philosopher Kong Zi (westernized: Confucius). It was developed in the Spring and Autumn Period during the Zhou Dynasty. Main concepts of this philosophy include Ru (humaneness), righteousness, propriety/etiquette, loyalty, and filial piety, along with a strict adherence to social roles. This is illustrated through the five main relationships Confucius interpreted to be the core of society: ruler-subject, father-son, husband-wife, elder brother-younger brother, and friend-friend. In these bonds, the latter must pay respect to and serve the former, while the former is bound to care for the latter.

The following quotation is from the Analects, a compilation of Confucius’ sayings and teachings, written after his death by his disciples. “The superior man has a dignified ease without pride. The mean man has pride without a dignified ease.” ― Confucius, The Analects of Confucius

This quotation exemplifies Confucius’ idea of the junzi (Chinese: 君子) or gentleman. Originally this expression referred to “the son of a ruler”, but Confucius redefined this concept to mean behavior (in terms of ethics and values such as loyalty and righteousness) instead of mere social status.[3]

Taoism

Taoism, or Daoism, is a philosophy centered on the belief that life is normally happy, but should be lived with balance and virtue. Its origin can be traced back to the late 4th century B.C and the main thinkers representative of this teaching are Laozi and Zhuangzi. Key components of Daoism are Dao (the Way) and immortality, along with a stress on balance found throughout nature. There is less emphasis on extremes and instead focuses on the interdependence between things. For example, the yin/yang symbol does not exemplify good or evil. It shows that there are two sides to everything -“Within the Yang there exists the Yin and vice versa.” 

The basis of Taoist philosophy is the idea of “wu wei”, often translated as “not doing”. But, in practice, it refers to an in-between state of “not doing” and “being, but not acting”. This concept also overlaps with an idea in Confucianism as Confucius similarly believed that a perfect sage could rule without taking action. Two other assumptions in the Taoist system are 1) any extreme action can initiate a counteraction of equal extremity and 2) excessive government can become tyrannical and unjust, even government created with good intentions.

The following is a quote from the Dao De Jing, one of the main texts in Daoist teachings. “The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing)

Buddhism

Buddhism is a religion that is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. The main principles of this belief system are karma, reincarnation, and impermanence. Buddhists believe that life is full of suffering, but that suffering can be overcome by attaining enlightenment. Nirvana (a state of perfect happiness) can be obtained by breaking away from (material) attachments and purifying the mind. However, different doctrines vary on the practices and paths followed in order to do so. Meditation serves as a significant part in practicing Buddhism. This calming and working of the mind helps Buddhists strive to become more peaceful and positive, while developing wisdom through solving everyday problems. The negative mental states that are sought to be overcome are called “delusions”, while the positive mental states are called “virtuous minds”.Another concept prominent in the Buddhist belief system is the Eight-Fold Path. The Eight-Fold Path is the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, which is said to be the first of all Buddha’s teachings.It stresses areas in life that can be explored and practice, such as right speech and right intention.

The Buddha’s First Teaching

‘Hundreds of years ago, under a sacred fig tree in Bodh Gaya, India, the Buddha woke up; he realized deep awakening. His first thought upon awakening was the realization that every living being has this capacity to wake up. He wanted to create a path that would help others realize insight and enlightenment. The Buddha did not want to create a religion. To follow a path you don’t have to believe in a creator.

After the Buddha was enlightened, he enjoyed sitting under the Bodhi tree, doing walking meditation along the banks of the Neranjara River, and visiting a nearby lotus pond. The children from nearby Uruvela village would come to visit him. He sat and ate fruit with them and gave them teachings in the form of stories. he wanted to share his experience of practice and awakening with his closest five friends and old partners in practice. He heard they were now living in the Deer Park near Benares. It took him about two weeks to walk from Bodh Gaya to the Deer Park, I imagine he enjoyed every step.

In his very first teaching to his five friends, the Buddha talked about the path of ethics. He said that the path to insight and enlightenment was the noble eightfold path, also called the eight ways of correct practice. The eightfold path is the fourth of the Buddha’s four noble truths. If we understand the four noble truths and use their insight to inform our actions in our daily lives, then we are on the path to peace and happiness.’

- Thich Nhat Hanh, Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society.

In life, there are four noble truths. 

The first noble truth is that, wherever there is life, there is suffering. 

The second noble truth identifies that the source of our suffering is desire and attachment. Whether it be our craving for material objects, our lust for money or beauty, or our craving for life’s pleasures. Our expectations of things, and people, too often disappoint us and don’t align with reality. And this is the root of suffering. 

The third noble truth tells us that the way to end our suffering is to remove all desire, hatred and ignorance from our lives. To not lust after people and objects, to not judge or hold ill-will to another, and to be aware of the world around us. 

The fourth noble truth teaches us that once we have begun to achieve these things we can embark on the path to the end of suffering. 


You do not need to be buddhist or believe in buddhism to apply these concepts to your life. To be free of hate and ignorance is something that anyone can aspire to be. Buddha said  “I teach suffering, its origin, cessation and path. That’s all I teach”.

Buddhism teaches us not to try to run away from suffering. You have to confront suffering. You have to look deeply into the nature of suffering in order to recognize its cause, the making of the suffering. Suffering is the First Noble Truth, and the making of the suffering — namely, the roots of suffering — is the Second Noble Truth. Once you understand the roots of suffering, the Fourth Noble Truth — the path leading to the transformation of suffering — is revealed. And if you go on that path — namely, the path of right thinking, right speech, and right action — then you can transform your suffering.
If you practice in a community, you help the community to transform suffering. And if you practice as a nation, you help the whole nation to transform suffering.
—  Thich Nhat Hanh

anonymous asked:

What are the basic principles that serve as the foundation for Buddhism? I'm really confused right now. I was born and raised a Christian, however I have stopped practicing it 3 years ago. Then I became an atheist, then an agnostic. I still feel empty so I think I need "something" to believe in, something that actually agrees with my reasoning..

There are four basic concepts in Buddism called the Four Noble Truths. They are as listed:

1) “life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic becaue pessimism is expecting things to be bad. Instead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.”

2) “suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to confrom to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want, etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifeteime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So, craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.”

3) “suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. If we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dewlling in the past or the imagine future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.”

4) “The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-Fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering. It is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focusing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.”

Buddhists also believe in Karma, which is the law that every cause has an effect - this is what I call the “Ripple Effect”. To test the karmic effect of our actions we must look at the intention that is behind the action as well as the effects from it on oneself and the finally how it effects others.

It is also believed that true wisdom is attained by experiencing and understanding truth and reality; it requires and open, objective, unbigoted mind and is something that I actually try to do, though I’m not Buddhist.

One thing that I’ve even mentioned before on this site is that people need to listen to themselves - not others - as other people’s paths don’t really teach them anything. Basically saying, that the person needs to take their own path, decide for themselves and take responsibilty for their own actions and understanding. This is something basic that buddhists also apply within themselves as “he Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves.”

Namaste,

Forrest Curran

Buddhism’s Unique View

‘Buddhism is famed for the four noble truths that lay out its foundational logic. They are: suffering, the causes of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path. Surely all religions and philosophies are born of the need to address the unsatisfactoriness of human life. It is Buddhism’s analysis of the cause and of and solution to suffering that makes it stand alone. This analysis is what the Dalai Lama has summarized in a single, precise sentence that encapsulates Buddhism’s unique view of the human condition: “The suffering and happiness each of us experiences, is a reflection of the distortion or clarity with which we view ourselves and the world.”

We experience suffering, he is telling us, because we don’t understand. Our view of reality is distorted and inaccurate. We are simply mistaken, not sinful or flawed. We are, in a word, ignorant. We think that we and the world we experience are solid, continuous, and permanent, and we cause ourselves and others unending pain in our futile effort to maintain that illusion. Ignorance is the cause of suffering: this is the second noble truth, Buddhism’s unique diagnosis of the human condition.

Therefore, the Dalai Lama continues, we experience happiness - the cessation of suffering - when we understand with clarity the true nature of ourselves and our world. No longer attached to realities that are at best momentary, we do not experience fear. We do not generate the three poisons of like, dislike, and indifference. We are not selfish. We are, in a word, wise. Our hearts are open, our minds are clear, and we benefit ourselves and others. Seeing reality clearly is the cause of the cessation of suffering: this is the third noble truth. Buddhism’s unique remedy for the human condition.

This brings is to the fourth noble truth, the path, which breaks down into eight parts. Six involve leading an ethical and virtuous life, and in this Buddhism concurs with the other major religions. The remaining two - wisdom and meditation - reflect Buddhism’s insight that the real problem is in the mind, and only there can we solve it. This is a more practical and far-reaching truth than we could ever imagine.’

- Adapted from Melvin McLeod in the Introduction to The Best Buddhist Writing 2012.

‘The Four Noble Truths’…

The First Noble Truth: Dukkha

Life is full of suffering. Dukkha usually is translated as suffering. In life, we have illness, poverty, disease, old age and death. We cannot keep what we like and can not avoid what we do not like. If this is all we know we suffer.

The Second Noble Truth: Samudaya

There is a cause for suffering. The cause of suffering is desire and illusions that are based on ignorance. Because of ignorance, wanting something leads to clumsy actions, which in turn lead to suffering. Wanting life, wanting death, wanting things, wanting pleasure - all lead to suffering.

The Third Noble Truth: Nirodha

There is a state of mind free from suffering. By stopping the cravings, the suffering is stopped.

The Fourth Noble Truth: Marga

There is a way to end suffering. To end suffering we must end our cravings. The way to end cravings is the Eightfold Path ..

The Teaching of Gautama the Buddha

From my partner @marseelee

anonymous asked:

What is buddhism, and what is its beliefs

Buddhism is more of a philosophy or a way of life and is no-where near being violent. Just like any other religion or belief system, it provides codes of practices that help with life which would lead to true happiness. As interesting as it may seem, Buddhism also helps to develop a deep understanding of the human mind as well as healing.

There are a few other things in being Buddhist that I find interesting is that there is no material wanting; no possession, however, respecting and keeping fit not only the mind but the body which pretty much makes the spirit happy.

Unlike other religions and belief systems, Buddhism tends to be a bit more tolerant of other religions and beliefs. Their main thing is agreeing with moral teachings, but aim towards true understanding.

Another interesting fact: There have never been wars fought in the name of that belief system. Something can be learned from this actually.

There are four basic concepts in Buddism called the Four Noble Truths. They are as listed:

1) “life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic becaue pessimism is expecting things to be bad. Instead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.”

2) “suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to confrom to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want, etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifeteime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So, craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.”

3) “suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. If we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dewlling in the past or the imagine future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.”

4) “The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-Fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering. It is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focusing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.”

Buddhists also believe in Karma, which is the law that every cause has an effect - this is what I call the “Ripple Effect”. To test the karmic effect of our actions we must look at the intention that is behind the action as well as the effects from it on oneself and the finally how it effects others.

It is also believed that true wisdom is attained by experiencing and understanding truth and reality; it requires and open, objective, unbigoted mind and is something that I actually try to do, though I’m not Buddhist.

One thing that I’ve even mentioned before on this site is that people need to listen to themselves - not others - as other people’s paths don’t really teach them anything. Basically saying, that the person needs to take their own path, decide for themselves and take responsibilty for their own actions and understanding. This is something basic that buddhists also apply within themselves as “he Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves.”

Namaste,

Forrest Curran

This tattoo that we see on Ash’s forearm in Dark Side of the Moon has been driving me nuts for a long time, not the least of why because we only see it on this one scene of him showing Sam his practical application for string theory. In other shots of his arm? It’s not there.

It’s just not there.

Nor did we ever see it on his arm before, when he was alive. We can surmise from this that the symbol has some kind of meaning and that the meaning was particular to the scene.

I had searched for the symbol and its significance for a long time, but it wasn’t until my recent rewatch of My Own Private Idaho that it clicked for me:

Mikey has the symbol on his coat over his left shoulder, we see it several times, from different angles. And from some angles, it looks like the number 4.

And in fact when we look at the evolution of the number, the Sanskrit shape for number four, from which later the Arabic and then the European numbers developed (and keep in mind that the text of the episode explicitly references Vātsyāyana, an ancient Hindu cryptographer) looks like the symbol in Ash’s tattoo:


With Mikey, it’s possible that the number references Shakespeare’s Henry(s) IV, on which the film is based, but there seems to be no connection between the plays and the Supernatural episode.

There are so many things symbolized by the number four that we can’t be certain why it should be significant in the scene. But there are two things mentioned in the scene that seem important: string theory and nirvana. Dean does not think that heaven is nirvana, Dean thinks it’s the Matrix. But what is nirvana, for him? Where does Dean Winchester find peace?

Featured: a narrative mirror.

In the context that the concept of nirvana is explicitly mentioned and that the number on Ash’s tattoo is Indic in origin, the thing that number four immediately recalls are The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. And the fourth noble truth? This is the path leading to the cessation of pain.

Because he’s there to bring Dean peace, and not pain. Carry on, my wayward son. There will be peace when you are done.

Thoughts, alternative explanations?