The Basis of Right Action: The Four Noble Truths
‘The Buddha always taught that we should practice the Four Noble Truths:
1. There is suffering.
2. There is an origin of suffering.
3. The end of suffering is possible.
4. There is a path to the end of suffering.
With the practice of mindfulness we are already working with the Four Noble Truths. When we practice mindfulness, we learn to stop and to calm ourselves; then we naturally recognize our suffering and the suffering of others. By looking deeply we see into the causes of suffering and the way to transform our suffering and the suffering of others. When you can transform the war and violence in yourself, then you can truly begin to help others find peace.
Suffering is a part of life. As bodhisattvas in training, we have vowed to use our Mind of Love to alleviate and transform suffering and the roots of suffering, we put into action the First and Second Noble Truths. By looking deeply, we can see the cause of suffering, we can see that it’s possible to end suffering, and we can also see the path that leads to the end of suffering. This puts into action the Third and Fourth Noble Truths.
Taking action to stop suffering is Right Action. Understanding is the foundation of every good action. No action can be called Right Action without Right Understanding. In order to understand, we have to listen, but how do we know we have Right Understanding? If you try to help someone but your actions only worsen the situation, then you do not have Right Understanding. If your government passes an unjust law, it is because your representatives did not have Right Understanding of the problem they were trying to address. All actions - all our personal, political, and humanitarian activities - must be based on a clear understanding of yourself, of your situation, of your own people, of your country.
Deep listening and loving speech are wonderful instruments to help us arrive at the kind of understanding we all need as a basis for appropriate action. You listen deeply for only one purpose - to allow the other person to empty his or her heart. This is already an act of relieving suffering. To stop any suffering, no matter how small, is a great action of peace. The path to end suffering depends on your understanding and your capacity to act without causing harm or further suffering. This is acting with compassion, your best protection.’
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Creating True Peace: Ending Conflict in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community and The World.