Thursday, August 10, 2017


                             THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

 A written and detailed exposition of the Dhamma Talk given at the UQ Buddhist Chaplaincy to the University students on the 7th, August 2017.



Ascetic Siddhartha Gautama, after training the period of austerities for six years realized that: “By this racking practice of austerities I have not gained any super human states, any distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. Could there be another path to Enlightenment (Mahasaccaka Sutta).” He walked to Bodh Gaya, on the day before the Vesak full moon day, where he sat himself beneath the Bodhi Tree in the meditation posture and vowed not to rise from meditation until he had attained perfect enlightenment. There he had eaten solid food and regained his strength, energy back and was quite secluded from sensual pleasures and secluded from unwholesome states.

“ There he recalled an earlier incident, living with the Sakyans under the cool shade of a, rose apple tree, a state he was quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered upon and abided in the first Jana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. Could that be the path to enlightenment?’ Then following on that memory came the realisation: That is indeed the path to enlightenment (Mahasaccaka Sutta, MN).”

 The Four Noble Truths    

Before the setting of the sun, he had overcome the force of mara; in the first watch (6:00- 10pm), started seen his previous states of existence: “such was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my nutriment, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my life term; and passing away from there, I appeared here. Thus with their aspects and particulars, I recollected my manifolded past lives (Bhayabherava Sutta MN).”

 In the middle watch (10:00pm-2:00am), acquired supernormal vision, “Thus with divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, I saw beings passing a way and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, fortune and in fortune, and I understood how beings pass on according to their actions Bayabherava Sutta MN). In the last watch (2:00am- 4:00am), I directed it to knowledge of the destruction of the taints.” 

 The Buddha understood the four Noble Truth “When I knew and saw thus, my mind was liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, from the taint of ignorance. When it was liberated, there came the knowledge: It is liberated, I directly knew: Birth is destroyed, the holey life had been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being (Bayabherava Sutta, MN).” Thus it was clear the Buddha was focusing his thoughts on Dependent Origination and at sun rise he obtained complete enlightenment.
The term vidhya is being used in contrast to avidya, ignorance or the lack of knowledge, which binds us to samsara. The Mahasaccaka Sutta describes the three knowledges which the Buddha attained:
1. Insight into his past lives  
2. Insight into the workings of Karma and countless Rebirths of his and others through divine eye
3. Insight into the Four Noble Truths

Dependent Arising: Patticca Samuppada - By Bhikkhu Bodhi
The Buddha says, "One who sees dependent arising sees the Dhamma and one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent arising." The Dhamma is the truth discovered by the Buddha. In his statement the Buddha makes an explicit equation between the profound truth he has realized and dependent arising. Again in describing his own quest for enlightenment, the Buddha says that immediately before his enlightenment, when he was sitting in meditation he began inquiring into the chain of conditioning, seeking the causal origination of suffering, and this inquiry led him to the discovery of dependent arising. So from one angle one can equate the discovery of dependent arising with the attainment of enlightenment itself.

The Buddha says this dependent arising is deep in truth and deep in appearance. It is through not understanding and not penetrating this truth of dependent arising that living beings have become entangled like a matted ball of thread, or have to become like grass and rushes, unable to pass beyond the woeful states of existence, unable to escape from samsara, the cycle of becoming. Thus dependent arising is not only the content of the Buddha's enlightenment, not only a philosophical doctrine, but it is also the truth that has to be realized to gain liberation from suffering. So this is the key not only to the intellectual understanding of the Dhamma, but to the attainment of liberation itself.”

The First Discourse
The Dhammachacca Pawatwana Sutta – (Setting the wheel of Dhamma in Motion (MN)
It was first delivered to the Five Ascetics, most former colleagues of the Buddha, at the Deer Park in Isipathana, near Benares on the Esala Full Moon Day, two months after his Enlightenment.

He addressed the first five Bhikkhus as follows: 

There are two extremes which should be avoided by recluse

  1.  The constant attachment to sensual pleasures which is vulgar, worldly, ignoble and profitless.

  2.  Constant addiction to self-mortification which is painful, ignoble and profitless. 

Avoiding these two extremes, the Thatagatha has discovered the middle path which promotes sight, knowledge, and peace, higher Wisdom, Enlightenment and Nibbana.  
It is this Middle Path, the Noble Eight-fold Path: namely:
Right view/ Understanding, Right thoughts, Right speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Samadi (concentration).

The Buddha realised the facts regarding the Four Noble Truths, namely: 

dukka – suffering/ un-satisfactoriness
Samudaya- the arising of origin of dukka,
niroda- the cessation of dukka and
margaya – the way leading to the cessation of suffering.  

According to Buddha’s teaching the entire world which is in a state of flux is full of suffering. The Buddha has shown the path to end the suffering. According to Sachcha Vibanga Sutta, there are 12 ways the suffering could be explained. 

The 1 First Noble Truth Dukka – Suffering/un-satisfactoriness
"Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of birth is dukkha, ageing is dukkha, death is dukkha, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unpleasant is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha (SN)."

The first Noble Truth contains the ordinary meaning of suffering. It also includes deeper ideas such as, un-satisfactoryness, imperfection, impermanence, emptiness, insubstantially etc.
Here the Buddha does not deny happiness in life, when he says there is suffering. He admitted all forms of happiness, both material and spiritual, for lay men & women as well as monks and nuns. 

In Anguttara Nikaya, There is a list of happiness described by the Buddha.
The happiness of family life & life of a recluse, The happiness of sense pleasure, The happiness of renunciation, The happiness of attachment, The happiness of detachment, Physical and mental happiness etc.; But all these are included in dukka. Even the very high spiritual happiness in Jana states are included in dukka.
Suffering is a part of human existence. Knowing that, we should learn to gain some relief during the times of difficulty. After some time, your dissatisfaction will disappear and change into happiness.

The conception of dukka can be viewed from three aspects:
1.  Dukka as ordinary suffering (dukka, dukka)
2.  Dukka  produced by change (viparinama dukka)
3.  Dukka as conditional state (samkara dukka)

1. Dukka, dukka
All kinds of suffering in life, birth, old age and sickness etc.

2. Dukka produced by change
A happy feeling a happy condition in life is not permanent, not everlasting. It changes sooner or later. When it changes it produces pain suffering and unhappiness. This vicissitude is indulged in dukka as suffering produced by change.

3. The third form of dukka as conditioned states (samkara dukka) is the most important philosophical aspect of the 1st Noble Truth. 

In Buddhism, man or woman is a living creature that has come into being as a result of his/her actions and un-quenched desires as a combination of physical and mental constituents.
It need an analytical explanation of what we consider as a “being” as an individual or as I. They are a combination of ever changing physical and mental forces or energies, which may be divided into five groups or aggregates. 

The Buddha says in short, these five aggregates of all attachment are dukka. Dukka and five aggregates are not two different things. 

Five Aggregates: The purpose of this analysis is to create the wisdom of non- self
1.  Rupa – Matter or Foam 
Five aggregate of matter are included in the four great essentials:
Solidity or earth, fluidity or water, air and heat
2.  Feelings: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral (aggregates of sensations)
3.  Perceptions: cognising objects with contact
4.  Mental formations: Included in all volitional activities both good and bad (karma). “It is volition that I call Karma.” said the Buddha.
5.  Consciousness: awareness of the presence of an object. Consciousness arises out of conditions. There is no arising of consciousness without conditions.

A being or an individual or I is only a convenient name or a label given to the combination of these five groups. They are all impermanent, all consistently changing. Whatever is impermanent is dukka. In brief the five aggregates of attachment are dukka. 

“ Oh Brahman it is just like a mountain river, flowing far and swift, taking everything along with it, there is no moment, no instant no second when it stops flowing, but it goes on flowing and continuing. So Bramana is human life, like a mountain river. The world is in continues flux and is impermanent (the Buddha).”
One thing disappears, conditioning the appearance of the next in a series of cause and effect.  The five aggregate which we called namely is the idea of a self.  

2. The Second Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering
It is the craving which produces rebirth, accompanied by passionate clinging, welcoming this and that. The dissatisfaction arise not because of the things that arise out there. But because of our mental state that we suffer. The cause of suffering comes from three main saucers, our mental craving, hatred and ignorance. It is the craving that produces renewal of being accompanied by enjoyment and lust, enjoying this and that. 

1.  It is the craving for sensual pleasures (kama tanha)
2.  Craving for being (bava tanha)
3.  Craving for non-being (vibava tanha)

In Pali the word used is “Tanha” means “thrust.” All cravings lead to dissatisfaction or suffering. Each one of us are caught up in this craving and we can’t see it until we come to realise that every conditioned thing is unreliable and impermanent. This is because our desires don’t match with reality.

3. Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
It is the complete separation of and destruction of this very craving, renunciation, the liberation and non-attachment. Suffering can be given up by relinquishing and letting go of our craving.

4. The Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering:
 It is the Noble Eight Fold Path
 “As long as , O Bhikkhus, the absolute true knowledge regarding these Four Noble Truths under their three aspects and twelve modes was perfectly clear to me, so long I did not acknowledge, in this world, together with gods, Maras, and Brahmins, amongst the hosts of ascetics and priests, gods and men, that I gained the incomparable, Supreme Enlightenment. The absolute truth regarding these four noble truths, under their three aspects and twelve modes, became perfectly clear to me, then only I acknowledge in this world, together with gods, maras, and Bramins, amongst the hosts of ascetics and priests, gods and men, that I gained the incomparable, Supreme Enlightenment.”
“And there arose in me the knowledge and insight Unshakable is the deliverance of my mind, this is my last birth, now there is no more rebirth.” 

12 modes
This is the Noble Truth of Suffering
This Noble Truth of Suffering should be perceived
This Noble Truth of Suffering has been perceived

This is This Noble Truth of cause of Suffering
This Noble Truth of Cause of Suffering should be eradicated
This Noble Truth of cause of Suffering has been eradicated

This is the Noble Truth of Cessation of suffering
This Noble Truth of Cessation of suffering should be realised
This Noble Truth of Cessation of suffering has been realised

This is the noble truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering

This Noble Truth of the path leading to the Cessation of suffering should be developed
This Noble Truth of the path leading to the Cessation of suffering has been developed

The absolute true intuitive knowledge regarding these four noble truths and their three Aspects and 12 modes became perfectly clear to me. 

The Buddha was realistic and objective with regard to life and enjoyment of sense pleasures:
One should clearly understand three things and reflect on these three modes often:
1.  Attraction of sense pleasure (aswadaya)
2.  Evil consequence of danger or un satisfactoriness (adinawa)
3.  Freedom from liberation (nissaranaya)

We can always reflect on the teachings of the Four Noble Truths into our day to day life. We can be watchful of how attachment  clinging, and greed cause sadness in us. How do they arise and disappear? They arise due to attachment and clinging. We can watch how these conditions arise and when freed, how much relief can we gain from letting go of them. We can watch how causes and conditions affect our mind. We can observe the way leading to the cessation of this dissatisfaction in life, and realise that treading the Eight Fold Noble Path can ease a lot of pain and suffering.

If we can understand this reality of nature, letting go of this being, ego or I, even to a limited extent, as students, we can be careful and skillful in all our actions performed through our body speech and mind. Treading the Noble Eight Fold Path is the path leading to peace and happiness. We should determine not to get over indulged in unnecessary worldly pleasures and be mindful of our livelihood. Meditation is practiced to purify our mind, gain peace and to perform our duties and studies mindfully. It will help us to get rid of our anxieties and stress and is the only way to end all defilement s.

In our next session we will discuss about the Eight Fold Noble Path.

A truth seeker attains this stage through seven stages in consequence. This progress is characterized as Sapta Visuddhiya. “The Seven Stages of Purification.”

Or the “Relay Chariots” in “Ratavinitha Sutta” (MN 24)
Refer to:

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