Four Noble Truths of Buddha is almost known by all Indian students specifically Northern part. There were many stories about the Life of Buddha in primary schools as well as secondary & higher secondary schools. This was also a topic in the subject of History in Intermediate Schools, colleges (Art subjects) those who used to choose History & social science. Today's writing about the very surface knowledge about that.
I will start with a short story. Some of you might known that Siddhartha Gautam (childhood name of Buddha) was the son of a king named Suddodhana. After his birth, the king invited many saints, sages, monks to bless baby Siddhartha. Everyone blessed him but one of the old, enlightened monk gave the information to the king that either your son would become a great King (or emperor), or he would become a great Saint that will show the path of knowledge/freedom to entire world. King wanted his son to be a king, emperor and not a monk, so Siddhartha Gautam was being secluded away from all kinds of sufferings. The king arranged all great luxurious things so his mind would not go towards Sufferings. But who knows what is hidden in the womb of future?
One day, Siddhartha gone outside the palace with wise charioteer to see the kingdom, and he show four different sights. He saw a sick person, then old man, then he saw one dead body being carried to crematorium to burn. In three sights all were facing sufferings. Each time Siddhartha asked to wise charioteer that would it be happen to my father, relatives & me also, and every time he got the answer "yes, yes you and your relatives would get sick, yes you and your relatives also will become old, and yes you and your relatives also will die one day."
In fourth sight Siddhartha saw a monk sitting under a tree, having immense peace, shine on the face, he asked "who is this man?" he have nothing except a small unstiched clothe but looks so happy and peaceful.
Wise charioteer replied that this is a monk, a saint that has eradicated all the Dukhas or Sufferings therefore he is happy now.
These four sights of that day, changed this mind completely, and later on, we all know what happened... One day he left his wife, son, home and became a monk then performed the great austerity, eradicated the cause/roots of Sufferings, and became enlightened/awakened being (called Buddha).
Time has changed but we can't deny that disease, old age & death are not sufferings. We all have seen very closely specifically after the covid, but the layer of ignorance is so thick that still we are not taking the lessons, we all continue ignoring the truth behind all the sufferings. Anyway, see what are the four fundamental truths of reality that's the core of Buddha's teachings.
In Sanskrit those four Noble Truths called "Chatvari aryasatyani" (means there are four "Arya Satya" or noble truths). The teaching of Buddha written in "Pali" language, in Pali "Chatari ariyasaccani" means there are four Noble Truths (of reality).
To understand these four Noble Truths we can see them from the doctor's point of view. How doctors use to look/examine in their patients:
Will look these four points little deeper.
1. Dukkha: There is sufferings (pain)
What are the dukkhas of common people?
Grossly all those things that you really don't like in your life are dukkhas or sufferings, it could be physical illnesses, mental illnesses like discomfort, discontentment, pain, anger, hatred, jealousy, lust, greed, dullness, doubt, laziness, sloth, confusion, lack of concentration, false perception, unfulfilled desires and all other mental distractions,...etc.
According to Buddhist philosophy, everything in this materialistic world is eventually suffering, even our happiness too, because our happiness is based on something, it's dependent on someone/something/object. So first this is very clear if the source of Sukkha (means pleasure or Happiness) is outside then we can't excess it whenever you want and it's can't be long lasting. That's why you never satisfy whatever you receive in life, because object based happiness is always temporary/momentary/short. Even in the moments of temporarily happiness, subtle fear/craving start producing inside, fear to loose the object of happiness and craving for more, or craving for tomorrow too.
For example: you had a dream to have a particular luxury car and one day you get it. The day you bring your dream car at home, you will surely start thinking about the safety, protection, maintenance, subtle fear of losing it,... etc. And after that your mind & senses are not satisfying longer. Another desires take place, then more and more.
Buddha called this attitude/state of mind as "Trishna".
Trishna is not only a attitude to have the constant desires (attachment, craving) for getting the pleasant things but also a constant desires to keep away (avoidance, aversion, condemnation) the unpleasant things that creates anger, hatred, frustration... In daily life, fundamentally we all strengthens these two habits and that's the root cause of all the sufferings.
What is dukkha for Buddha?
Buddha said: "jaranampe dukkha, marnampe dukkha, Jarapi dhukkha vyadhipe dukkha..." means janma (birth), mrityu (death), Jara (old age) and vyadhi (disease- physical or mental) are all sufferings.
The life is moving in the wheel of these four things. We all know three pains of diseases, old age and death. Constant subtle fear of death is also pain. We can't understand the pain of a baby during the birth. Buddha said it's extreme pain. Baby has to complete his/her journey, journey of development in the mother's womb for nine months in one single posture, we never want to think about it. We all know, how much difficult for us to sit in one posture just for one hour.
Bhagavad Gita - 13/08 :
जन्ममृत्युजराव्याधिदु:खदोषानुदर्शनम् || 9||
"Pain itself is evil. Birth is painful and birth is misery. Death is misery. Old age is misery. Sickness is misery. Birth, death,.. etc are all miseries, because they produce misery or pain."
Sage Patanjali - 2/15 (Patanjali Yogasutra):
परिणामतापसंस्कारदुःखैर्गुणवृत्तिविरोधाच्च दुःखमेव सर्वं विवेकिनःI
pariṇāma-tāpa-saṁskāra-duḥkhaiḥ guṇa-vṛtti-virodhāt-ca duḥkham-eva sarvaṁ vivekinaḥ
In this shloka, Sage Patanjali ji write: "Dukkhameva sarvam Vivekinah" means wise people, enlightened being look always sufferings in all the object-based experiences (either it's pain or pleasure)."
By looking the first Noble truth, it appears that the teaching of Buddha is pessimistic but it's not.
If you look all other three truths then it will give you a deep insight to see the world in different way: one world that is outside the body and another is inside.
So knowing/identifing the pain is first step. I observed many times, the intensity of the pain starts minimizing from the moment we know there is a pain. Many of us don't want to see or analise the pain. It's amazing practice. You should try it.
2. Samudaya: There is cause/origin of sufferings.
The 2nd Noble truth is the cause of suffering. Buddha said: "if there is sufferings/pain, there must be a cause, there must be a origin point." He strongly emphasized upon the principle of cause and effect. The law of cause and effect is universal. We can't deny/ignore it. Every single effect within the body or outside the body has its own cause. It may be one or more, for one effect or more than one effects.
Most of our problems (physical, mental, emotional, psychological) are actually the effect of cause/causes.
We could able to look only the effects because it's visible, it's like a tree that is above the surface of the land. But to know the cause/origin of problems/pain, we must look the root of effects that are not clearly visible, it's like the root of a tree, it's hidden. Biological eyes are not capable to see it, you need the eyes of wisdom.
Buddhist philosophy considers the root cause of all the sufferings is Trishna, that we have already understood. This is my understanding yet.
Patanjali Yogasutra - 2/4:
अविद्याक्षेत्रमुत्तरेषां प्रसुप्ततनुविच्छिन्नोदाराणाम् I
In this shloka, Sage Patanjali ji tells: "the root cause of all kinds of sufferings is Avidya (means ignorance)." Because Ignorance is that field on which the other afflictions (asmita, raga, dvesha and abhinivesha) take place or grow. Try to understand: Avidya doesn't mean the absence of knowledge. Avidya is the opposite of right knowledge.
Please look this shloka:
Patanjali yogasutra - 2/5:
अनित्याशुचिदुःखानात्मसु नित्यशुचिसुखात्मख्यातिरविद्या ॥५॥
anitya-aśuci-duḥkha-anātmasu nitya-śuci-sukha-ātma-khyātiḥ avidyā ||5||
Ignorance is the mistaking of non-iternal, impure and painful as eternal, pure and pleasurable or gainful.
If we look both sides, Yogasutra and Buddha's philosophy, we will come to the same conclusion that the cause of suffering is eventually ignorance/false knowledge.
Because raga (attachment) and dvesha (aversion/condemnation) both come from ignorance.
3. Nirodha: There is cessation/ending of sufferings
If there is problem there must be a solution, either it's visible to you or not.
If we take dukkha as ill-being then Nirodha will be the well-being. In the life of common people (in majority) both are going together means small pain and small pleasure together, little ups and little downs, little violence and little compassion, etc...
Both are very less in quantity that's why we don’t give the importance to it. But if we look behind in the history, there are countless examples of those people who gone extremely negative side, they touched negative side of the morality and then sudden change happened. Because of the peak of negativity, they realized there is nothing in the negativity, there is nothing in violence, there is nothing in having the worldly objects, all are worthless. At that point, they realized they lost their precious time in worthless actions, they could use their time for wholesome actions, for well being of others.
Angulimal, one disciple of Buddha, who was extremely cruel man and later on he came in contact of Buddha, and he attained liberation.
Amrapali: she was prostitute, in the guidance of Buddha, she also attained liberation.
Emperor Ashoka: after killing millions of people in the war, when he saw that there is no men left in the opponent army then he realized that his victory was worthless, to whom should he showned his victory, there was nothing in this violence, he dropped his weapons in the battle filed and became a monk later on he sent his son Mahendra and daughter Shanghmitra outside the country to spread the teachings of Buddha.
You can see the picture of Ashoka on the Indian passport:
In our subconscious minds, there is a constant subtle invisible flow of violence, anger, hatred, jealousy, lust, greed, etc... going on. But we don't know about it. Some of us could be able to know, but are not aware about the incoming fruits of accumulation and multiplication of the sanskaras.
Some of us could also be able to know (intellectually) the incoming fruits of it, but, still can not find the capacity to move towards the positive side constantly because of the invisible rope of past karmas/experiences that always pull us back.
We always thinks "oh it's natural, it's not big problem, it's not big mistake, I am a common human being so small mistakes are ok..." because of this attitude many of us couldn't be able to walk the positive end of the being (well-being).
In this Noble truth, Buddha is telling, there are possibilities to come out from the sufferings.
Believe on it and when you believe on it, then definitely you will get the way to walk from illness to wellness.
4. Magga: There is a way, a path, a medium leading to the cessation of sufferings
In this fourth Noble Truth, Buddha shown a path of Libration. A systematic/scientific way of treatment/healing, a way from illness to wellness. The word "Magga" means way or path, the path through which he completed his journey, journey from Siddhartha Gautam (common man) to Buddha (awakened being), journey from sufferings to Libration.
In hindi Magga means Marga (in english path or way). He taught Astangik Marga for the seekers of Libration. "Asta" means eight and "anga" means limbs or folds. Means a way of liberation that have eight limb or folds.
Noble Eightfold path (Astangika Marga)
Here a very brief information about eight limbs (first in Pali, second in Hindi):
Samma-ditthi or Samyak-dristi (Right Thought): Realizing the four Noble Truths that's the foundation of this path.
Samma-sankappa or samyak Sankalpa (Right Understanding): Commitment to mental and ethical growth in moderation.
Samma-vaca or samyak-vachan (Right Speech): One speaks in a non hurtful, not exaggerated means speak by following the non- violence.
Samma-Kammanta or Samyak karma (Right Actions) : Wholesome actions, following the non-violence by actions of body and mind.
Samma-Ajiva or Samyak Ajivika (Right Livelihood): One's job does not harm in any way oneself or others directly or indirectly.
Samma-Vyayama or Samyak vyayam (Right Efforts): One makes an effort to improve.
Samma-Sati or Samyak-smrti (Right Mindfulness): Mental ability to see the things for what they are, with clear consciousness.
Samma-Samadhi or Samyak-Samadhi (Right Concentration): State where one reaches Enlightenment and the ego has disappeared.
On one side a practitioner need to develop the deep understanding about the Astangik Marga and another side he need to practice everyday a technique of Vipassana that's completely practical aspects of this path.
When both (practical & philosophy) go together then the growth will be observed very soon, may be in few months. Actually Astangik marga is also a practice that we need to observe in daily routine and daily lifestyle. Both Astangik marga and vipassana are complimentary of each other. Practice of one, strengthen the practice of other. So need to practice both.
Read more about the Vipassana in another article.
Hope you got some ideas about it.
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