What is the First Noble Truth?
The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering.
To live, you must suffer.
It is impossible to live without experiencing
some kind of suffering.
We have to endure physical
suffering like sickness, injury, tiredness, old age and eventually
death and we have to endure psychological suffering like
loneliness, frustrations, fear, embarrassment, disappointment,
Isn’t this a bit pessimistic?
The dictionary defines pessimism as ‘the habit
of thinking that whatever will happen will be bad,’ or ‘The
belief that evil is more powerful than good.’
Buddhism teaches neither of these ideas.
Nor does it deny that happiness exists.
It simply says that to live is to experience physical
and psychological suffering which is a statement so true and
so obvious that it cannot be denied.
The central concept of
most religions is a myth, a legend or a belief that is difficult
or impossible to verify.
Buddhism starts with an experience,
an irrefutable fact, a thing that all know, that all have experienced
and that all are striving to overcome.
is the only truly universal religion because it goes right to the
core of every individual human being’s concern — suffering
and how to avoid it.
What is the Second Noble truth?
The Second Noble Truth is that all suffering is
caused by craving.
When we look at psychological suffering,
it is easy to see how it is caused by craving.
When we want
something but are unable to get it, we feel frustrated.
we expect someone to live up to our expectation and they do
not, we feel let down and disappointed.
When we want others
to like us and they don’t, we feel hurt.
Even when we want
something and are able to get it, this does not often lead to
happiness either because it is not long before we feel bored
with that thing, lose interest in it and commence to want
Put simply, the Second Noble Truth says
that 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
But how does wanting and
craving lead to
A lifetime wanting and craving for this and
that and especially the craving to continue to exist creates
a powerful energy that causes the individual to be reborn.
When we are reborn, we have a body and, as we said before,
the body is susceptible to injury and disease; it can be
exhausted by work; it ages and eventually dies.
leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be
But if we stopped
we would never get or
But what the Buddha says is that when
our desires, our craving, our constant discontent with what
we have, and our continual longing for more and more does
cause us suffering, then we should stop doing it.
He asks us to
make a difference between what we need and what we want
and to strive for our needs and modify our wants.
He tells us
that our needs can be fulfilled but that our wants are endless
— a bottomless pit.
There are needs that are essential, fundamental
and that can be obtained and this we should work
Desires beyond this should be gradually lessened.
After all, what is the purpose of life?
To get or to be content
What is the Third Noble Truth?
The Third Noble Truth is that suffering can be
overcome and happiness attained.
This is perhaps the most
important of the Four Noble Truths because in it the Buddha
reassures us that true happiness and contentment are possible.
When we give up useless craving and learn to live each day
at a time, enjoying without restless wanting the experiences
that life offers us, patiently enduring the problems that life
involves without fear, hatred and anger, then we become
happy and free.
Then, and only then, do we being to live fully.
Because we are no longer obsessed with satisfying our own
selfish wants, we find we have so much time to help others
fulfil their needs.
This state is called Nirvana.
We are free
from all psychological suffering as well.
This is called Final
What or where is Nirvana?
It is a dimension transcending time and space
and thus is difficult to talk about or even to think about.
Words and thoughts being only suited to describe the time-
But because Nirvana is beyond time, there
is no movement and so no aging or dying.
Thus Nirvana is
Because it is beyond space, there is no causation, no
boundary, no concept of self and not-self and thus Nirvana
The Buddha also assures us that Nirvana is an
experience of profound happiness.
Nirvana is the highest happiness.
But is there any proof
that such a
No, there is not.
But its existence can be inferred.
If there is a dimension where time and space do operate and
there is such a dimension — the world we experience, then
we can infer that there is a dimension where time and space
do not operate — Nirvana.
Again, even though we cannot
prove Nirvana exists, we have the Buddha’s word that it does
He tells us:
“There is an. Unborn, a Not-become, a Not-made, a Not-
If there were not, this Unborn, Not become,
Not-made, Not-compounded, there could not be made any
escape from what is born, become, made, and compounded.
But since there is this Unborn, Not become, Not-made, Not-
compounded, therefore is there made known an escape from
what is born, become, made, and compounded.”
We will know it when we attain it.
Until that time, we can
The Fourth Noble Truth is the Path leading to
the overcoming of suffering.
This path is called the Noble
Eightfold Path and consists of Perfect Understanding, Perfect
Thought, Perfect Speech, Perfect Action, Perfect Livelihood,
Perfect Effort, Perfect Mindfulness and Perfect Concentration.
Being a Buddhist practice consists of practicing these eight
things until they become more complete.
You will notice that
the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path cover every aspect of
life: the intellectual, the ethical, the social and economic and
the psychological and therefore contain everything a person
needs to lead a good life and to develop spiritually.