“Being attached to what you do not have is suffering. Not being attached to what you have is bliss.”
– Gautama Buddha
The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of enlightenment. They are the first of the Buddha’s most important teachings therefore they lay the groundwork for in-depth study of Buddhist philosophy and meditation.
Buddha identified these four truths: Suffering, its cause, its cessation, and the path to liberation from suffering which led to the foundation for understanding the very depth of why we suffer and how to be free of this prolonged state of suffering.
“I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering,”-Buddha
The First Sermon
Buddha once lived in the Deer Park at the Resort of Seers (Isipatana) near Varanasi Forest, where he taught the Four Noble Truths: the existence of suffering, the cause of suffering, cessation of suffering, and the path to the end of suffering.
In his first sermon at Deer Park, Buddha warns the monks over adopting extreme devotion to either indulgence in sensual pleasures or self-mortification:
“There are two extremes, oh Bhikkhus(monk), which a holy man should avoid–the habitual practice of self-indulgence, which is vulgar and profitless, and the habitual practice of self-mortification, which is painful and equally profitless.”
Buddha continues as he explains the reason for suffering and its origin:
“Oh Bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the origin of suffering. Verily, it is that thirst, causing the renewal of existence, accompanied by sensual delight, seeking satisfaction now here, now there–that is to say, the craving for the gratification of the passions, or the craving for a future life, or the craving for success in this present life.”
At last, he guides them towards the destruction of sorrow and says:
“Now this, oh Bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the way which leads to the destruction of sorrow. Verily! it is this noble eightfold path; that is to say: Right views; Right aspirations; Right speech; Right conduct; Right livelihood; Right effort; Right mindfulness; and, Right contemplation.”
The Buddha emphasized his understanding of these four truths in the major discourses that he delivered above.
The Four Noble Truths
The Noble Truths of Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the End to Suffering, and the Path that Leads to Enlightenment are essential teachings in Buddhist philosophy. Although often phrased differently by various scholars throughout history according to their interpretations, these four truths make up the very core of Buddha’s teachings.
In the first sermon, which he gave after his enlightenment, Buddha mentions the Four Noble Truths as a pathway to the end of suffering-
The First Noble Truth (Dukkha)
The Pali word for Dukkha, meaning “suffering,” sits at the heart of the Buddha’s four noble truths. The First Truth identifies the presence of suffering in life and how it encompasses all states of misfortune and unhappiness, whether physical or mental. It includes the presence of pain and pleasures as a natural part of life. The pleasure driven by desire leads to pain and sorrow, and the worldly pleasures, such as those associated with wealth, power, lust, gluttony, etc. are all suffering in the long term.
The Second Noble Truth (Samudaya)
The word ‘Samudaya’ means ‘arising’ and refers to the roots of suffering. It means that the origin or cause of dukkha is attachment (tanha). It says that suffering arises from desire generated by ignorance which implies, not seeing the world as it is.
Buddha states that without the potential for clarity and focus, one’s mind remains undeveloped—impaired in their capacity to absorb reality, and vices like jealousy, anger, greed, and envy seep in.
The Third Noble Truth (Nirodha)
In Buddhism, suffering comes from wanting more than one has. Unfulfilled desires leads to an unending cycle of frustration and suffering.
The Third Noble Truth, Nirodha, means ‘cessation’ or stopping. This truth has two implications. First implication is the final relief from discomfort in one’s present life, which is often felt like a physical or mental release. The other implication for transcendence comes with achieving Nirvana: an enlightened state free from suffering and rebirth. Nirodha means the liberation from attachment to all material things, most importantly, a person’s own self-identity hence by following the principle of Nirodha, one clears his way to attain eternal bliss.
The Fourth Noble Truth (Magga)
Magga (the Middle Way), which is also known as the Eightfold Path , is the Fourth Noble Truth. When a person has experienced relief and is free of desires, he attains what Buddhists call ‘Arhatship’; Arhat means ‘worthy’ or ‘victorious’ and is the nearest word in English. He who has become an Arhat has ended rebirth and thus attained Nirvana.
All these four truths are a part of human experience and can be realized by anybody if he or she follows the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha taught us that we all have the ability to recognize these truths within us and by doing so, we can truly be liberated from our suffering.
The Principle of Non Attachment
“Non-attachment” is one of the most important and popular terms in Buddhism. Nowadays, young people try to embody this concept and try to grasp it and apply it in life. Non-attachment is a principle that goes beyond human language. It does not mean avoiding all possessions; rather, it means not being greedy for possessions. It does not mean that a person who is non-attached to possessions should live in poverty and misery; rather, it means, a mind that is free from greed especially when in possession of wealth or other material things. Non-attachment is the same concerning our thoughts, emotions, and feelings; we should also apply the same principle of non-attachment to our mental ideas and thinking.
How can we do so? In general, if your mind attaches to something it can become greedy; it can become “conditioned” or “polluted.” So, you should be progressive, not exclusive in your way of being , you need to be broad-minded and accept things as they are in reality. Alan W. Watts explains this phenomenon beautifully, he says-
“Whether we like it or not, change comes, and the greater the resistance, the greater the pain. Buddhism perceives the beauty of change, for life is like music in this: if any note or phrase is held for longer than its appointed time, the melody is lost. Thus Buddhism may be summed up in two phrases: “Let go!” and “Walk on!” Drop the craving for self, for permanence, for particular circumstances, and go straight ahead with the movement of life.”
Non-attachment does not mean becoming a person who has no feeling or thought; instead, it means not being attached, thus being able to be flexible, open to new ideas, progress, and change .
- The Four Noble Truths are one of the key components in Buddhist philosophy. Buddha delivered them as a path towards nirvana – a state of permanent bliss free from suffering.
- The Four Noble truths state that life is suffering and attachment is one of the causes of that suffering.
- Dissatisfaction, translated as Dukkha in Pali, is often misunderstood and misrepresented. It means “unsatisfactoriness,” not suffering.
- It is important to put this in perspective, ‘Upadana’ does not mean giving up everything one loves. Buddha taught that our clinging is a consequence of Doubt, which arises from causes and conditions and the cure for this doubt is wisdom.
- The process of “letting go” can help alleviate the suffering that is tied to attachment, which arises through delusion and ignorance.
Life in this world, for any being, inevitably involves dissatisfaction. This realization was at the heart of Buddha’s awakening which forms a cornerstone of Buddhist philosophy.
Buddha taught us the value of letting go and how living in non-attachment means recognizing that there never was anything to attach or cling onto in the first place, for those who can truly recognize this will indeed be in a state of perpetual joyfulness.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything — anger, anxiety, or possessions — we cannot be free.” — Thich Nhat Hanh.