The Four Noble Truths

Noble Truths

Today’s my birthday, so I’m giving myself the gift of (laziness) a free blog post by re-posting one of my comments on the Yahoo allspirit group here. Something I’ve been meaning to address, and deserves a better treatment, but this one’s already written:

“On 8/15/2011 12:47 PM, zen_rascal_0 wrote:
> >……….. Did not Gautama the Buddha teach of the method to eliminate suffering?……….namaste, thomas

Yes, so we are told. The question is how well do people understand that teaching?

The 4 Noble Truths (actually ennobling – an important difference) are a description of Buddha’s experience/realization – of Buddha Nature. It is not the prescription for action most read into it.

Gautama was aware that you can’t hand awakening/release from suffering to anyone. They must realize and release themselves. It’s there for “those with eyes to see” as another teacher would later say, and appears as something else entirely to the rest.

The desire to end suffering can never end suffering. There is an end, but no method can work. Such effort is attachment and forms the trap, and Buddha was pointing out this trap. Properly seen, it falls away effortlessly, having never been a trap at all.


From Wikipedia (my comments in brackets) :

1. Suffering does exist

2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
(Becomes obvious when looked at, and desire is understood in the broadest sense of wanting anything to be other than it is [not just materialistic/sensual sorts of desires].)

3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
(Follows, logically.)

4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path
(OK – Here’s the part people gloss over and just jump onto the path without serious reflection. Doing things – doing anything at all – is not cessation – so “practice” as used here cannot refer to doing anything any certain way. It must be referring to a “practice” (daily experience) of realizing the truth in all those aspects of life as they are, as they arise, with no attachment to them, and no desire for them to be other than they are in that moment. In essence, they are already “right”. We do not need to make them so – we need only see it is already so and cannot be otherwise).


People spend lifetimes on the Eightfold Path, never questioning “Right”, assuming it is referring to a counter force to “wrong”, thereby perpetuating the cycle of delusion and suffering in their practice itself. “Right” on this path is not right/wrong at all (those are attachments – struggle – more suffering). Not judgmental (attachment) nonsense (suffering), but realization of how things rightly naturally are. The “Eight” are not doings, but aspects (folds) of being that are realized to be so – aka “Suchness”.

A more literal interpretation (the common interpretation), that the Eightfold Path comprises things to do/cultivate via practices (vs realize directly), clearly has some positive personal and social benefits (which aligns with what people really want – as awakening offers nothing they don’t already have). Gautama knew very few would awaken, so the teachings were structured in a way to keep the rest busy and working for betterment of their lives/societies. A built-in self-help/social program. This is fine, and is at the core of Buddhism’s practices and its practitioners’ service/example to humanity, but is not the core of Buddha’s teaching – which is FAR too simple and profound to be widely realized.

Practicing cessation, is not cessation.


    1. I appreciate your insight into the eightfold path. I’ve never been a huge fan of Buddhism. You approach the four noble truths and tick off each of the first three since they resonate as essential constituents of reality. Then pops up number four the ‘illustrious’ eightfold path and the question arises, how did we move from inherent truth about the manifest world to prescriptive action to achieve something already the case.

      I had always taken the fourth noble truth as more of a description of what liberation ‘looks’ like. However as I said I’m not that into Buddhism so I never gave it much thought. It is all to easy for the mind, a problem solving device, to see a method in any given

      So the fourth noble truth is interpreted to be prescriptive as the mind seeks to ‘attain’ what is expressed in the first three truths.

    2. Happy Birthday!

      I always thought, kinda what H. Dass said, that the 8-fold path would take care of itself if you were doing things “right”.

      On the other hand, if you divide the 8 things into 3 aspects: morality (what you do with your time), concentration (paying attention), & insight (or wisdom, a product or catalyst of/for the 1st 2), it could make it easier to see what, how, and why (respectively) to do to understand what you already are. I find the 8-fold path interesting in that way, and as a useful vehicle (fairly universal imo).

    3. Might be interesting to note (or maybe not!) that the Pali word ‘Samma’ doesn’t translate as ‘right’ at all. It means ‘in tune’.

      My sense is that it points to aspects of being that are in tune with reality. It also points to how one lives. If one lives out of tune, then any idea of awakening is just hot air – and remains a nice concept for the ego to fondle.

      However, as Kris says, the Buddha did teach it ambiguously, so that there is a social, relative dimension as well. In the discourse on ‘Samma Ditthi’ (The View that is in tune), he said that there are two kinds: mundane and liberating.

      The liberating kind is that which sees through the view of a fixed self.

      You also find this description in the discourse, Nidana 19, where the Buddha describes Samma Ditthi as ‘not taking a stand about my self’.

    4. Excellent Peter, thank you for that.

      I find the etymology of words to be as instructive as the teachings, or at least offer a way to be “in tune” with the them. Often boiling them down and removing baggage (to Western/contemporary eyes at least) added through the centuries.

      This ‘not taking a stand about myself’ also points to having no intention /expectation (desire). Being/doing in harmony with, not grasping after, not an avoidance of. A realization, not a prescription.

      Cessation, is not drinking ‘the three poisons’. Suffering does not arise, does not need to be ended. Not taking a stand about myself, “my” suffering has no place either.

      One root, three branches, infinite subdivisions. Such are the ‘poisons’, such is mind.

      Teachings on suffering, apply equally to kamma/karma. Or rather, concepts of suffering and kamma/karma point to the same Truth.

      “Intention I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.” – Buddha – Nibbedhika Sutta

      With this, we can see why a a realized being generates no kamma/karma. Well, that and there being no such beings. Only Suchness. *L*

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