Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is credited for the four noble truths. The Four Noble Truths contain the essence of Buddha’s teachings and principles that he gained after enlightenment.
The Four Noble Truths are as followed:
- The truth of suffering
- The truth of the cause of suffering
- The truth of the end of suffering
- The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering
The First Truth talks about the identification and acceptance of the presence of suffering. Buddha says that life is not ideal as it often fails to live up to our expectations. The only things that are certain and unavoidable are old age, sickness and death.
Buddhism encourages its followers to view the world with a pragmatic approach and see the world as it is. Free from any illusions or enchantments.
The Second Truth, seeks to determine the cause of suffering.
Buddhism says that the root-cause of all sufferings is desire and ignorance. This comes in three forms known as the Three Roots of Evil, or The Three Fires or The Three Poisons.
Buddha says that these three roots of evil are
- Greed and desire
- Ignorance or delusion
- Hatred and destructive urges
Buddha explains that desire is the craving for pleasure, material goods and immortality and all these are wants that can never be satisfied. Therefore, desiring them can only bring sufferings. Although he does clarify that there are positive desires like the desire for enlightenment, good wishes for others, desire to learn, teach etc.
About Ignorance, Buddha says that ignorance is not being able to see the world as it actually is. He argues that, without the capacity for mental concentration and insight, one’s mind is left undeveloped, making it unable to grasp the true nature of things and leading to vices such as envy, hatred, anger and greed.
The Third Noble Truth, the truth of the end of suffering, talks about the possibility of liberation from suffering. Buddha taught that the way to extinguish desire (the root-cause of all sufferings), is to liberate oneself from attachment.
The Third Nobel Truth also has a dual meaning suggesting,
- Either the end of suffering in this life, on earth or
- In the spiritual life, through achieving Nirvana (after death)
Buddha was the living example of the former.
The Fourth Noble Truth, prescribes the method for attaining the end of suffering. This prescription is known as the Noble Eightfold Path, which is as followed.
- Right Understanding
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
These eightfold paths are further divided into 3 themes.
- Good Moral Conduct (Understanding, Thought< Speech)
- Mediation and Mental Development (Action, Livelihood, Effort)
- Wisdom or insight (Mindfulness and Concentration)
My View on the four noble truths
I do agree to some extent that one should pursue to reduce sufferings in life. However, concentrating only on the elimination of suffering is not the ultimate goal of life, because this will deprive us from seeing the other beauties of life. When we consider pleasure and happiness as a desire that we should aim to extinguish, I believe that one would not really be able to live their life to the fullest. Life for me, is the combination of sad, happy, boring and all other moments, that challenge us to grow into a better person.
Apart from this, the fourth noble truth, the eightfold path, is an extremely difficult thing to stick to. In our ordinary lives we as humans tend to make mistakes, tend to do wrong things and learn from them. The eightfold path requires us to be all good which is an extremely difficult command and requires one to be fully devoted to the Buddhism Teachings. This makes it extremely difficult to attain enlightenment, which is why, after Buddha, there have not been many people who were able to truly attain enlightenment in their lives.