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The Four Noble Truths

At the time of the Buddha, Indian medicine used a four-fold diagnosis to treat patients. The first step was to name the disease, then its cause, then its cure, and lastly, the instructions on how to take the cure. It was an interlocking prescription. The Buddha, being a spiritual doctor, also used this type of diagnosis when giving his first sermon, known as the Four Noble Truths. 

In the most literal sense, they are:

  • Dukkha (dis-ease, disharmony)
  • Samudaya (What arises with it)
  • Nirodha (Non-arising)
  • Marga (The way/path)

Explained more thoroughly, they address:

1.) Friction/stress/conflict – the painful conditions of life, the sense of being limited in it, and the results of clinging while not achieving constant satisfaction

2.) The arising of greed, hatred, and delusion

3.) Seeing things clearly, freedom from afflictions, non-arising of toxins

4.) The path to liberation

What is this way? It is a healthy balance in that we take care of our needs but don’t get too attached to them. When both pleasure and pain are transcended there is ultimate ease.

The Noble Eightfold Path 

1.) Perfect/Liberating View/Perspective:

Contemplating the Four Noble Truths; objectively examining experience free of aversion and attachment; seeing the three marks of existence (inconstant, stressful, not self); realizing the impermanent and interconnected nature of experience and the law of karma (i.e. intention & action). 

2.) Perfect/Liberating Intention:

Giving up a selfish lifestyle, developing good will and harmlessness 

3.) Perfect/Liberating Speech:

Speaking truthfully, gently, and saying only what is helpful and necessary

4.) Perfect/Liberating Action:

To act without: harming or killing, stealing or cheating, sexual abusing others or exploiting passions, lying, or harming the body-mind (towards oneself and others)                         

5.) Perfect/Liberating Livelihood:

Abstaining from harmful occupations/careers, such as dealing in: weapons, living beings (slave trade or prostitution), and intoxicants (recreational drugs or alcohol). 

6.) Perfect/Liberating Effort:

A.) Preventing unwholesome mind-states not yet arisen B.) Abandoning unwholesome mind-states already arisen C.) Manifesting wholesome mind-states not yet arisen D.) Maintaining wholesome mind-states already arisen

7.) Perfect/Liberating Mindfulness:

A.) Contemplating the body B.) Contemplating sensations C.) Contemplating mind-states D.) Contemplating mental contents (sensory gates, factors of enlightenment, 4 noble truths, etc.)

8.) Perfect/Liberating Concentration:

There are five obstacles or hindrances: sensory desire, ill-will, sluggishness/dullness, impatience/restlessness, and distrust. When these are overcome, one can concentrate properly and enter the absorptions of form: A.) Applied/sustained attention, ecstasy, sense of well-being, and calm composure B.) Confidence, ecstasy, sense of well-being, and calm composure C.) Sense of well-being and calm composure D.) Calmness, with no arising or passing of enjoyable states. This last stage leads to the formless absorptions, in which the meditator centers on: infinite space, infinite awareness/perceiving, nothingness, and neither perception nor non-perception. There is also said to be an absence of all feeling and perception in a further stage of meditative absorption. This is last stage of meditation, and if there is no more clinging, not even a desire for this state to last longer, there is nirvana (total liberation), the final release.

See also: