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Jun 20th
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Home Teachings The Four Noble Truths The Four Noble Truths - The First Noble Truth

The Four Noble Truths - The First Noble Truth

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The Four Noble Truths
The First Noble Truth
The Second Noble Truth
The Third Noble Truth
The Fourth Noble Truth
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The Buddha formulated the first Truth in different discourses through the scriptures:

"What, Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of Suffering? Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow, lamentations, pain, grief and despair are suffering. To be associated with dislike is suffering To be separated with like is suffering. In short, the five aggregates of grasping existence are all suffering."

The Pali term "Dukkha" which for need of a better English equivalent, is generally translated as suffering or sorrow. As a feeling, Dukkha means that which is difficult to endure (du=difficult, kha=to endure). As a literal sense, the term "Dukkha" is a compound world consisting of Du-(duvakham assati dukkham) meaning loathsome or contemptible; Kha -meaning void or emptiness. The world rests on suffering, hence it is contemptible or loathsome. The world is devoid of any reality, hence it is empty or void. Dukkha therefore means contemptible void.

And "Sacca" (satanam saccam) meaning absolutely or immutably true. The word indicates that in the fullest sense of the term, it is absolutely true that every conditional phenomenon in all psychophysical existences is suffering. Dukkha sacca therefore means the absolute Truth of Real Suffering.

It is rather hard for average people to see things as they truly are since they are mostly superficial lookers. However, to an Ariya who has realized the Noble Truth and attained supreme wisdom, all life is suffering and therefore finds no real happiness in the world which deceives mankind with illusory pleasures. Material happiness is just a temporary feeling and merely the gratification of some desires. For no sooner is the desired thing gained that it begins to be scorned and grieved. As the Teaching says: "Insatiable are all desires."

All are subject to birth ( jati ), and consequently to decay ( jara ), to disease ( vyadhi ), and finally to death ( marana ). No one is exempt from these four inevitable causes of suffering.

All beings are born naturally amidst the threat of pain and suffering from the time of their pregnancy to the final end of death. But to them the world seems a happy place. They view this world as the abode of happiness and joy. So all beings pursue a life of joy and merriment, ignoring all pain and suffering. They think that such pain and misfortune would never fall upon them and thus they spend their life in the sensual pleasures under a self-delusion.

The world is indeed filled with pain, grief, sorrow, misery, anguish and lamentation. Birth, life and death - the whole process is in the nature of suffering and it has remained as unsolved riddles for every living being. Since the time when a being comes into existence, the child as well as the mother feels suffering all the time in one way or the other. Then the child is getting older and older decaying ceaselessly. Even during such a short moment, various kinds of diseases may affect one at any time. We don't want to get old, to have diseases, to face death, to associate with unloved ones, to separate from the loved ones, not to get our desires. But it is impossible to get whatever one desires in human life, since every one is governed by the law of nature of psycho-physical existence; i.e. the process of first coming into begin (jati), secondly, appearance of being (bhuta), thirdly, conditioning (sankhata) and finally passing away (palokadhamma). In short, to find for one's own eating, dressing and living and on the whole every conditioned activity of the grasping aggregate of the five Khandhas i.e. material form, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness, are all suffering. Therefore Dukkha is meant in four categories, (1) in the sense of oppression (pilanattho), (2) of conditioning (sankhattho), (3) of distress (santapattho) and (4) of dissolving (viparinamattho).

There is no home where old age, disease and death have not come and no one can escape from all these three great fires of woes or miseries, distress, calamity and agony. Almost everyone might have experienced the bitter grief and sorrow for the loss of lives and properties. In fact, all creatures are restlessly struggling under the stormy-waves of pain and sorrow.

Men are born into the world where pain and sorrow exist. This is a universal truth and it applies to all beings. It was the experience and awareness of this Universal Truth of pain and sorrow that made Prince Siddhattha leave his royal palace and his beloved ones. Therefore everyone should endeavour to realize the Noble Truth of pain and sorrow, which permanently exists in the world of beings. This is the true nature of the world of which everybody should be aware as it is Most of the worldly people are rather hard to realize this pain and sorrow in its reality just like the blind man who cannot see the light of day.

A human body is like a hospital frill of sick persons, for it contains millions of germs and bacteria hidden within it. So everybody is suffering one form or another now and again from so many kinds of diseases. Youth ends in old age; gladness ends in sorrow; health ends in disease; laughing ends in weeping; pleasure ends in misery and pain; birth ends in death; all beings traverse from birth to death and from death to birth again, cycling from life to life or from plane to plane in the process of Samsara. People may escape from all these woeful pain and sorrow only when they realize that they are carrying the great burden of a highly decomposed body and fling it away.

Unless one contemplates on the old age, disease and death, one may be proud of oneself that one is still young in age, healthy and lives long, and thus one cannot realize the true nature of life By contemplating on the true nature of life, one would not presume that Buddhism is a pessimistic religion. In fact Buddhism is neither pessimism nor optimism, but realistic or may be both, for in Buddhism the follower must try to comprehensively understand the evil as evil, good as good, suffering as suffering, happiness as happiness and so on, in its ultimate sense of the term, whenever and whatever he may experience in life.

The Buddha not only emphasized the Existence as the Truth of Suffering, but also advocated a means to suffering and gain eternal happiness. He perceived the universality of pain and sorrow and prescribed a remedy for this universal sickness of humanity. The highest conceivable happiness, according to the Buddha, is Nibbana, which is the total extinction of all suffering of life.

In brief this composite body itself is the very cause of suffering. This First Truth of Suffering which depends on this so-called being and various aspects of life, is to be carefully analysed and scrutinized. Such a scrutiny leads to a proper understanding of oneself as one really is.


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" Not by silence does one become a muni, if one is dull and ignorant. Like one holding a pair of scales, the wise takes what is good and rejects what is evil. For this reason he is a muni. He who understands both internal and external aggregates is also, for that reason, called a muni. "

The Dhammapada

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