Buddhism is a religion that is followed by many people all over the world as well as it is believed that it has a complex history. Likewise, Buddhism has a belief in four noble truths that covers the conceptual part of this religion. Before knowing about these four noble paths in Buddhism, let us know the beginning of Buddhism. How and when Buddhism started?
Who was Buddha?
The founder of Buddhism was Siddhartha Gautama. He was the son of the Indian warrior king. Siddhartha Gautama lived a flamboyant life due to his social caste. He had all the benefits of his royalness throughout his adulthood. When he got tired of all the privileges of royalness, he rambled in search of understanding throughout the world. When he strangled through the world, he saw a lot of sufferings and pain, which convinced him that sufferings could only end after the end of survival. He gave up his lavish life and became a monk.
He didn’t want any possessions and went in search of truth all around the world. He saw miseries of people. Eventually, he decided to meditate beneath a tree where he found a pinnacle. Through meditation, he got answers to all his questions. He understood that the only path to salvation and to be free from all sufferings is “meditation”. He then followed his insight, and Siddhartha Gautama became “The Buddha” which meant “The knowledgeable one”. He then spent the rest of his life teaching people how to end their sufferings and miseries. He taught people what he understood as well as the need for enlightenment in life! Noble truth meaning doesn’t rely on theory, but it explains through practical situations of life. According to the Buddha, noble truth meaning consisted of four noble paths.
The four noble paths
The four noble truths are one of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism that were set by Buddha to attain enlightenment. His four noble paths, also known as (in Pali) “Chattari-ariya-saccani”, (in Sanskrit) “Catvari-arya-satyani” are his first preachings to the path of salvation.
The Buddha understood the nature of reality lay in the four noble truths. These four noble paths are the factual concepts to those who have a vision of the nature of reality. The Buddha had mentioned that when he came to know about these four noble paths, he attained enlightenment as well as freedom from rebirth. He summarised the path of enlightenment with these four noble truths that need to be understood by all living beings to achieve enlightenment. These four noble paths are recognised by all those who follow Buddhism. Let’s name the four noble truth; they are Suffering, the Origin of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering and the path to the cessation of suffering.
What are the 4 noble truths of Buddhism?
The first truth is the noble truth of suffering. When Buddha wandered in search of salvation, he found so many forms of sufferings. He was the son of an Indian King and had all royalties, but when he stepped out of his palace, he noticed that everyone isn’t that privileged to see all the royalties. He saw people suffering from many things. The most common forms of sufferings or dukkha he saw were old age, sickness and death.
According to the Buddha, people had a lot of problems, and as he went on understanding those problems, he found that the problem of suffering went deeper. Expectations are the prime reason for suffering. Generally, everyone in this world wants an ideal life, but life is full of different experiences, and it fails to live up to the expectations of people. Every person desires to be something or craves a different life than his/her. Everyone in this world isn’t satisfied with what he/she has. Moreover, Buddha noticed that when one attains his/her desires, the satisfaction remains temporary. When one achieves what he/she wants, the pleasure of attaining it becomes monotonous.
What Buddha saw as the noble truth of suffering was that even when people were not suffering from the causes of illness, they suffered from the pain of being unsatisfied with their life or with the relations around them. This was the noble truth of suffering. People who believe in Buddhism find that this is the realistic noble truth of suffering. Buddha himself wasn’t satisfied with the life he led despite all the royalties and wandered in search of salvation. When he attained the path of enlightenment, he started teaching people what they can do about their suffering and how they can end it.
The Origin of Suffering (Samudaya)
When Buddha found the first noble truth that is “suffering”, he analyzed what the origin of suffering! Every person faces day to day troubles in life and many are detectable too, like pain from any injury, loss of loved one, sadness, hatred for anyone, thirst, etc. Above all, the causes of suffering are very identifiable and are faced by all of us, but what Buddha noticed about the cause of suffering was deeply rooted, one that many people face but are unable to notice!
The Buddha taught that the root cause of all the sufferings lies within the person within. We expect many things from our lives, and every time we desire something in life, and when we don’t get what we desire, a level of dissatisfaction becomes the cause of our suffering. Thus, the root cause of suffering is “desire”. This origin of suffering is well described by Buddha. It comes in three forms: Three roots of Evil or Three Fires or The Three Poisons, which are Hate, greed and ignorance.
” Desire” is also known as “Tanha” in Pali (the language of Buddhist scriptures), which means cravings or misled desires. Not all desires are pessimistic, as Buddha himself desired enlightenment and preached for the same. Another example of optimistic desires is good wishes for people around you. Thus, origin of the suffering comes from pessimistic or misled desires, not from optimistic ones.
Buddha preached more about suffering in the Fire Sermon, which was taught to bhikkhus (Buddhist monks). Buddha believed that the four senses and the mind that showed attachment to optimistic, pessimistic or neutral thoughts were the cause of suffering.
Many Buddhist textbooks say that the origin of suffering is all the pessimistic thoughts that come into one’s mind, like stealing, lying or killing. These negative thoughts encourage people towards negative actions, which gives rise to hatred, desire and ignorance. Also, the origin of suffering refers to being happy for someone’s pain, thinking only about self, etc.
Cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
The third noble truth is the cessation of suffering, which is also known as Nibbana or Nirvana (in Sanskrit). In all the noble paths, the Buddha linked one noble truth with the previous one. When he taught people the origin of suffering, he also taught the way to cease or extinguish that suffering or desire. Misled desires are the causes of all the sufferings, and one can end this suffering by detaching oneself from all the worldly attachments.
This is the third noble truth included in the teachings of Buddha that tells the possibility of emancipation. The Buddha himself was a living example that left all his attachments and relationships to achieve the path of enlightenment. Buddhists or Bhikkhus (Buddhist monks) find estrangement in everything, in the eyes, informs, in eye-consciousness and eye contact.
Cessation of suffering that is Nirvana (in Sanskrit) also means quench. Attaining Nirvana meant extinguishing the three poisons of life, which are delusion, hatred as well as greed. This is the path to enlightenment – the attainment of Nirvana. It doesn’t mean that attainment of Nirvana makes someone dissolve to a heavenly domain. Nirvana may also be termed as a state of mind that humans can reach. It’s a state that doesn’t involve any negative emotions or it’s a state of the human mind which is free from all fears and brings ultimate divine joy!
Path of enlightenment involves finding separation, and when one finds estrangement, the passion fades out, and one is redeemed. When one redeems, he understands that there is nothing beyond enlightenment because life is lived out and birth is drained. When one achieves enlightenment, he/she becomes free from the cycle of rebirth.
Buddha always wanted his followers to be focused on things that were taught to them, and he brought the main focus on liberating his followers from the cycle of rebirth(suffering). He restricted his followers to ask questions about Nirvana as he believed that it is like niggling with the doctor who is trying hard to save one’s life.
Path to cessation of suffering (Magga)
This is the final noble truth that Buddha preached which is the end of all the sufferings. This path to cessation constitutes a set of principles that are also known as the Eightfold Path.
You can also call it the middle way. Do many people ask what are the 4 noble truths and the 8 fold path? The three noble truths are described above and the fourth one which describes the path to the cessation of suffering can be acquired by the Eightfold Path. Buddha never found indulgence as well as chastity helpful to reach the path of enlightenment.
Below is the Eightfold path to attain the path to cessation for suffering or Magga.
The Buddha always told his followers to practice his preachings and judge whether they were true or not! He never told his followers to follow his teachings blindly. His teaching included the correct understanding or knowledge of the nature of things.
This teaching included the promise to propagate the right opinion, which avoids thoughts of hatred, harmful intent as well as connections.
Speech or verbal conversations may lead to a lot of misunderstandings. It is believed that one should always avoid gossip, abusive words, harsh, divisive words because they may hurt anyone. Spoken words are like an arrow, and they are as harmful as killing a person! Thus, one should always refrain from such harsh speech.
One should always behave peacefully, refrain from stealing and bloodshed.
According to Buddha, Life should always be led peacefully. No one should harm or exploit anyone or cause any kind of suffering to another person. One should refrain from killing animals or trading any kind of weapons that can harm anyone! Correct livelihood makes a person free from any guilt.
One should always make his/her mind work in an optimistic direction. One should be free from destructive thoughts. One’s approach towards a situation matters a lot because that can only prevent one from unpleasant things soaring in future.
One should keep the right diligence, feelings and state of mind. One should be aware of sensations and develop an awareness of the body.
One should concentrate and develop a focus on what he/she does. Mental focus helps in attaining the right awareness. This can also be termed as single-mindedness because it helps us to focus or concentrate more accurately.
All the above eight path fold can be grouped into three stages of Wisdom which means Right knowledge and right intention, Ethical behaviour which includes Right speech, right action and right livelihood, as well as the third stage Meditation that includes Right effort, mindfulness and concentration.
According to the Buddha, the above Eightfold paths were the path to enlightenment.
Where are the four noble truths found? One finds the four noble paths when one acquires the path to enlightenment.
Training of Buddhism
Buddha summarized the training of Buddhism in his four noble paths that one needs to understand. Buddhist followers were preached these four noble truths to attain enlightenment. Buddha saw a lot of suffering in the eyes of people. When he understood the true cause of suffering he used a conceptual education to make people understand the path of enlightenment. We can also say that he prepared a threefold training in wisdom, ethics and concentration so that people understand the eightfold path very well.
The training of Buddha included two facts of life. Followers were taught the below two things with four noble truths:
The Buddhist interpretation of Karma does not depend on predetermined destiny. Everyone lives life in his/her interests, and one changes himself/herself according to the situations. This is where Karma comes into being. A person takes good or bad actions as per the situations and his/her intuitions. Here good actions during a lifetime refer to righteousness, meditation, kindness or all the positive acts that bring contentment in one’s life. Whereas, Bad actions refer to stealing, lying, slaughtering of animals, or all the negative acts that may bring temporary happiness but prove to be misery in the long run. What weight do these actions carry? When people choose such actions, it depends on some conditions like frequency of the repeated action, whether the person performs such actions intentionally or not, whether the person is guilty of performing such actions, whether he/she regrets the performed action, how does a person behave with another one who has helped him/her a lot in every situation, personal actions with personal intentions or we can term different action against extraordinary people etc.
According to Buddha, Karma is all dependent on your actions. Besides this neutral Karma is also there that refers to actions that have no benefits or costs like breathing, eating or sleeping.
The Rebirth Rythm
We can also term this kind of Buddhist training as the “Cycle of Rebirth”. The above training included all the actions, or Karma one performs during his/her lifetime. This Karma plays an important role in the cycle of Rebirth in Buddhism. According to the Buddha, living beings can be reawakened or reborn in six different stages that can be distinguished as fortunate field and unfortunate field.
People with optimistic Karma are reborn in the fortunate field, which may be the realm of demigods, the realm of Gods, the realm of men. When a person with positive Karma is reborn as Demigods and Gods, they attain fulfilment in life. The Buddha considered the realm of men to be the highest field of rebirth as he thought that somewhere, Demigods and Gods suffered from relentless resentment which is unknown to men. A Human life, according to the Buddha, has the highest realm of rebirth and is free from rigorous conflicts like Demigods and Gods.
People with a record of pessimistic Karma or negative actions are inhabitants of unfortunate realm that are of animals, ghosts and hell. These unfortunate realms suffer a lot and the suffering of the realm of man is nothing in front of these unfortunate realms.
The Buddha believed that one with the highest realm of Karma or actions are reborn as a human being, and he/she only have the opportunity to attain enlightenment or Nirvana. To be born as a human being is a cherished chance at divine paradise. Any person should not take it for granted. We should be thankful for our fortunate realm always and should follow the path of enlightenment.