What are the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism?
According to The Register and InfoPlease, Buddhism has become one of the top five religions of the world while being one of the top three most practiced. Buddhism originated in eastern central Asia and it encompasses the idea of reaching enlightenment by following the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism has increased in popularity over the centuries because of its stance as not only a religion, but as a philosophy.
Buddhism focuses on compassion and does not preach about reaching the divine in order to attain happiness. It stresses that happiness and contentment is found from within as long as one strays away from the sufferings of life. The religion does not seek converts but focuses on the individuals that choose to follow it. Overall, Buddhism is a science of mind and continues to help individuals reach enlightenment by finding inner peace within their own lives first.
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Buddhism is well known for its four noble truths that speak of “liberating human beings from suffering” (Yampolsky). In order to reach the path of enlightenment, Buddhism advises people to accept these four truths. Number one emphasizes how life contains endless suffering. Even when one feels contentment of happiness, there is always underlying sadness and anxiety. The second noble truth uncovers the cause of suffering and that it is “craving and fundamental ignorance” (Yampolsky).
Every day we overcome basic forms of suffering like thirst and hunger to more severe forms of mourning like the death of a loved one and diseases. Through our endless suffering, the Buddha teaches us that the root of it all is desire. He explains that desire comes in three different form: the Three Fires, the Three Poisons, and the Three Roots of Evil (Mu?€ller). The three forms encompass the notion that suffering is caused by “greed, ignorance, and hatred” (Mu?€ller). Samudaya explains that one can never stop suffering because of their need for more.
A rich person always wants to be richer and a smart person always wants to be smarter. The Buddha also emphasizes that our delusional nature causes us to feel endless discontentment with our lives. We always seek a brighter future and a more successful life. Lastly, the Buddha explains the last root of evil stems from hatred and destructive urges. This includes resentment and jealousy.
In order to rid of suffering and its causes, Nidroha uncovers the Third Noble Truth (Mu?€ller). This advises the followers to liberate themselves from attachment. The Noble Truths help Buddhist followers uncover inner peace within themselves, and is one of the most notorious ideas in helping people alleviate from their sufferings. The teachings have continued to become more renowned over the years due to its intellect in explaining why people suffer the way they do.
The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths was taught as a result of what Siddhartha Gautama learned in his own life. His journey to reach enlightenment began when he was a noble prince named Siddhartha Gautama. Before he was born, his mother, Maya, had a dream that a majestic white elephant had entered her stomach. Knowing that this was a sign from above, she decides to give birth to her son in the Deer Park (Conze).
Growing up, Siddhartha Gautama was a lovable person with incomparable intelligence and charm. His father however heard a prophecy that Siddhartha Gautama would run away from home and royalty in order to become the Enlightened One. Worried that this prophecy would become reality, Siddhartha Gautama’s father prohibited him from leaving the castle. It wasn’t until Siddhartha Gautama reached the age of 29 that he was able to spend a day in the city along with his best friend. That day was the first time he finally witnessed suffering.
Within the three days he was able to stay in the city, he came across a severely sick man, an old decrepit man, and a dead person (Conze). Siddhartha Gautama was distraught realizing that “every person he loved had to encounter this throughout their lifetime” (Burnouf). His solution to end all of this suffering in the world was to rid of his royal life in order to reach Enlightenment. That same night, Siddhartha Gautama snuck away from the palace, chopped off his hair, and along with his white horse travelled for six years to reach his goal.
Along the way he met countless meditation teachers and was able to master the techniques of peace meditating. It wasn’t until a morning a may where the moon was full that he was able to reach enlightenment. He sat under the Bodhi tree and reached intuitive bliss where his past and future completely disintegrated. Then was when he became the Buddha, the Awakened One.
After reaching enlightenment, Buddha traveled on foot for nearly forty five years through northern India. He taught people about the Noble Truths and his journey to reach enlightenment. Eventually, his followers share their own experiences and confirm that his teachings and this path was correct. One of Buddha’s most memorable quotes is, “I can die happily. I have not kept a single teaching hidden in a closed hand. Everything that is useful for you, I have already given. Be your guiding light.”
Throughout his teachings, the Buddha speaks of a state where one no longer suffers in life. This is the state of Nirvana. The Buddha encourages people to rid of desires, hatred, and greed in order to reach this transcendent state where they no longer have to go through the cycle of death and rebirth. Ultimately, Nirvana is the destination when one practices Buddhism.
In one of Buddha’s book of teachings, Mahayana Sutras, Nirvana is defined as blowing out or extinguishing (Segall). The book compares Nirvana to blowing out a candle where the candle are the three causes of suffering. Reaching enlightenment is an ethical reality where a person feels no more worry or doubt. Nirvana is a state of constant spirituality and peaceful freedom. Although some claim that other religions possess these qualities, it is unlikely that they have witnessed it through a perfect degree.
This is why Nirvana speaks of a person or state such as the Buddha where all of these traits are perfectly possessed. Followers and potential followers of Buddhism are captivated by the idea that they can escape from a life of suffering. The religion has gained countless amounts of supporters over the centuries because it promotes people reflecting back to themselves in order to alleviate their pains. Buddhism teaches us that “nobody saves us but ourselves” (Segall) which is why in order to reach Nirvana and in order to follow Buddhism, one must improve their own selves first.
According to the Buddhist Sacred Texts, when Nirvana is not met, the souls of living creatures (human beings included) go to the underworld once they die if they broke specific rules during their time alive. In order to be accepted as a child of Buddha, a follower must follow the Five Moral Precepts during their lifetime (Yampolsky). This means human beings cannot harm living things, take what isn’t given, perform sexual misconduct, lie or gossip, and take intoxicating substances.
The Five Precepts are guidelines that followers of Buddhism should follow in order to accumulate good karma. The Buddha says in his Sutra that by avoiding these actions, they will come closer to reaching enlightenment because they are avoiding the three causes of suffering as well. According the Buddha, one should never harm living things like killing a bug or eating meat because it lies under the the root of evil that signifies hatred. Stealing and taking is epitomizes greed because we are not content with what we have and are not willing to gain it fairly and respectfully.
Performing sexual misconduct and lying or gossiping exemplify all of the three causes of suffering: greed, hatred, and ignorance. Lastly, in taking intoxicating substances like drinking alcohol or taking drugs causes one to fall into a delusional state which causes them to be ignorant. In his teachings, the Buddha explains that a person could make generous donations to a temple.
They can pray every day and repent every night, but if they continue their lives ignoring The Five Precepts, they will never be able to reach enlightenment. Buddha’s followers and monks avoid these five tasks because it allows them to find inner peace while living respectfully and truthfully. The Five Precepts focus on virtue and nobility. By practicing and mastering it, one will not only improve themselves, but also reach enlightenment.
The Four Noble Truths, story of Siddhartha Gautama, and the Five Precepts are only a few examples that explain why Buddhism is such an admirable and well renowned religion. Unlikes many other religions, Buddhism truly focuses on the individual and their state of mind. It encourages followers of the religion to work towards the same goal which is to reach an endless peace where they will no longer need to die and be reborn.
Additionally, it also promotes reflection on one’s own life in order to improve their lifestyle. By encouraging actions that prevent hatred, greed, and ignorance, Buddhism steers its followers away from the sufferings of life. Overall, the religion is one of the greatest exemplifications of serenity and virtue. Buddhism has captivated the favoritism of not only its followers but those adhering to other religions as well.
- Burnouf, Eugene, et al. Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism. The University of
- Chicago Press, 2015. Print
- Conze, Edward. Buddhism: A Short History. London;Boston, 1980. Print
- Much?iller F. Max. The Dhammapada, a Collection of Verses. Translated from Pali by Max Muller,
- Motilal Banarasidass, 1968. Print
- Segall, Seth Robert. Encountering Buddhism: Western Psychology and Buddhist Teachings. State
- University of New York Press, 2003. 100-236. Print
- Yampolsky, Philip B. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch: the Text of the Tun-Huang
- Manuscript. 76th ed., Columbia University Press, 1967.