THERE IS NO TRUTH OF SUFFERING, OF THE CAUSE OF SUFFERING,
OF THE CESSATION OF SUFFERING, NOR OF THE PATH."
deals with the Void as the ground of the Four Noble Truths. What
are they? Suffering, Cause of Suffering, Cessation of Suffering
and The Path. The teaching transcends the mundane and provides access
to sainthood. A saint from the Theravada tradition attains the path
and the fruit on the basis of his/her practice of The Four Noble
Truths. The Mahayana attainment is in the realm of the supramundane.
The suffering spoken of is the suffering in this world. Its causes
are, likewise, of this world, the path is operative in this world
and Nirvana or cessation of suffering is our exit from this world.
The path provides the right causes for the Tao and the practice
is aimed toward enlightenment.
The first of
the Noble Truths is presented in three aspects: 1. As ordinary suffering.
In this aspect it includes all forms of physical and mental pain
and ache. 2. The outcome of the impermanent nature of life. All
the fleeting pleasures are illusory and temporary and subject to
change. 3. The five aggregates or the conditioned states. Matter,
feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness, the
last being based on the first four, are constantly changing, hence
impermanent, and what is impermanent is, inevitably, suffering.
The six realms
of existence comprise three good or happy ones, and three unhappy
or evil ones. The first three are the realm of heavenly beings,
the realm of humans and the realm of asuras (titans). The latter
three consist of the realm of hell, the realm of hungry ghosts,
and the realm of animals. The form sphere and the formless sphere
both provide much longer life continuity than this world. and more
happiness as well, but they are still subject to birth, death and
suffering consequent of action. The sphere of desire in the human
realm provides equal parts of happiness and suffering, while the
asuras, though enjoying blessings, are without morality and their
good fortune will eventually end.
of the three happy realms made good causes in their former lives,
and depending on how they benefit others, they will receive rewards
accordingly in this world. There is no need to explain the three
unhappy realms. All we need to say is that there is a great deal
of suffering there. The suffering of those inhabiting unhappy realms
is the present effect of causes from their previous lives. All suffering
is produced by the mind. One reaps as one sows.
What is the
cause of suffering? The second of the Noble Truths posits the cause
or the origin of suffering as craving or thirst which produces re-existence
and re-becoming, accompanied by passionate clinging. Numerous causes
come together, and we know that our present suffering is the effect
of previous causes. Likewise, our present behavior is the foundation
for future effects.
has the supramundane on the cessation of suffering? The third of
the Noble Truths follows logically from the first two. If craving
is removed or transcended there will be no more suffering. Cessation
means calmness and extinction, or Nirvana: It is inviting, attractive
and comprehensible to the wise. The one who understands the source
of suffering thoroughly knows that it is generated by one's own
self; yearning for Nirvana, he/she resolves to practice and attain
the path and the fruit, i.e., Nirvana.
What is the
cause of the Noble Truth of the Path? Having analyzed the meaning
of life, the Buddha demonstrated to his disciples how to deal effectively
with suffering. The fourth Noble Truth makes the teaching a complete
whole. Those who focus their desire on attaining the supramundane
Nirvana can break off the causes of suffering and practice toward
of the teaching of the Four Noble Truths should reach understanding
of the cause of suffering and direct his/her efforts toward the
dissolution of the cause of suffering, resolve to attain Nirvana
and from then on practice wholeheartedly. Following his enlightenment
the Buddha taught the Avatamsaka, but some hearers had difficulty
understanding it, and therefore he applied expedient means to accommodate
them. His teaching of the Four Noble Truths was threefold: 1. By
means of contemplation of the manifestations of suffering, 2. By
exhortation, 3. Using his own attainment as an example and as encouragement.
of the manifestations of suffering.
There are several
kinds of suffering people are forced to endure in order to survive
and to get the basic necessities of life; The ordinary form of suffering
includes birth, old age, sickness, death, parting from what we love,
meeting what we hate, unattained aims and all the ills of the five
skandhas. Where does the suffering come from? It is generated by
one's own self.
The cause of
suffering is a cluster of six root defilements: Greed, hatred, ignorance,
pride, doubt and heterodox views. The lesser defilements are diversified
varieties of the six root defilements. The twenty secondary afflictions
are belligerence, resentment, spite, concealment, deceit, dissimulation,
haughtiness, harmfulness, jealousy, miserliness, non-shame, non--embarrassment,
non-faith, laziness, non-conscientiousness, lethargy, excitement,
forgetfulness, non-introspection, and distraction; the six root
defilements and the twenty secondary afflictions together cause
all the suffering in the world.
suffering can be attained; it is possible to end the cycle (allotment)
of birth and death, put aside the four conditions of mortality and
attain the appealing, joyful Nirvana. To follow the Theravada practice
means, however, not to halt the mortal changes of the round of births,
and to have some obstruction regarding Emptiness.
Those who resolved
to practice and attain because of their ardent wish to reach Nirvana
should observe the thirty-seven conditions leading to Bodhi. The
three studies or three pillars of practice - discipline, meditation
and wisdom - represent the thirty-seven conditions in condensed
form. The practice of discipline removes the obstacle of greed,
meditation reduces delusion and the two combined foster wisdom.
Without diligent practice the Buddha's follower does not get very
far on his journey.
2. By exhortation:
Using the expressions
and the tone of a concerned teacher or a parent the Buddha would,
at times, urge his followers: "You should understand how people
are forced to endure their predicament
" or "the
cessation of suffering can be attained, you ought to make the effort,
you should practice
" and so on.
3. Using his
own attainment as an example and as encouragement:
of suffering can be resolved; look, I did it and so can you."
of suffering are cumulative. The sooner you eliminate or transcend
them, the quicker you will be free once and for all; I freed myself
and now I don't have to worry any more" and such like.
At the time
the Buddha set the wheel in motion by teaching the Four Noble Truths,
the hearers (Sravakas) attained sainthood (Arhatship). After years
of teaching, the Buddha taught the Dharma of Emptiness (Sunyata)
to promote the understanding of the supramundane Void of True Existence.
We have seen the emptiness of the five skandhas, and at present
we perceive the Dharma of the Four Noble Truths to be void as well.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no cessation of suffering
and no path. They are only the reflection in the mirror; without
reflection there is not the ability to reflect. The reflection is
not separate from that which reflects it; the reflective surface
and the reflection are one. To understand this means to be close