Zen Principles: The 4 Noble Truths

The 4 Noble Truths

THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH: THE TRUTH OF SUFFERING

The Buddha‘s discovery of the solution to the problem of suffering began with the recognition that life is suffering. This is the first of the Four Noble Truths. If people examine their own experiences or look at the world around them, they will see that life is full of suffering. Suffering may be physical or mental.

PHYSICAL SUFFERING

takes many forms. People must have observed at one time or another, how their aged relatives suffer. Most of them suffer aches and pains in their joints and many find it hard to move about. With advancing age, the elderly find life difficult because they cannot see, hear or eat properly. The pain of disease, which strikes young and old alike, is unbearable, and the pain of death brings much grief and suffering. Even the moment of birth gives pain both to the mother and the child that is born.

The truth is that suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death are unavoidable. Some fortunate people may now be enjoying relatively happy and carefree lives, but it is only a matter of time before they, too, will experience suffering. What is worse, this suffering must be borne alone.

MENTAL SUFFERING

Beside physical suffering, there are also various forms of mental suffering. People feel sad, lonely or depressed when they lose someone they love through separation or death. They feel irritated or uncomfortable when they are forced to be in the company of those whom they dislike or those who are unpleasant. People also suffer when they are unable to satisfy their limitless needs and wants.

HAPPINESS IN LIFE

When the Buddha said that there is suffering in life, He did not deny that there is happiness also. On the contrary, He spoke of various kinds of happiness, such as the happiness of friendship, the happiness of family life, and so on. But all these kinds of happiness are impermanent and when one loses them, one suffers. For example, one may like a pleasant and charming person and enjoy his or her company. But when one is separated from that person, the happiness turns into suffering. One suffers because of one’s attachment to pleasures that do not last. People often remain unaware of the inevitable sufferings of life because they are distracted by temporary pleasures.

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