I’ve been reflecting lately on the profundity of the Four Noble Truths. These Truths underpinned all 45 years of the Buddha’s teachings. We sometimes think we already know this as a beginners’ teaching. And we want the juicy stuff, the more complex and meaty philosophical or intellectual challenges. My experience with these Four seemingly simple Truths is that as our practice settles and we reflect more deeply, they reveal the profound reality of being human in unexpected ways. This is not surprising, as they have endured as a guide leading to the liberation of the heart/mind for 2600 years.
The Four Truths can be stated simply—First, there is dukkha; Second, there is an origin or cause of dukkha—the mind that clings; Third, dukkha can cease; and Fourth, the Noble Eightfold Path leads to the cessation of dukkha.
To find freedom, the Buddha says our first task is to understand the First Noble Truth—that dukkha exists (suffering, insecurity, unsatisfactoriness, stress are all different translations), with the taking on of a human body—there is unavoidable pain, change, sorrow, lamentation, loss, despair.
It becomes more and more visible through practice as we give up hiding from the way things actually are—sickness, loss, depression, confusion, anger, jealousy, competition, guilt, betrayal. Even in pleasure, there’s dukkha—we get what we want and we’re afraid it won’t last; we grasp after what inevitably changes; things are insecure; no matter where we look, they change.
Can you identify dukkha in your own life?