Medicine For The Soul: The Four Noble Truths Of The Buddha

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When Siddhartha Gautama became “Buddha”, the Enlightened One in the grooves of Bodh Gaya, the event marked his attainment of the answers to the problem of human suffering. Inspired to share the pearls of ultimate wisdom with others, the Buddha gave his First Sermon, known as- “Dhammachakrapravartana” (turning of the Wheel of Dhamma) at Sarnath, where he uttered the Four Noble Truths, which are the root map for human beings, to guide them away from the continuous cycles of life and death and take them to the blissful experience of Nibbana or Nirvana.

The First Noble Truth

Dukkha or suffering is the first noble truth of human life. Aspects of being a human- birth, age, death, and human emotions, everything causes a person to suffer. The source of this suffering is the knowledge of impermanence, pain, and lack of any control over one’s condition. The strong attachment to one’s self ‘I’ and ‘Me’ and seeing it above the rest but never finding true happiness ensures that Dukkha is a part of human life as long as a person lives.

The Second Noble Truth

According to the Buddha, the samudaya or source of Dukkha are the cravings or thirst that surrounds a human being. The pleasure of the sense, attachment to life, and the thoughts of the afterlife crowd the mind, and for gratifying these, a human being forever searches his surroundings. When the needs and wants remain unsatisfied, frustration, anger, and conflict become a part of life.

The Third Noble Truth

The way out or nirodha from a spiral of suffering in life is annihilating the thirst or the origin of dukkha. This as per the Buddhist traditions is possible only by Nibbana or Nirvana- the complete extinction of petty gratifications and attaining proximity to the enlightened principle. The Fire Sermon of Vinaya Pitaka describes the “fires” of attachment, animosity, illusion, birth, getting old, and the deceased, which are quelled by Nirvana. The state of Nirvana usually associated with death is possible while a person lives on the earthly plain and is experienced by Buddhist followers who become “Arahat” (the Worthy One).

The Fourth Noble Truth

The holy fourth truth prescribed by the Buddha is known worldwide as the “Ashtangika Marga” or the Eight-Fold Path, more commonly as the “Madhyam Marga” or the Middle Path. Practicing these eight virtues leads one to the enlightened state of Nirvana.

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The Eight Fold Path includes-

  1. Right Perception
  2. Right Thought
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

The first two components of this list are associated with wisdom, 3-5 are moral qualities, and 6-8 assist in the spiritual growth of the Chitta (mind). The Eight Fold path is a guide in the everyday life as well as in the journey of spiritual upliftment. There is a natural progression in the order of the factors of the path, with each one leading to the other, and the last one- Right concentration laying the groundwork for Enlightenment.

Entering The Stream Of Enlightened Bliss

A person who does not follow the path laid by the Four Noble Truths is called “puthujjana” or an ordinary man. When one is initiated into Buddhism by proclaiming refuge in Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, the journey to enlightenment begins. Practicing the Eight-Fold Path unwaveringly makes a person a “Once Returner”- who is born only once in the human realm and their other rebirths occur in the abode of the gods. Buddhists with higher spiritual merit win over the urges of subtle sensual desires and animosity and become Non-returners. Moving further, a holy person reaches closer to becoming an Arahat and finally attains Arahathood. All gross and subtle sources of dukkha are overpowered by an Arahat and he endlessly enjoys the sweet stream of Nibbana’s bliss.

The Four Noble Truths in the Buddhist faith are one of the most ancient, sacred, and simplest methods for a human being to rise above the murky waters of dukkha. Just as medical methods observe, identify and heal the ailment that causes physical pain, the Noble Truths in Buddhism answer the question of what ails the mind. Following these invaluable teachings of the Tathagata, human life becomes meaningful, and one leaves the petty concerns of self-gratification behind to become a fulfilling presence in the lives of others.

Inspired by the incomparable life and preachings of the Buddha, Exotic India Art houses a vast treasure of Buddha statues, made by following ancient techniques and Buddhist textual traditions, in pure and durable materials and pious Buddhist texts as well as other related literary. Visit our collection and find a serene Buddhist icon or knowledge rich book on Buddhism, to fill your space and mind with sublimity of Enlightenment.

Sources Used-

1. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices by Peter Harvey (Cambridge University Press)

2. Buddha: The Enlightened One by Gabriel Mandel Khan (Thunder Bay Press)

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