The Teachings of the Buddha

The Four Immeasureables
May all sentient beings have happiness and the root of happiness.
Be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May they not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.
May they dwell in the great equanimity, free from attachment to those near and aversion to those far.

The Four Noble Truths

The First Noble Truth

The Reality of Suffering- Dukkha

The Pali word dukkha, in ordinary usage means 'suffering', 'pain', 'sorrow' or 'misery'. But in the context of the First Noble Truth, dukkha also means 'imperfection', 'impermanence', 'emptiness', 'insubstantiality'.

There are three kinds of suffering:

    • Ordinary Suffering - dukkha-dukkha
        • Suffering produced by Change - virapinama-dukkha
            • Suffering as Conditioned States - samkara-dukkha

              Ordinary Suffering - dukkha-dukkha - There are all kinds of suffering in life: birth, old age, sickness, death, association with unpleasant persons and conditions, separation from beloved ones and pleasant conditions, not getting what one desires, grief, lamentation, distress--all forms of physical and mental suffering.

              Suffering produced by Change - virapinama-dukkha - Pleasant and happy feelings or conditions in life are not permanent. Sooner or later they change. When they change they may produce pain, suffering, unhappiness or disappointment. This vicissitude is considered viparimana-dukkha.

              Suffering as Conditioned States - samkara-dukkha - An 'individual', an 'I' or a 'self' is a combination of ever-changing mental and physical forces which can be divided into five groups or 'aggregates' (pancakkhandha).  Suffering as conditioned states is produced by attachment to these five aggregates:

              • Matter--rupakkhandha
              • Sensations--vedanakkhandha
              • Perceptions--sannakkhandha
              • Mental Formations--sankharakkhandha
              • Consciousness--vinnanakkhandha

              The Second Noble Truth

              The Cause of Suffering - Samudaya

              The principle cause of suffering is the attachment to "desire" or "craving" (tanha). Both desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have (aversion). The clinging to desire comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction comes from following desire. We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires doesn't bring an end to them.

              • Desire for sense-pleasures - kama-tanha - The desire for sense pleasures manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant experiences: the taste of good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful music.
              • Desire to become - bhava-tanha - The desire to become is the ambition that comes with wanting attainments or recognition or fame. It is the craving to "be a somebody".
              • Desire to get rid of - vibhava-tanha - The desire to get rid of the unpleasant experiences in life: unpleasant sensations, anger, fear, jealousy.


              The Third Noble Truth

              The Cessation of Suffering- Nirodha

              The end of suffering is non-attachment, or letting go of desire or craving. This is the state of Nibbana, where greed, hatred and delusion are extinct.

              Freedom from attachments to the five aggregates of attachment is the end of suffering. This freedom is not conditioned by causes, as are the conditioned states: Nibbana is the non-attachment to conditioned experience.

              To understand the unconditioned, we need to see for ourselves that everything that has a nature to be born has a nature to die: that every phenomenon that has a cause is impermanent. By letting go of attachment to desire for conditioned phenomena, desire can come to an end and we can be liberated from suffering.


              The Fourth Noble Truth

              The Way to the Cessation of Suffering- Magga

              The end to suffering will result by following the Noble Eightfold Path--Ariya-Atthangika-Magga. There are three qualities that must be developed to attain Nirvana: Morality - Sila, Concentration - Samadhi, and Wisdom - Panna.

              1. Wisdom - Panna

              • Right Understanding - samma ditthi
              • Right Thought - samma sankappa

              Wisdom comes from understanding the three characteristics of existence:

              • all conditioned phenomena are impermanent
              • all conditioned phenomena are not personal, not self
              • attachment to desire for impermanent phenomena leads to suffering

              "Right Understanding" of the impermanent, non-self nature of phenomena and that attachment to them leads to suffering brings about "Right Thought", i.e. the aspiration or intention to be liberated from suffering and to understand the truth.

              The deepening of wisdom is enhanced when the lifestyle and mind are calmed through the practices of Morality - Sila and Concentration - Samadhi.

              2. Morality - Sila

              • Right Speech--samma vaca
              • Right Action--samma kammanta
              • Right Livelihood--samma ajiva

              Adherence to moral guidelines--precepts--is an essential protection from causing suffering to oneself and to others. While these guidelines define a code of discipline, the virtues that bring about moral behavior can also be cultivated with the practice of a culture of the heart.

              There are five basic precepts that Buddhist practitioners undertake (Monks and Nuns undertake many more). A modern analysis of these precepts is offered by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. They are:

              • Reverence for Life (refrain from killing)
              • Generosity (refrain from stealing)
              • Sexual Responsibility (refrain from sexual misconduct)
              • Deep Listening and Loving Speech (refrain from lying)
              • Mindful Consumption (refrain from ingesting intoxicants)

              In the context of the Noble Eightfold path, these five precepts imply:

              • Right Speech
              • Right Action
              • Right Livelihood

              Right Speech means to tell the truth and speak appropriately in accordance with the 4th precept. Specifically, it implies abstaining from lying; divisive gossip; rude and abusive language; idle and useless chatter.

              Right actions are the actions that are consistent with precepts 1, 2, 3 and 5. They include actions that show reverence for life, generosity and restraint in sexual conduct.

              Right livelihood means that one should earn a living that allows the 5 precepts to flourish. Dealing in arms, drugs or violence; exploitation of others and profiteering cannot be conducive to the moral life.

              3. Concentration - Samadhi

              • Right Effort - samma vayama
              • Right Mindfulness - samma sati
              • Right Concentration - samma samadhi