The Four Noble Truths

After meditating under the Bodhi tree and reaching enlightenment, around 2,500 years ago the Buddha came up with the Four Noble Truths of Suffering. These four principles constitute the heart of his teachings and thereupon the basis of Buddhism philosophy and religion. Many compare the Buddha’s approach to suffering to that of regular medical practice; as he went through the process of diagnosis, prognosis, recovery and even the use of “medicine” to cure the disease. 

Dukkha or Suffering

Three of the first types of suffering the Buddha witnessed outside his palace when abandoning his position as future king were old age, sickness, and death. Nonetheless, he soon realized the broader complexity revolving suffering recognizing that, even as external or physical misfortune is not crippling ones’ life, suffering persists. Satisfaction brought by the fulfillment of our cravings or desires are transitory and frequently short-lived; in other words, no external thing can ever provide genuine (lasting) happiness and this is the truth of suffering. 

Samudāya or Origin of Suffering

Although in our individual experience of life we may find several immediate causes of suffering, such as the ending of a relationship, illnesses or losing our job; Buddha went deep to find what lied behind it all to discover that the root of it all is ignorance; with ignorance being understood as the “contradiction between appearance and reality” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, 2013). In addition to this, the Three Roots of Evil, which are different forms of suffering, were identified as ignorance, plus desire or greed and hate.

Nirodha or Cessation of Suffering 

The feasibility of liberation is presented by this Third Noble Truth and the way to achieve it is, as said by Buddha, by freeing oneself from attachment. Once this has been achieved one can reach enlightenment or Nirvana; that is the dissipation of the Three Roots of Evil. “One who has reached cessation has great purity of heart, ocean-like compassion and penetrating wisdom” (Tsem Rimpoche, 2013). The Buddha himself is living proof of the possibility of attaining a state of Nirvana. 

Magga or Path to the Cessation of Suffering

The Eightfold Path contains the set of principles that can guide an individual towards the cessation of suffering. The Buddha called it the Middle Way, as being guided by his own experience on seeking illumination; it refrains from both indulgence as well as strict asceticism. 

These eight principles consist of comprehensive and profound training of all mind, speech, and body and are: 

  • Right understanding
  • Right Intention
  • Right speech
  • Right action
  • Right livelihood
  • Right effort
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right concentration


His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet “An Explanation of the Four Noble Truths and a Public Talk to Begin His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Visit to New Zealand” (2013) News. Dalai Lama, 9 June 2013. Web. 31 July 2017.   

Tsem Rimpoche “The Four Noble Truths” (2013) All Posts: Buddhism. Tsem Rimpoche, 16 Augist 2013. Web. 31 July 2017.

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