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The Four Noble Truths

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The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

The First Noble Truth


Nothing lasts forever. Understand this and be not attached to what you are experiencing, otherwise you will experience suffering. When you experience happiness know that it is a reaction to circumstance and it is not a permanent state. Conversely, when you are suffering know that it shall not be eternal.

The Second Noble Truth


Craving sensory stimulation, craving existence, and craving non-existence give rise to the continuity of being, and with it its attendant suffering. Attaining a state of non-craving should be part of your daily effort.

The Third Noble Truth


One can end eternal suffering by ending the craving that leads to the continuation of suffering.

The Fourth Noble Truth


Ending the craving that leads to the continuation of suffering is brought about through living by the ideals of the Noble Eightfold Path. It delineates a plan of self-discipline regarding ethical conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom. The Path avoids two extremes--the pursuit of complete and ultimate sensory pleasure, or the pursuit of utter self-denial.

The Noble Eight-fold Path

Right Understanding

This precept can be thought of as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths as a whole. This understanding is not superficial, and without needing name nor label it deeply knows the true nature of things. It is one of the factors that constitute wisdom.

Right Thought

Right Thought is one of the factors that constitute wisdom. Selfless renunciation, detachment, love and nonviolence, these thoughts are extended to all beings. When this is lacking, however, as in such as thoughts based on selfish desire, hatred and violence, it is a sign that one is lacking in wisdom.

Right Speech

Do not tell lies. Refrain from backbiting, slander and rumor-mongering as they bring about disharmony in people. Stay away from harsh and malicious language. Foaming at the mouth is to be avoided. Speak carefully and appropriately. Ethical conduct is based on Right Speech.

Right Action

Don't kill, don't steal, be honest in your dealings, and have appropriate sexual intercourse. (Editor's Note: what constitutes appropriate varies with the culture from within which one is coming from). Ethical conduct is rooted in Right Action.

Right Livelihood

Do not make profit through harming others. For example, typical Buddhist employment would not include: arms dealer, crystal meth dealer, shrimp catcher, or chemical company executive. Right Livelihood is ethical conduct.

Right Effort

You must be persistent in preventing evil and unharmonious states of mind from coming to be. You must also be persistent in promoting good and harmonious states of mind. Right Effort is a Mental Discipline.

Right Mindfulness (or Attentiveness)

You should be ever aware of what your body is doing, what you sense and feel, and what your mind is thinking about. You should attempt to be detached from these things, however. Merely notice them as they happen, and don't get all caught up in, say, that fantasy you love to replay in your head whenever you smell watermelon-scented body lotion. Right Mindfulness is a mental discipline.

Right Concentration

This precept points to the various modes of meditation and also other practices used to strengthen mental discipline. A very common practice is "Noticing One's Breath", in which, sitting comfortably with your back upright, you notice your breath as it goes in and out, in and out. You also come to notice that your mind is a nonstop whirlwind of disjoint thought, and with continued meditation the mind tends to calm and clear.

 Congratulations! You are now enlightened! Just kidding. Now go meditate.

Continue to:
Buddhist Schools (In brief)
Return to:
Buddhism Introduction

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Last updated: 07/11/09

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