Author: Venerable Dhammasami,
Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre, London.
Lecture No. 6, 5th February 2000

Revision: The Four Noble Truth

      Question:    How important is it to know the Four Noble Truths?

      Answer: It is extremely important. If you know them well, you know the whole philosophy and practice of Buddhism.

      Question:    How can this simple teaching cover the whole Buddhism?

      Answer: Well, the First Noble Truth is all about life - the ever fleeting nature of physical body , emotions and thoughts are described as Noble as they do not change their nature of being impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self. And also for being true to each and every one of us regardless of our belief, colour and social status.

      The Second Noble Truth is the cause of the first one - craving. We can now see that the first two are related as cause and effect. This means Buddhism accepts that life works the way it does due to causes. When the causes are there, there will be an effect. And there will not be any effect when there are no conditions for it to arise.

      The Third one is the end of suffering, when there is no more condition for suffering to arise. That is the highest goal - Nibbana. The way to achieve this is called the last and Fourth Noble Truth.


The Noble Eightfold Path

      The Path: The fourth Noble Truth is the path. Because it avoids two extremes, it is known as middle path. This is all what we have to practise as a Buddhist. We have to build our own path - as the Buddha has only pointed out the way. This means we have to depend on ourselves, in other words, to be independent in our journey to liberation from suffering.

      Two Extremes: The two extremes are everywhere, whenever there is a problem. By identifying and abandoning them, we discover the middle path. This path consists of eight factors - like constructing a motor way where you need many components - you need eight component to make a path.

      The eight components, hereafter known as the Noble Eightfold Path, are

1. Right Understanding (View): A view based on the realities of life as they are, not the way we want it to be. i.e seeing life as a process of changing events, unsatisfactory if craving remains, and the absence of a permanent entity like soul or God.

2. Right Attitude (Thought): based on non-violence, detachment and no-resentment.

3. Right Speech: no telling a lie, no gossiping, no slandering and no harsh speech.

4. Right Action: no hurting/killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct.

5. Right Livelihood: no trading in arms, slaves, weapon, poison and alcohol.

6. Right Effort: to get rid of our weakness and develop good point.

7. Right Awareness (Mindfulness): awareness of physical body, sensation, mind and their nature (dhamma)

8. Right Concentration: that is developed to understand life as it is, not to suppress feelings.

      They have to be practised at the same time - lacking of one will mean you have not successfully formed a path. It is only one path, not eight.

      The First two make up wisdom while the middle three represent ethical morality. The last three are about meditation.

      You Decide: In this path, you decide your own space and time - depending on how much effort and understanding you are developing. No gender, race, colour, belief, social status or wealth counts. We all are truly reduced to being individuals when it comes to practising this Path.

      Here and Now: Although Buddhism believes in many rebirths, you do not need to wait till next life to reap the result. You can experience it - peace of mind- now.

      Traditionally the path is viewed as sharing (the practice of generosity), observing precepts and meditation. (Dana, sila and Bhavana respectively). You come to mean the same thing.

Related articles for further reading selected by the Course Organiser:

    The Buddhist Way of Life, Myanaung U Tin, 1961,

    The Middle Path, by Venerable Sayadaw U Thittila

(Next Week: "Samsara/ Planes of Existence")

(Previous Lectures)

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5th February 2000