Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Buddha's Noble FOURfold Path

"Eightfold Path? I was into it back when it was the Fourfold Path" (Elephant Journal)
An Elephant's Footprint
Elephant at Borobudur (TrevThompson)
The recorded teachings of the Buddha are numerous. But all these diverse teachings fit together into a single unifying frame: the teaching of the Four Noble [or Ennobling] Truths.

The Buddha compared the Four Noble Truths to the footprint of an elephant. Just as the footprint of an elephant can encompass within it the footprints of any other animal -- lions, tigers, wolves, foxes, cats, dogs, and so on -- so all the different teachings of the Buddha fit into the single framework of the Four Noble Truths.

Punk rock Buddha (Saara/Arkiharha/flickr)
The Buddha makes it clear that the FULL realization of the Four Noble Truths precedes the attainment of enlightenment itself, which means touching or glimpsing nirvana, final liberation from all disappointment.

He says that when a teaching-buddha appears in the world, what is taught are the Four Noble Truths. The special purpose of the Dharma is to make known this path to spiritual-nobility, to ultimate truth and liberation from illusions and suffering.

And the special aim of those treading the path to enlightenment is to personally know-and-see (experientially verify) the Four Noble Truths:
  1. The truth of disappointment (dukkha, unsatisfactoriness, unhappiness, pain, suffering, misery, the unpleasant),
  2. The truth of the origin of disappointment,
  3. The truth of the cessation of disappointment,
  4. The truth of the path, the [eightfold] way to complete and final liberation from disappointment.
Elephant's Footprint sutra (
The technical Buddhist term dukkha has often been translated as suffering, pain...misery. But dukkha or "disappointment," as used by the Buddha, has a much wider and deeper meaning.
It suggests a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms and planes existence, even the most exalted and long lasting, all forms of rebirth, due to the fact that all forms are impermanent (even when they do not seem to be changing in heavenly planes) and without any inner core or substance.

The term dukkha indicates a lack of fulfillment, a lack of perfection, a condition that never measures up to our standards and expectations. Each word in the phrase "Four Noble Truths" is significant. What is the doctor's prescription?

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