Thursday, March 12, 2020

Deeper: The Four Noble Truths (audio)

Ajahn Chah (, "The Four Noble Truths" via Ajahn Jayasaro, 3/17/13; Ajahn Amaro; accompanying Wiki text edited by Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson, Ellie Askew, Wisdom Quarterly

The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah was published in 2012. This is the complete collection of talks by Ajahn Chah that have been translated into English.

During the winter of 2012, Ajahn Amaro, abbot of Amaravati Monastery, was giving daily readings recorded as audio files. They were collected as rough-hewn edits. This talk is by guest reader Ajahn Jayasaro, author of Stillness Flowing: The Life and Teachings of Ajahn Chah.

These talks are being made available until the final version is ready. That collection will include a Q&A and will soon be published.

The Four Ennobling Truths

The Four Noble Truths (Sanskrit catvāri āryasatyāni, Pali cattāri ariyasaccāni) are regarded as the core summary of the Buddha's teaching. These ennobling (enlightening) truths are said to provide a conceptual framework for all Buddhist thought.

They explain the nature of our fundamental existential problem:
  1. dukkha or disappointment (commonly translated as "suffering," "unease," or "unsatisfactoriness")
  2. its causes (craving rooted in ignorance)
  3. its cessation (nirvana), and
  4. the path leading to its cessation.
The first noble truth explains the nature of dukkha, which is said to have the following three aspects:
  1. The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with rebirth, aging, illness, and dying.
  2. The anxiety or hardship of trying to hold on to things that are constantly changing.
  3. A basic disappointment (inability to find fulfillment) pervading all existence, due to the fact that all forms of rebirth are unsatisfactoriness, impermanent, and without any inner core or enduring substance.
On this level, the term indicates a lack of anything that can satisfy, fulfill, or complete us, the sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.

The focus on dukkha in this core Buddhist teaching has caused many observers to consider Buddhism to be pessimistic. However, this emphasis is about as pessimistic as a doctor focusing on an illness to cure it. It is very optimistic because there is a solution, and the path to it is perhaps the most important of the truths.

The truths present a realistic and practical assessment of our problem in the Cycle of Rebirth (samsara) — this unending round of wandering. All beings experience disappointment and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable suffering of illness, aging, and death.

Contemporary Buddhist teachers and translators emphasize that while the central message of Buddhism is optimistic, the Buddhist view of our situation in life (the conditions that we live in) is realistic.

The second noble truth is that the origin (causes) of dukkha can be known and undone. The origin of dukkha is commonly explained as craving (tanha) conditioned by ignorance (avijja).

Craving is the proximate cause, but on a deeper level the root cause of dukkha is ignorance of the true nature of things.

The third noble truth is that the complete cessation of dukkha is possible. That cessation of all suffering is called nirvana.

The fourth noble truth identifies a path to this cessation called the Noble Eightfold Path.

According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha first taught the Four Noble Truths in the very first sutra or sermon he delivered after enlightenment, as recorded in the "Discourse That Sets Turning the Wheel of Truth" (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutra).

The Buddha further clarified their meaning in many subsequent teachings.

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