Buddhism originated sometime between the 4th and 6th centuries BCE, when Siddhartha Gautama gained enlightenment and began teaching the Dharma. Since then his teachings have spread out from India, integrated with local cultures and belief systems resulting in many schools and traditions. However, despite their diversity, all these schools have one thing in common, the Middle Way taught by the Buddha.

the Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are one of the core doctrines of Buddhism, believed to be one of the first teachings of the Buddha after his enlightenment. They containing the essence of his teachings and are particularly central to the Theravada school of Buddhism. So what are these truths?

truth 1
Suffering exists
The first truth that the Buddha recognised is that suffering, discomfort and dissatisfaction are part and parcel of life. We will all suffer from discomforts, be it the physical discomfort of illness, old age and death or the mental suffering of separation from those we love, contact with people with we dislike,and not getting what we want.
truth 2
We know the cause of suffering
The second truth offers a diagnosis of the cause of our sufferings. Buddha came to the conclusion that suffering is caused by our cravings, desires and ignorance
truth 3
There is a cure for suffering
With the discovery of the cause the of suffering, we can also find the cure. Buddha discovered that we could end our suffering, and achieve enlightenment or Nirvana, if we were to remove our desires, ill will and ignorance.
truth 4
The cure for suffering
After telling us that the end of suffering is possible, the Buddha prescribes the medicine that will cure us – the Noble Eightfold path.

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is also what the Buddha is referring to when he speaks of the Middle Way. It is the path of wisdom that lies between the extremes of pleasure seeking and self mortification. This eightfold path consists of the following :

Right View

A deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths.

Right Attitude

An unselfish intention to gain enlightenment.

Right Speech

Communicating in a way that promotes harmony – no lying, gossiping or telling tales.

Right Action

Action that stems from compassion, and does no harm such as destroying life, stealing or committing adultery.

Right Livelihood

Earn a leaving without bringing harm to oneself or others.

Right Effort

Doing one’s best in the right direction.

Right Mindfulness

Always being aware and attentive.

Right Concentration

Efforts to make the mind steady and calm to realise the nature of things, such as meditation.

There is further division of the eight paths into 3 categories. Right View and Right Attitude are considered the Wisdom Path. Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood make up the Good or Ethical Conduct Path while Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration are part of the Mental Development Path.

All eight paths support each other, and practice of each path reinforces and strengthens the other paths. As such, all eight paths should be practised at the same time. They are like the eight spokes of a wheel that is required for the wheel to turn, not eight steps to be taken one after the other.

Thus, with the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, we can begin our journey towards enlightenment and the end of suffering. After all, it is only after we realise that we are ill that we will seek a cure. And we can begin the process of curing ourselves by following the Middle Way of the Noble Eightfold Path.

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