- Life on planet Earth will always have an element of unsatisfactoriness. This may range from full-blown hellish suffering to simply wanting more despite having so much already. There is no creature on this Earth that is without some form of suffering.
- The cause of the unsatisfactoriness is existential confusion. Because we don’t know what we are, we take ourselves to be what we are not: a body, a mind, an agenda, a history with an intended future, a personality. All creatures seek happiness and avoid suffering. But what we think will bring us happiness and what we think will cause us suffering both depend on who we think we are. If we do not know who and what we actually are, we will never know how to really be happy and how to truly be free from suffering.
- Existential confusion is not permanent and can be ended. Over the millennia, there have been humans who have realized enlightenment and became free. There is nothing preventing you from doing the same.
- There is a path available that features deliberate practice to end existential confusion: the Dharma. Dharma is the no-nonsense, just-the-facts approach to finding insight into your existential condition and enjoying freedom from its limitations. More information and guidance is available today than any other time in history.
Some people suffer too much and it makes it almost impossible to practice the path. If you are one such person, do not give up. There are adjustments you can make to support you. And it is our job to find ways to help reduce your suffering so that you can practice.
Other people suffer too little. Due to their privilege and/or immense good fortune, they have not suffered enough in this life to allow them to realize something is wrong. They haven’t noticed this sense of unsatisfactoriness even though it drives much of their daily activity.
However, the majority of humans fall in-between those extremes. So why are they not on the path?
Either they haven’t encountered clear and true teachings, they were never told freedom is possible, they have yet to see clearly their own suffering, or they have yet to clearly discern the cause of their own suffering.
These Four Noble Truths of the Buddha are The Good News that buddhists offer the world. Contemplate each for yourself:
- Are you suffering? Are you unsatisfied? Do you feel a lack of wholeness? What elements of your daily life trouble you? Why?
- Regarding your answers to #1, ask yourself how your identity plays a role. How might your sense of self, your sense of being an individual, be a cause behind your suffering?
- Have you ever tasted freedom from your sense of self? Or tasted a freedom that is beyond this human world and its unsatisfactoriness? Think about what that was like and how it differs from your ordinary feeling of pleasure or happiness from daily life.
- Ask yourself what you are doing to free yourself. Is it working? Does it make sense in light of the contemplations of #1-#3? Are you feeling enthusiastic about your path and practice? If you lack energy or motivation, it can help to return to these contemplations.
The Noble Truths were the first teaching of the Buddha and you can see why. It establishes the reasons to practice the path in earnest. 🙂
May all beings be free.