Four Noble Truths
Buddhism, as founded by Gautama Buddha, holds certain pathways and belief systems as crucial to the obtainment of spiritual enlightenment, or bodhi, and the cessation of suffering, or Nirvana. The oldest and most fundamental of these belief systems are the Four Noble Truths as declared by Buddha immediately following his own attainment of bodhi.
Buddha immediately taught the discourse on the Four Noble Truths as he knew these truths would be beneficial, important, and most prominently, fundamental to the obtainment of Nirvana for all followers, which is the goal of every practicing Buddhist. To be considered wise in the Buddhist faith, one must understand the Four Noble Truths:
DukkhaDukkha is the noble truth of suffering. All of life’s stages from birth to death involve suffering. Specifically, Buddhism focuses on the suffering of birth, aging, illness, a union with what is displeasing, a separation from what is pleasing, and suffering through being denied wants. The five aggregates of suffering also can be described as the form of matter, sensations and feelings, perception or cognition, mental formations, and consciousness.
NirodhaNirodha represents the cessation of suffering. As cravings fall away and are not remembered, the follower has understood the true meaning of Nirodha. To be completely free of a craving, the believer must relinquish it, be free of it, and have a complete non-reliance on it.
MargaMarga is the pathway leading to the cessation of suffering. The famous Eightfold Path provides a systematic guide to finding spiritual enlightenment, or Nirvana. Followers obtain Nirvana through the complete elimination of all suffering as identified above in Samudaya. Only when suffering has been completely eradicated can the mind be free to experience the true nature of the world.
Many believe that the Four Noble truths are representative of a medical diagnosis. In the medical field, doctors follow a series of four steps to cure a patient:
- Identification of Disease or Symptoms
- Disease Cause or Diagnosis
- Disease Prognosis
- Treatment and Prescription
In Dukkha, Buddha identified the symptoms and disease - suffering. He then finds the causes of this disease called suffering, and through Samudaya makes a concise list of targets for attention from followers. He reinforces, through Nirodha, that overcoming these cravings will remove the suffering, and finally offers treatment through Marga, or the Eightfold Path to cure and remove suffering forever.