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“Buddhism is a soteriology. It is concerned with bringing about for its
practitioners, liberation, freedom from states and experiences held to be
negative, unpleasant, not wanted. The primary orientation of Buddhism
therefore is towards the transformative experience of the individual.
Buddhism is thus also concerned first and foremost with the mind or to be
more precise with mental transformation, for there are no experiences that
are not in some sense reliant on mind.” – Professor Paul Williams „Buddhist
“There are two reasons why it is important to understand the nature of
mind. One is because there is an intimate connection between mind and
karma. The other is that our state of mind plays a crucial role in our
experience of happiness and suffering.” - Dalai Lama (1991)
The Four Noble Truths
The core of the Buddhist teaching is the Four Noble Truths:
1.The reality of suffering
2. The cause/origin of suffering (ignorance/attachment)
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable
4. The path to the cessation of suffering (8 fold path)
1. The reality of suffering
To live means to suffer. During our
lifetime, we inevitably have to endure
suffering : sickness, old age and death
and we have to endure psychological
suffering like sadness, fear and
disappointment. There are different
degrees of suffering and there are also
positive experiences in life, perceived
as the opposite of suffering, i.e.
comfort pleasure and happiness.
However, life in its totality is
imperfect and incomplete, because our
world is subject to impermanence.
Thus, we are never able to
permanently keep what we desire, and
just as happy moments transpire, we
ourselves and all our loved ones will
eventually die.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment
(resulting from ignorance)
The origin of suffering is ignorance and attachment to transient
phenomena. Transient phenomena do not only include the physical
objects surrounding us, but also ideas, and in a greater sense, all
objects of our perception. Ignorance is an absence of wisdom which
obscures the process of how our mind becomes attached to
impermanent phenomena. The principle causes of suffering are
attachment, desire, and craving . The desire for sense pleasures
manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant experiences: the taste of
good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful music. There is
desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have (aversion) desire for
sense-pleasures - kama-tanha, desire to become - bhava-tanha,
desire to get rid of - vibhava-tanha. The desire to become is the
ambition that comes with wanting attainments or recognition or
fame. It is the craving to “be somebody.” The clinging to desire
comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction comes from
following desire. We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires
doesn't bring an end to them. Because the objects of our attachment
are transient, their loss is inevitable, accordingly, suffering will
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable
The cessation of suffering is referred to as nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of
sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that
suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion and wisdom. Nirodha extinguishes all
forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through
human action, through removing the causes of suffering. The end of suffering is nonattachment, or letting go of desire or craving. This is the state of Nirvana, where greed,
hatred and delusion are extinct. Freedom from attachments to the five aggregates of
attachment is the end of suffering. Nirvana is the non-attachment to conditioned
experience. To understand the unconditioned, we need to see for ourselves that
everything that has a nature to be born has a nature to die, every phenomenon that has a
cause is impermanent. By letting go of attachment to desire for conditioned phenomena,
desire can come to an end and we can be liberated from suffering.
4. The path to the cessation of suffering
There is a path to the end of suffering - a gradual path, which is described in the
Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive selfindulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism) and it leads to
the end of the cycle of rebirth/samsara. The path to the end of suffering can
extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject
to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will
disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.
The Noble Eightfold Path
Considered from the standpoint of practical training, the eightfold path is
divided into three groups:
1. Ethical conduct/moral discipline group made up of right speech, right
action, and right livelihood
2. Concentration/mental development group made up of right effort, right
mindfulness, and right concentration
3. Wisdom group made up of right view and right intention.
These three groups represent three stages of training: the training in the
higher moral discipline, the training in the higher concentration and the
training in the higher wisdom.
– Bhikkhu Bodhi ‘The Noble Eightfold Path: The way to the cessation of suffering.’
Samsara The wheel of life, depicting “samsara” or cyclic existence is an
ancient symbol that symbolises the cycle of birth, life, and death. When one
revolution of the wheel is completed, life begins again with rebirth.
Buddha taught that the three fires/poisons were greed (rooster) hatred
(snake) and ignorance/delusion (pig). The Pali word nibbana (Sanskrit:
nirvana) means blowing out or extinguishing, as in a fire, like a candle
flame which can be extinguished. This is especially true when the fuel for a
fire is no longer present. The Buddha taught that when the three fires of
greed, hatred and ignorance that are burning within are extinguished, then
one will experience nibbana. This is taught in the Magga samyutta Sutta. To
rid oneself of these fires or poisons is the process of attaining nibbana.
Nibbana is not a place which exists in any outer worldly way.
Dependent on Ignorance arise Mental formations
From Mental formations arises Consciousness (Re-birth
From Consciousness arise Mind and Matter
From Mind and Matter arise the six spheres of sense
From the six spheres of sense arises Contact
From Contact arises Feeling
From Feeling arises Craving
From Craving arises Grasping/attachment
From Grasping arise Becoming
From Actions arises Re-birth
From Birth arise Decay, Death, Sorrow, Pain, Grief and Despair.