The Homepage of Carl : A man's journey to understand life, the universe and everything.

What the four noble truths mean to me

The foundation of Buddhism is the four noble truths. These are what is considered to be the basis of understanding life and how to achieve happiness. I’ve thought about the truths on and off for the last six years and although I understand them at a base level, I don’t think I’ll ever properly understand. That’s what I love about Buddhism, it’s all down to personal interpretation. You can read something and understand the idea of it but you have to live and ponder on things to understand it completely.

Here is what my current understanding of the four noble truths are:

  1. “Life is suffering”: This may sound very pessimistic but it isn’t. No matter how we act or the morals we keep, life is ultimately going to cause us suffering. We have bad times and they can be horrendous. We pine for the better times and when we can’t have them it causes us to be unhappy. When we’re having a good time, it is sad when it ultimately comes to an end.
  2. “The origin of suffering is attachment”: Attachment comes in many forms. We become attached to things, people, moments in time etc. This isn’t to say that we should become cold and unloving to people. Not at all. We can become attached the idea of things. Nothing is this life is truly permanent. We cling on to our pasts and hope that things don’t change. If you hadn’t seen me for ten years I maybe the same person (at least on somewhat of a physical level) but lots about me have changed. This goes for everything in life. Nothing is permanent. Not even on a cellular level.
  3. “The cessation* of suffering is attainable”: Well, it’s true that everything in this life can cause us suffering and unhappiness but there is a way to rid ourselves from this. It is possible.
  4. “The path to the cessation of suffering”: The Noble Eightfold Path. I’ll be honest, this has always felt like a cop out as the fourth noble truth. It’s basically the way of living your life. I will cover this in more detail in another post but as a brief overview: Right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. Doing all that stuff will rid you of unhappiness

*a temporary or final ceasing (as of action)

It’s really fascinating. The fact that we can all understand these things on a very basic level, it’s a real journey we have to go on to properly understand and accept them.

Buddhism is interesting because we can be knowledgable about things but not understand them.

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