The Four Noble Truths
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The Four Noble Truths are the core of Buddhist philosophy and are of particular importance to Buddhism, since understanding them encourages people to embrace and follow prescribed practices that promise to result in a life of greater joy and less suffering for their practitioners. They are a set of progressive, interconnected observations that describe the world as the Buddha perceived it - as a place where suffering exists in obvious and subtle forms - and they offer a means of eradicating suffering by engendering an understanding of the truth about existence, as well as by offering a list of practices to help people cultivate ways of being, acting, and thinking that increase happiness by eliminating the habits of mind and body that produce suffering, while also accumulating habits that increase joy. Your research paper on the four noble truths will list them as the following:
- All human life is suffering
- Suffering comes from desire, which leads to endless rebirth, and so to more suffering
- By eliminating desire, we can end suffering
- Enlightenment, the end of suffering, can be achieved by following the Eightfold Noble Path, which, simplified, means fining the middle way between excessive self-indulgence and over-sever self-punishment
The first Noble Truth
The first Noble Truth, the Truth of Suffering, reveals the nature of suffering, which must first be identified in order that it may be eliminated or avoided. The Buddha maintained that life, from the moment of birth onward, contains physical or mental suffering that can be eased rather than just endured, but only if its presence is recognized. People are usually distracted by their immersion or pursuit of temporary worldly pleasures from realizing that they suffer. These pleasures always end, because everything in life is subject to change, and former pleasures become a cause of suffering when they cease. Once the physical, mental and emotional suffering in the world is identified, it can be ended, but only if its root causes are understood.
Second Noble Truth
The Truth of the Cause of Suffering is the Second Noble Truth. Cravings, or endless desires for pleasure cause suffering by promoting dissatisfaction or a lack of peace. Ignorance of the transitory nature of temporal pleasures, resulting in their endless pursuit, is another cause of suffering. The second Noble Truth teaches that suffering can only be eliminated when its roots - ignorance, desire or cravings - are understood, just as the cause of an illness must be identified to correctly treat it.
The Third Noble Truth, the Truth of the End of Suffering, encourages people to pursue Buddhist practices because it states that suffering can be ended through them. Eliminating personal habits or conditions of ignorance, desires, and ill will produces emotional, physical and mental habits that foster contentment, despite living among the greedy and discontented, and promote inner peacefulness, even while among angry, ill-willed people. This is made possible when there are no extremes of mood, action or speech to disrupt the peace of mind, or happiness, of a person who is practicing the Middle Path, part of the Fourth Noble Truth.