“In Sutra of The Four Noble Truths, Buddha says: You should know sufferings. You should abandon origins. You should attain cessations. You should practice the path. These instructions are known as the ‘four noble truths’. They are called ‘noble truths’ because they are superior and non-deceptive instructions.”
You should know sufferingsIn general, everyone who has physical or mental pain, even animals, understands their own suffering. But when Buddha says ‘you should know sufferings’, he means that we should know the sufferings of our future lives. Through knowing these, we shall develop a strong wish to liberate ourself from them. This practical advice is important for everybody because, if we have the wish to liberate ourself from the sufferings of future lives, we shall definitely use our present human life for the freedom and happiness of our countless future lives. There is no greater meaning than this. If we do not have this wish, we shall waste our precious human life only for the freedom and happiness of this one short life.
You should abandon originsThis is also very practical advice. ‘Origins’ refers mainly to our delusions of attachment, anger and self-grasping ignorance. Normally we have a sincere wish to avoid suffering permanently, but we never think to abandon our delusions. However, without controlling and abandoning our delusions, it is impossible to attain permanent liberation from suffering and problems. Therefore, we should follow Buddha’s advice and, through our concentration on the profound meaning of Dharma and the force of our determination, emphasize controlling our attachment, anger, and other delusions.
You should attain cessationsThis means that we should attain the permanent cessation of suffering. Generally, from time to time, everybody experiences a temporary cessation of particular sufferings. For instance those who are physically healthy are experiencing a temporary cessation of sickness. However, this is not enough because it is only temporary. Later they will have to experience the suffering of sickness again and again, in this life and in countless future lives. Every living being without exception has to experience the cycle of the sufferings of sickness, ageing, death and rebirth, in life after life, endlessly. Following Buddha’s example, we should develop strong renunciation for this endless cycle, and make the strong determination to attain enlightenment, the permanent cessation of suffering, and to lead every living being to that state.
You should practice the pathIn this context, ‘path does not mean an external path that leads from one place to another, but an inner path, a spiritual path that leads to the pure happiness of liberation and enlightenment. A detailed explanation of the stages of the path to liberation and enlightenment can be found in Transform Your Life and The New Meditation Handbook by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
Further information on the Four Noble Truths can be found in Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book How to Solve Our Human Problems and a more extensive explanation can be found in Joyful Path of Good Fortune – both published by Tharpa Publications.