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The Teachings of the Buddha

The insights that the Buddha gained at his enlightenment became known as the dharma. In Buddhism, the word dharma means "teaching" or "religious duty." Immediately after his enlightenment, the Buddha faced a crucial decision: should he try to explain the truth that he had discovered, or should he keep this difficult teaching to himself.  Although he was tempted to remain silent, the Buddha realized that perhaps a few people would understand and receive his teaching.  Therefore he rose from his place of meditation, traveled to Benaras and began preaching in the Deer Park. In that first sermon, he summed up the insight he had gained as "The Four Noble Truths."

Four Noble Truths

1. The Truth of Suffering: The term the Buddha used for suffering (dukkha) can refer to physical, emotional or mental suffering. Basically, the Buddha realized that no matter how good the present moment may be, suffering and death are inevitable.

“Birth is suffering, sickness is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering. Pain, grief, sorrow, lamentation, dejection and despair are suffering.”

2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering: The Buddha located the cause of suffering in selfish desires (tanha). In particular, human beings desire those things that cannot last.  In fact, the Buddha emphasized the point that desire can never be fulfilled, because everything is temporary and transient (anicca): life, beauty, wealth, pleasure, enjoyment, power, etc. are only temporary. Most remarkably, the Buddha taught that even what we think of as the the self/soul is impermanent. This doctrine, known as anatta is a recognition of the self is made up of many components which are constantly changing. Human beings become frustrated, angry and face suffering because they try to cling to those things that are ultimately impermanent.


3. The Truth of the End of Suffering: Suffering ceases when selfish desire ceases.  If existence is suffering, then suffering will only end when individual existence ends. This state beyond existence is called Nirvana.


4. The Truth of the Path that leads to the end of suffering: What are the practical steps one can take to eliminate the selfish desires the lead to suffering? According to the Buddha, anyone can end selfish desire by following the Eightfold Path.


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