Mindfulness of the Dhammas: The Four Noble Truths III

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness (pp.159-166)

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening (pp. 287-323) 

“Again, monks, in regard to dhammas he abides contemplating dhammas in terms of the four noble truths. And how does he in regard to dhammas abide contemplating dhammas in terms of the four noble truths? “Here he knows as it really is, ‘this is dukkha’; he knows as it really is, ‘this is the arising of dukkha’; he knows as it really is, ‘this is the cessation of dukkha’; he knows as it really is, ‘this is the way leading to the cessation of dukkha.’ 

The Third Noble Truth:  The Cessation of Dukkha (Suffering)

“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.

To summarize the Second Noble Truth:  Craving (wanting) is the cause of dukkha.   Cravings arise constantly.  It is when we cling to a craving that dukkha arises.  Clinging is attachment.  When we attach to a craving, we are in a trance, unaware of other possibilities and the effect that this craving is having on our life.  It is not just wanting life to be other than it is, it is being attached to the concept, life should be other than it is.  We then become dissatisfied and obsessed with the should.  We have choices – continue the obsession, do something (act), or let go.  Continuing the obsession with out acting just increases the dukkha.

The good news is that there can be freedom from attachment (clinging).   There must be motivation to seek that freedom from the three types of craving (sensual, becoming, non-becoming).  However, it is tempting to cling.  As the Buddha noted, “yet they find a certain measure of satisfaction and enjoyment in dependence on the five cords of sensual pleasure.

Freedom from attachment is not a onetime letting go but something to be practiced each time craving arises.  This is letting go many times, moment to moment.   It is helpful to realize letting go can happen because all phenomena are impermanent.  After the Buddha gave his first teaching, one of the monks stated that “All that is subject to arising is subject to ceasing.”   However, when our attachment to a desire (craving) falls away, there is a tendency to attach to another.  This can lead to an endless cycle of attachments.  Sumedho noted, “I was brought up in America — the land of freedom.  It promises the right to be happy, but what it really offers is the right to be attached to everything.”  (p.38)

Sumedho asks us to reflect frequently on “All that is subject to arising is subject to ceasing.”  “I would like to emphasize how important it is to develop this way of reflecting.  Rather than just developing a method of tranquillising your mind, which certainly is one part of the practice, really see that proper meditation is a commitment to wise investigation. It involves a courageous effort to look deeply into things, not as analyzing yourself and making judgments about why you suffer on a personal level, but resolving to really follow the path until you have profound understanding.  Such perfect understanding is based upon the pattern of arising and ceasing.  Once this law is understood, everything is seen as fitting into that pattern.”  (The Four Noble Truths, p. 39-40)

What would it be like if there were complete cessation?  As Moffitt notes, “Thus when there is cessation, your mind no longer burns in response to the arising of pleasant and unpleasant in your life…Your mind is willing to be with what is true in the moment and isn’t disturbed by it.”  (DWL p. 155)

To quote from a character in literature:  “It was easier that way,” she said.  “You get over what you can’t have faster than you get over what you could.  And we shouldn’t always get what we think we want.”  JACKALOPE WIVES Ursula Vernon, The New Voices of Fantasy 2107

Goldstein notes that Patrul Rinpoche, a nineteenth-century wandering Dzogchen master of eastern Tibet, said it very well in a teaching called “Advice from Me to Myself”:

Listen up, old bad-karma Patrul,

You dweller in distraction.

For ages now you’ve been

Beguiled, entranced, and fooled by appearances.

Are you aware of that? Are you?

Right this very instant, when you’re

Under the spell of mistaken perception

You’ve got to watch out.

Don’t let yourself get carried away by this fake and empty life.


Your mind is spinning around

About carrying out a lot of useless projects:

It’s a waste! Give it up!

Thinking about the hundred plans you want to accomplish,

With never enough time to finish them,

Just weighs down the mind.

You’re completely distracted

By all these projects, which never come to an end,

But keep spreading out more, like ripples in water.

Don’t be a fool: for once, just sit tight. . . .


If you let go of everything  —

Everything, everything  —

That’s the real point!


Stephen Batchelor sees the Four Noble Truths as tasks. Very simply, he noted them as:

Embrace life

Let go of what arises.

See its ceasing.


Batchelor, Stephen. After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age

Besides considering letting go, what else is there to do?   The Buddha addressed this in the Fourth Noble Truth which follows in the next talk.

Experiencing Cessation

“As life flows through you, you can investigate your own reactions and ask, “What does attachment feel like?”  “For example, do you feel happy or liberated by being attached to desire?  Is it uplifting or depressing? These questions are for you to investigate.  If you find that being attached to your desires is liberating, then do that.  Attach to your desires and see what the result it.”  Sumedho p. 37.

Also, see what it feels like without attachment?  Is it liberating?  There is a peace and joy of nonattachment. Can you find it?


  • Reread and reflect on this talk daily.    Notice when you are having a reaction (attachment) and ask if you feel happy or liberated with the attachment.  If not, what is it?


  • Meditate using the mindfulness of the breath technique and focus your insight meditation on states of mind.

Next: Mindfulness of Dhammas: The Four Noble Truths IV
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