Skillful Understanding: Four Noble Truths Dissatisfaction I

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 33-34)

The Four Noble Truths

The Buddha taught for 45 years and his main teaching was about suffering.  The Four Noble Truths can be summed up as 1) Dissatisfaction, 2) Cause, 3) End, and 4) Path.  We will start with Dissatisfaction.

The First Truth:  Dissatisfaction

The Buddha sometimes compared suffering to a disease.  In order to treat the disease, suffering, we must first know more about its nature.  Dissatisfaction with what life hands us is universal. We may use other names to describe our suffering:  stress, fear, tension, anxiety, worry, depression, disappointment, anger, jealousy, abandonment, nervousness or pain (particularly mental pain).  When we are dissatisfied, we generally look for a reason such as circumstances, problems, or uncertainty (not knowing).   In order to deal with dissatisfaction, we must look at it head on and examine it closely with stable emotions and a steady mind and without getting pessimistic, depressed or angry.  What we will find is that we create our suffering through the thoughts that occur in the mind.

Three kinds of experiences cause most of the dissatisfaction for us:  Life Cycle, Change and No Control.

The Life Cycle

The Life Cycle consists of birth, aging, sickness and death.  Each of these can cause dissatisfaction.  For example, when we are born, we want all sorts of things such as being held and rocked.  And when we don’t get what we want we cry (suffer).  During our life, we experience aging and sickness. And finally we encounter death.   Even though we logically know that we cannot escape death, we fear its coming.  To quell this fear, we turn to pleasures of the senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling, thinking) as a way to escape the inevitability of our mortality.

Next week, we will look at the other two factors, Change and No Control.

Assignment

Understanding the Four Noble Truths

  • Bhante G. notes that the Buddha explained that dissatisfaction with the suffering of life is a burden.  We cause our dissatisfaction by taking up the burden.
  • What does he mean by “taking up the burden”?  Reflect on what you do to take up the burden.  For example, is getting angry taking up the burden for you?

Understanding the First Truth: Dissatisfaction

  • “The Buddha’s first truth tells us that dissatisfaction is unavoidable.”
  • Do you truly realize this?  If not, why not?
  • Reflect on “Our minds create our life experiences, and our minds either enjoy these creations or suffer because of them.”  Think of some examples where this is true for you.

The Life Cycle

  • Reflect on your life cycle to date (birth, aging, sickness).  Can you see the dissatisfaction?  Can you see the two kinds of dissatisfaction that illness brings (physical and mental).  Can you discern physical pain from dissatisfaction?
  • Ignorance can be “not knowing” or “wrong knowing”   Can you see the difference and how each in its own way can lead to dissatisfaction?

Next: Skillful Understanding: Four Noble Truths Dissatisfaction II
Previous: Skillful Understanding: Cause and Effect