Skillful Understanding: The Four Noble Truths Cause

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 42-46)

Second Noble Truth, The Cause of Dissatisfaction

The First Noble Truth establishes that suffering exists.  As with a bodily disease, the Second Noble Truth addresses the cause.  The cause is desire that turns into attachment, greed, grasping, craving.

Where does desire come from?  To quote from Phillip Moffitt in Dancing with Life (p. 80):

“Desires are energetic states felt in your body and mind that arise from pleasant and unpleasant feelings associated with various thoughts and sensations which then cause the mind to move toward or away from some experience.  Desire can arise and pass without contracting into craving.”

To look at it another way, suffering occurs when you are attached to an outcome.  “You start living from a demand that life be other than it is” p 88 Moffitt

There are three types of desires:  sensual desire that come from the six senses (seeing, hearing, touch, taste, smell and mind ((thoughts)), desire for existence (e.g. to be somebody different), and desire for non-existence (hopelessness).

It is important to understand the difference between physical pain and mental suffering.   We cannot avoid the former but we can work with the latter.

“The Buddha’s instructions to abandon clinging to desires translates into caring without demanding, loving without imposing conditions, and moving toward your goals without attachment.” p. 102  MoffittWhen you find yourself doing otherwise —- suffering occurs.

Why is understanding suffering important?  From the Buddha:  “When a noble disciple has thus understood suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the way leading to the cessation of suffering… he here and now makes an end of suffering. In that way too a noble disciple is one of right view… and has arrived at this true Dhamma” or “He who understands clinging and nonclinging understands all the dharma” 


  • Be aware that you are suffering
  • Identify your desire
  • Look for signs in the body (tension, anxiety, nausea) and in the mind (proliferation of thoughts)
  • Note that you awareness of suffering is separate from the actual suffering.

Next: Skillful Understanding: The Four Noble Truths: The End of Dissatisfaction I
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