The Second Noble Truth: Insight 3

Dancing with Life (DWL) (pp. 114-131)

The Third Insight:  The Origination of Suffering Has Been Let Go Of

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the origination of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned’

In the Second Insight, we explored clues that clinging was present (bodily sensations and thoughts).  The third insight is about knowing when you have let go of clinging.  How do you know?  What arises when clinging has been let go of?  Another term for clinging is reactivity.

How do you know that you know?

Moffitt notes that there are three conditions that you will experience when you have let go.  You will experience 1) a felt sense of spaciousness, well-being and lightness; 2) you will have a felt sense of something is over; and 3) you can see that your clinging was making an unskillful situation more unskillful.  What Moffitt is describing is the state of equanimity, one of the seven factors of awakening.

At this stage of reflecting on the first two Noble Truths, you realize that you are the knower of suffering and nonsuffering (first noble truth) and the knower of clinging and nonclinging (second noble truth).  In order to realize this, you have had to practice.  As Bachelor has stated in After Buddhism: rethinking the dharma for a secular age, the Four Noble Truths are actually the Four Noble Tasks, something that you do and put into action.  Don’t just accept them as dogma.  Practice is needed to truly realize these Truths.

Knowing that you know takes practice using mindfulness (the observation of paying attention moment to moment to what is).  You may not be able to do it all of the time and you will discover that once you let go, the clinging might pop right up again.  Just keep at it!  You are training your mind which takes time.

Pitfalls in Letting Go

Perceiving the world as hostile, desirable or boring.  “From the perspective of the dharma practitioner, the task of “letting go of what arises’ entails releasing one’s grip on the whole picture; angry-me-facing-hostile-situation.  Letting go is not simply a question of breathing deeply to calm my rattled mind; I need to cleanse the doors of my perception.  This requires suspending the default habit of seeing the world as being hostile, desirable, or boring.  One of the most effective ways of suspending that habit is to train yourself to comprehend the world as an infinitely suffering world.” (Batchelor, After Buddhism, p. 78)

Not caring is not the answer.  Trying to make yourself devoid of caring to avoid suffering actually increases suffering through isolation and repressing feelings.  Truly letting go of clinging leads to “caring without demanding and loving without imposing conditions”.  It is the demanding and conditions that need to be let go of, not the caring and the loving.

From the Way of the Bodhisattva: “All the suffering in the world comes from the desire for one’s own happiness.  All the joy in the world comes from the desire for the happiness of others.”

“The person who lets go of reactivity does not shun involvement with the world but moves nimbly and lightly through it” (Batchelor, After Buddhism, p. 74).

Clinging to the past.  It is very common to dwell on the past and to want your life to be other than it was (regrets).  Regrets do and will continue to arise.  The shift in your mind is knowing that these regrets are just thoughts of the past and do not need to be associated with heaviness or other strong feelings.

Letting go is not permanent.  Do not expect that once you let go, that the desire will not return with clinging.  You may have to let go many times.

Believing that you are always right.  This is general form of clinging that may be difficult for you to acknowledge at first.  Letting go means that you constantly position yourself into a state of not knowing rather than knowing that you are right.

Measuring the success of your life by how many of your wants are met.  Live from your values and not from the outcomes.  We will talk more about values in the next talk.

Believing that you are the star of the show.  Know that there are many different perspectives, not just the ones that arise in your mind.  Transition from narrow mindedness to not knowing.


  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.  Deliberately practice letting go of reactivity starting with what you consider to be the smaller things in life.  Notice if any of the pitfalls are present.


  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice being mindful of what arises and falls away.  Notice any desires that arise and if clinging is present.

Next: The Second Noble Truth: Core Values
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