The First Noble Truth: Insight 3 Suffering has been Comprehended

Dancing with Life (DWL) (pp. 54-72)

The First Noble Truth of Suffering

The three insights of the First Noble Truth are: (1) There is suffering (dukkha), (2) Dukkha is to be comprehended, (3) Dukkha has been comprehended.

The Third Insight:  Suffering has been Comprehended

Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This noble truth of stress has been comprehended.” (trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

Knowing That You Know

Knowing that you know is part of the transformation process.  “You embrace what you realized in the first two insights such that the Truth of Dukkha becomes your new reality and you develop the ability to live more wisely right now.”  (DWL p. 55).  You haven’t integrated the First Noble Truth unless you generalize your experience of dukkha to apply to all of your life and all situations and you continue to feel dukkha and not shut down your emotions (mental formations).

Knowing that you know gives you a base of insight to build on.  It allows transformation to take place to live wisely in the present moment.

To be present and apply the third insight means that you must be open to open to letting go of your preconceived notions and expectations about situations as they arise.  You develop a beginner’s mind or a “don’t know mind.”  Living in the now is not the same as living in the past or the future which are just memories (preconceived notions) or expectations.

Practicing Knowing That You Know

Practicing mindfulness will keep you in the present. The definition of mindfulness is being aware moment to moment to what is.  Being aware that you are suffering is not the same as suffering.  By being mindful, you are able to gain perspective on the experience of suffering, the “what is”

Non-Suffering is Not Happiness

In the dual world, suffering and happiness are thought of as opposites or poles of experience.  It doesn’t mean, however, that if we are not suffering, we are happy.  This is an important insight.  The opportunity for suffering will be with you for the rest of your life.  Only by applying mindfulness and staying in the present can we be kept aware of this.  Moffitt defines non-suffering not as happiness but as “having a relaxed, composed mind that is fully present with whatever is happening at the moment. (DWL p. 71).  This is equanimity.

To experience equanimity, we practice the seven factors of awakening.

As you cultivate your mindfulness (paying attention from moment to moment to what is), it becomes an established form of practice.  Your mental object of mindfulness becomes mindfulness.  You learn that with strong mindfulness, you investigate all phenomena to discover that they all share the same three characteristics (impermanence, dissatisfaction and selflessness).  Thus the mental object of mindfulness becomes investigation.  With investigation, you exert more effort and shift your mental object of mindfulness to energy.  With these three powerful factors in action, you feel joy which leads to contentment.  With contentment, restlessness disappears and you are able to cultivate powerful concentration.

When all of these six factors (mindfulness, investigation, effort, joy, contentment, and concentration) are experienced, you feel that your life is in harmony and balance. When this occurs, you are experiencing the seventh and final factor, equanimity.


  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.  Read the last paragraph.  Can you accept this statement that you don’t have to be happy not to suffer?  Keep using your rubber band on your wrist to remind you to be mindful of your experience with suffering.xz  When you are aware of suffering, look to see if your mind is relaxed and composed.  If not, without judgment, put the rubber band on the other wrist and practice the seven factors of awakening.  Don’t judge, just practice.


  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice being mindful of what arises and falls away.  Note particularly any phenomena that are negative, unpleasant, and which could be suffering.

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