The Fourth Noble Truth: Insight 3 The Wisdom of the Fourth Noble Truth

Dancing with Life (DWL) Chapters 21-22

“The Noble Truth has been penetrated by cultivating the path.”

Knowing that you know the Fourth Noble Truth

“You know that a path to cessation with its eight factors exists; you know its parts; you know that you are capable of practicing it; and you know that it works for you!” DWL p. 251

Following the Eightfold Path is easier if you set your practice as an intention rather than a goal.  In that way, it is easier to practice in the present rather than focusing on concerns about the future.  And as Moffitt notes, “You have to let go of those places in which you cling to an identity… You begin with yourself, just as you are, acting compassionately toward yourself, but willingly submitting your ego’s identity to its defeat.  Once you’ve found resolve with one type of clinging, your reward is that you get to work with another aspect of your suffering!”  DWL p. 254.

The Two Types of Happiness

Although the Four Noble Truths deal mainly with the cessation of suffering, there is happiness to be considered.  Meditating and reflection on happiness can strengthen our intention to practice.  There are two kinds of happiness:

  1. Dependent on external and internal conditions
  2. Independent of external and internal conditions

The first state of happiness, dependent on external and conditions, occurs when your experiences align (agree) with your expectations.  For example, you see a beautiful sunset or you have a pleasant evening with friends.  This type of happiness is not lasting and eventually will fade away.  As we go through life, we come to the realization that we can never have lasting happiness from conditions.  We can never control the flow of life!

The second state of happiness is independent of external and internal conditions.  It is called the happiness or joy of non-attachment or non-clinging.  This happiness is not affected by the conditions of your life.

How do we get more of the second type of happiness?  By practicing the steps of the Eightfold Path, we understand (Skillful understanding, Skillful Intention, we lead a virtuous life (Skillful Speech, Skillful Action, Skillful Livelihood) and we practice (Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness, Skillful Concentration).

The Doctrine and the Discipline

“The essence of the Buddha’s teaching can be summed up in two principles: the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The first covers the side of doctrine, and the primary response it elicits is understanding; the second covers the side of discipline, in the broadest sense of that word, and the primary response it calls for is practice. In the structure of the teaching these two principles lock together into an indivisible unity called the dhamma-vinaya, the doctrine-and-discipline, or, in brief, the Dhamma.”  (From the preface of The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering by Bhikkhu Bodhi)

The Four Noble Truths (Doctrine) 

  1. There is Suffering (Dissatisfaction)
    1. Are you embracing life?
  2. There is an Origin of Suffering
    1. Are you letting go of what arises?
  3. There is Cessation of Suffering
    1. Can you see its ceasing?
  4. There is a Path that leads to the Extinction of Suffering
    1. Are you practicing the path? 

The Eightfold Path (Discipline)

  • Right Understanding (Wisdom)
      1. Do you know and understand the Four Noble Truths?
      2. Do you have faith and confidence that there are people who have been able to transform their suffering?
      3. Do you understand cause and effect (karma)?
  • Right Thought (Wisdom)
      1. Are you practicing three skillful thoughts (generosity, loving kindness (metta), compassion)?
  • Right Speech (Virtue)
      1. Are you speaking truthfully?
      2. Are you avoiding malicious talk?
      3. Are you avoiding harsh language?
      4. Are you avoiding gossip?
  • Right Action (Virtue)
      1. Are you abstaining from killing?
      2. Are you abstaining from stealing?
      3. Are you abstaining from speaking falsely?
      4. Are you abstaining from sexual misconduct?
      5. Are you abstaining from misusing alcohol or other intoxicants?
  • Right Livelihood (Virtue)
      1. Is your livelihood inherently harmful to self and others?
      2. Does your livelihood cause you to break any of the five moral precepts?
      3. Are there other factors with your livelihood that disturb your sense of peace?
  • Right Effort (Concentration)
      1. Are you experiencing any of the five hindrances (attraction, aversion, restlessness, sloth, doubt)?
      2. Are you preventing negative states of mind?
      3. Are you overcoming negative states of mind?
      4. Are you cultivating positive states of mind?
      5. Are you maintaining positive states of mind?
  • Right Mindfulness (Concentration)
      1. Are you practicing mindfulness?
      2. Can you experience impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selfless nature?
  • Right Concentration (Concentration)
    1. Are you practicing skillful concentration?

Summary

“This completes our survey of the Noble Eightfold Path, the way to deliverance from suffering taught by the Buddha. The higher reaches of the path may seem remote from us in our present position, the demands of practice may appear difficult to fulfill. But even if the heights of realization are now distant, all that we need to reach them lies just beneath our feet. The eight factors of the path are always accessible to us; they are mental components which can be established in the mind simply through determination and effort. We have to begin by straightening out our views and clarifying our intentions. Then we have to purify our conduct — our speech, action, and livelihood. Taking these measures as our foundation, we have to apply ourselves with energy and mindfulness to the cultivation of concentration and insight. The rest is a matter of gradual practice and gradual progress, without expecting quick results. For some progress may be rapid, for others it may be slow, but the rate at which progress occurs should not cause elation or discouragement. Liberation is the inevitable fruit of the path and is bound to blossom forth when there is steady and persistent practice. The only requirements for reaching the final goal are two: to start and to continue. If these requirements are met there is no doubt the goal will be attained. This is the Dhamma, the undeviating law.”  (From the epilogue of The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering by Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Reflection

  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.  When you perceive life as difficult, review the Eightfold Path (Discipline) questions.  This can help you to identify the step to focus on.

Meditation

  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice with concentration and mindfulness.

Next: Previous: The Fourth Noble Truth: Insight 2 The Eightfold Path Step 8 Skillful Concentration