The Four Noble Truths

If you aren’t involved with the Four Noble truths in your practice, however meritorious it might be, it isn’t Buddha-dharma.

This is a quote by the late Namgyal Rinpoche taken from the book “Body Speech and Mind”. Namgyal Rinpoche is also quoted to have said that an individual needs to understand the 4 Noble Truths in order to awaken. The 4 Noble Truth, in essence, are Whole View.

4 Noble Truths Snapshot:

1. Life is suffering. (Translated from dukkha, the measure of how difficult it is to have what we want/ avoid what we don’t want)

2. Life is suffering because people try to cling to and resist life, even though life is impermanent.

3. There is a way to end the suffering.

4. That way is the 8 fold noble path; the remedy for the unavoidable human condition.

Life is suffering because everything is always changing, and so nothing lasts forever. Think of the human body. About every 7 years all of the cells in our body have died and been replaced. If you think of it that way, every 7 years we are entirely new people. Or think of our blood. If it stops flowing, what happens to us? Have you ever been constipated before?

Namgyal Rinpoche said:

Ceaseless dissolution/creation is a characteristic of life. From the very no-beginning there is continuous happening.

Even though we crave for things we want to last, they don’t. We have no control over this, yet we try to keep control and stop the flow of life by clinging.  In Buddhism, there are three ways that humans cause suffering for themselves, and try to cling: kama-tanha, bhava-tanha and vibhava-tanha. Each person usually has a proclivity to a certain strategy.

Kama-tanha: These can be known as “greed types” who crave and chase after sensation, amazing or pleasant experiences, or distraction to relieve the tedium of their lives or avoid unpleasantness. However, Namgyal warned the Greed Types:

It’s not choiceless awareness if you don’t want to see what is presented. […] Maybe you should develop awareness of the constant choosings that are going on in your being at every moment instead of assuming that “that’s the way I am.” Watch the process of how you choose to be.

Bhava-tanha: Knows as the “hate-type”, this type of clinging is usually more personal, involving prolonging what is and your own identity. Rather than chasing after pleasure, the Hate Type is more likely to push away just for the sake of maintaining control or the status-quo.

Vibhava-tanha: This type is more low-energy than the other types. The “confused” or “dull” type”, rather than saying “yes” or “no”, maintains control by separating themselves from what is happening and being wishy-washy. They sit on the fence and refuse to be pinned down.

If the above is the cause of suffering, then the natural conclusion is that to stop clinging is the way to resolve suffering.

The Eight Fold Noble Path is meant as a path that helps us let go of clinging or attachment, through Panna, Sila, and Samadhi. It is called noble, because that is the quality of a person who is walking on this path.

Activities:

  1. Start with looking at the three tanhas and recognizing the most obvious areas where these types of clinging show up in your life. Think of 3 examples of each, and as people who you know and trust to help you if you need help.
  2. Next, for one week, whenever you have a strong positive or negative reaction to something, watch the clinging, and label which tanha this reaction is associated with. Whenever we have a strong reaction, that is where we are clinging.
  3. Make sure that you have read the Whole View article on the 8 Foot Path. Where are the areas in your life where you struggle to see Whole View?
  4. Think of negative situations that you have resolved in the past. How did Whole View help you?
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