Buddhism’s four truths are called noble because they liberate us from suffering. They are the basic teaching of Buddhism. You do not have to be a believer or follower of any religion to understand that suffering is part of the human experience and something we all encounter. Having spent some time at a Buddhist monastery, surrounded by the absolute sense of peace and clarity I was inspired to share this experience. The tangible shift of energy to the positive. How incredibly simple life can be without all of the noise and distraction of our daily lives. That same noise and distraction that causes the heightened levels of stress and anxiety we suffer and bring upon ourselves when it doesn’t have to be this way. It is a choice to suffer. It is also a choice to set realistic expectations, achieve them and celebrate life or be unsatisfied chasing the unattainable forever living an unfulfilled existence. We have been taught that acquiring things will make us happy so we chase after them and once achieved they leave us feeling unfulfilled. While focused on this pursuit we become more and more removed from the social experience. We are primal creatures designed to thrive in packs, yet have created a society that allows us to almost never have human contact or interaction. I share the 4 Noble Beliefs because there is truth in them. That suffering is not a way to live and it does not have to be.

1. Suffering –  Dukkha

Even when things seem to be going well, we feel that undercurrent of anxiety and uncertainty inside. Life always involves suffering, whether in obvious or subtle forms. Suffering comes in many forms. Three obvious kinds of suffering: old age, sickness and death. Even when we are not suffering from outward causes like illness or bereavement, we are unfulfilled, unsatisfied.

This is the truth of suffering.

Life is not ideal: it frequently fails to live up to our expectations. We are hardwired to desires and cravings, but even when we are able to satisfy these desires, the satisfaction is only temporary. Pleasure does not last; or if it does, it becomes monotonous.

While this idea seems pessimistic, it is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but realistic. The Truths do not end with suffering; rather, they go on to tell us what we can do about it and how to end it.

2. The Origin of Suffering – Samudāya

We suffer because we believe that we are a separate, independent, isolated “I.” The painful and futile struggle to maintain this delusion of ego is known as samsara, or cyclic existence. 

Our daily struggles seem to have easily identifiable causes: thirst, pain from an injury, sadness from the loss of a loved one. The second Noble Truth is much more deeply rooted than our immediate worries.

That the root of all suffering is desire.

These are the three ultimate causes of suffering:

Greed and desire

Ignorance or delusion

Hatred and destructive urges

Our four senses, and the mind, attached to positive, negative and neutral sensations and thoughts are the cause of suffering.

3. The End of Suffering – Nirodha

Our enlightened nature, which is always present becomes obscured by the endless demands and distraction we place upon ourselves . Therefore, suffering can end because our obscurations can be removed and our awakened mind is always available to us. 

The way to extinguish desire, which causes suffering, is to liberate oneself from attachment.

Estrangement here means disenchantment: The goal is to sense conditions clearly as they are without becoming enchanted or misled by them.

4. The Path – Nirvana

Nirvana means extinguishing. Extinguishing the three fires of greed, delusion and hatred. Nirvana is better understood as a state of mind that humans can reach.

It is a state of profound spiritual joy, without negative emotions and fears.

Someone who has attained enlightenment is filled with compassion for all living things. When we find estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, we are liberated.

Birth is exhausted, life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond. After death an enlightened person is liberated from the cycle of rebirth which frees us from the cycle of suffering.

By living ethically, practicing meditation, and developing wisdom, we can take exactly the same journey to enlightenment and freedom from suffering. We too can wake up.