The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism
The Buddha Shakyamuni taught us 84,000 Dharma approaches that can be summed up in the Four Noble Truths. In this doctrine, he pointed out that all suffering has its causes and conditions, and that these can be known and eliminated through dharma practice.
Talking about the Noble Truths of Buddhism, all of us here should make an effort to understand the Noble Truths of Buddhism and what they mean. Shakyamuni Buddha taught us 84,000 Dharma-doors which can be summed up in the Four Noble Truths. When Shakyamuni delivered his first sermon in the Deer Park in India, he said:
This is suffering; it is oppressive.
This is the cause of suffering; it beckons.
This is the cessation of suffering; it can be realized.
This is the Way; it can be cultivated.
He pointed out the truths in life. All of the kinds of suffering we experience have their own causes and conditions which can be known and eliminated through Dharma practice. He described the fact of the truth.
When he delivered the second sermon, he said:
This is suffering; you should know it.
This is the cause of suffering; you should cut it off.
This is the cessation of suffering; you should realize it.
This is the Way; you should cultivate it.
What does that mean? We should know that all the kinds of suffering we experience are caused by our own attachment and ignorance, which should be eradicated. So how do we eradicate them? It is through Dharma practice. Then what do we achieve in the end? We achieve enlightenment. The second sermon tells the methods of practice.
When he delivered the third sermon, he said:
This is suffering; I already know it.
This is the cause of suffering; I have already cut it off.
This is the cessation of suffering; I have already realized it.
This is the Way; I have already cultivated it.
These teachings were based on the perceptual experiences of Shakyamuni Buddha. Likewise, the Arhats, Bodhisattvas and siddhas’ teachings are also based on their own experiences. They have known suffering and with that have found the cause of suffering and eliminated it through practice which has led to the cessation of suffering and enlightenment. These are truths taught by the Buddha in the third sermon.
If all of us here look more deeply into our lives, it is suffering we should see first. Many of you may think that rather than suffering, you are living a happy life. However, in this world, where science becomes more and more developed and economic and social conditions become more and more demanding, the pressure we feel becomes greater and greater.
When I came here 18 years ago, the Singaporeans also had worries and pressures, but they were not as busy as they are now. Prices were not as high as now. Now they have reclaimed a large area of land from the sea and built taller buildings, but somehow people seem to feel more upset, exhausted, pained and worried. Why? Because everything we experience in our life has the quality of suffering. It is important to realize this truth and not to regard life as full of happiness. If you believe life is full of happiness, when you encounter setbacks, you will feel unhappy and find them difficult to accept. On the other hand, if we know that life is full of suffering, we will readily accept that what little happiness we experience is probably an illusion, since it will change very soon.