The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path

Buddhism is not just a religion but is also a system of psychology and a philosophy. Buddhism has gained recent popularity because of the interest of celebrities in its teachings. The teachings of Buddhism echo a lot of the core beliefs in other religions but is unique in itself that it does not prescribe a person or being as a deity but rather focuses on personal realization and enlightenment as the path for salvation (Chodron 15). The religion’s most important figure is Siddhartha Gautama, who after giving up his life as a prince traveled and achieved enlightenment (19).

He became known as the Buddha or the “enlightened one” which also became the basis of the name of the religion. There is no prescription in the practice of Buddhism and instead, the philosophy and the ideologies served as the cohesion for the believers of the teaching of the Buddha. Thus, Buddhism has had many versions that have distinct practices. The major traditions are now considered to be Theravada or Pali Buddhism, East Asian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism (17).

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However, what remains core to these different traditions of Buddhism is the belief in the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path. Four Noble Truths After years of wandering and searching for enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama meditated under a Bodhi tree near the Ganges River in India. It was here that he realized the nature of suffering, its fundamental cause and the means by which to liberate one’s self from it. This realization is what embodies the Four Noble Truths.

The first of these Truths was that birth, aging, illness, death, association with displeasing, separation from what is pleasing is suffering and not being able to get what one wants are all forms of dukka or suffering. Therefore, being attached to the said conditions are the reasons why people suffer (40). The second noble truth is about the origin of suffering. Buddha taught that it is the desire for renewed existence, which is a central feature of Hinduism, together with the hedonistic pursuit for pleasure and fulfillment and bringing harm to others is the ultimate cause of suffering in the world. 41-42).

The third deals of how suffering can be ended. The teachings state that it is through the absence of these desires stated in the second truth that suffering can be ended (44). The last truth is answering the process by which the one brings an end to suffering. Buddha’s answer was that a person can bring an end to suffering by following the Noble Eightfold Path. Noble Eightfold Path The Noble Eightfold Path describes the actions that are to end suffering. There are three main sections to the text.

Sila prescribes the physical actions, Samadhi prescribes the requirements for the mind and Prajna which deals with the spiritual practices needed (85). Sila is similar to the prescriptions of morality in other religions, Samadhi is parallel to ethical teachings and Prajna can be considered to philosophical constructs. The first Sila prescribes Right Speech which is described as avoiding saying anything that may be harmful or hurtful to others. It also prescribes for discretion in one’s manner of speech as well as truthfulness.

The second one, Right Actions, says that one must not do any action that can bring harm to others out them in harm’s way. The third is regarding the profession of a person. Right Livelihood states that one’s means of work or living should not bring harm to others. In Samadhi, the focus is to develop the way of thinking that will end suffering. Right Effort prescribes that a person must always strive to think ways of improvement. Right Mindfulness teaches that one must view objects and issues clearly without any subterfuge or augmentation of the truth.

The third and last of the Samadhi, Right Concentration prescribes the need of being aware of reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion. In Prajna, the objective is to be able to purify one’s mind. Right Thoughts requires that one must change one’s way of thinking according to the teachings of Buddhism so that practicing its tenants becomes natural to the person. And finally, Right Understanding that prescribes that one must make an effort to understand what is truly the reality and just as it is presented to a person.