The Four Noble Truths

The Four Aryan (or Noble) Truths are perhaps the most basic formulation of the Buddha's teaching. They are expressed as follows:

1. All existence is dukkha. This word has been variously translated as ‘suffering’, ‘anguish’, ‘pain’, or ‘unsatisfactoriness’. The Buddha’s insight was that our lives are a struggle, and we do not find ultimate happiness or satisfaction in anything we experience. This is the problem of existence.

2. The cause of dukkha is craving. The natural human tendency is to blame our difficulties on things outside ourselves. But the Buddha says that their actual root is to be found in the mind itself. In particular our tendency to grasp at things (or alternatively to push them away) places us fundamentally at odds with the way life really is.

3. The cessation of dukkha comes with the cessation of craving. As we are the ultimate cause of our difficulties, we are also the solution. We cannot change the things that happen to us, but we can change our responses.

4. There is a path that leads from dukkha. Although the Buddha throws responsibility back on to the individual he also taught methods through which we can change ourselves. One formulation of these methods is known as the Noble Eightfold Path of right view, aspiration, action, speech, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and meditation.