Napa Valley Insight Meditation Message Board › The Four Noble Truths: Reading for Jan 7th NVMG
I hope you all enjoyed the holidays. I am looking forward to seeing you all after our three week hiatus.
We will start out the New Year by discussing the main framework of the Buddhist teachings, the Four Noble Truths. The reading for the discussion comes from the 4th chapter of Arinna Weisman and Jean Smith’s book “The Beginner’s Guide to Insight Meditation. You can be downloaded a copy of the reading by clicking on the link below.
The Four Noble Truths are the centerpiece of the Buddha’s teachings. They essentially confront the pervasiveness of suffering, ours and others, and provide a pathway to the end of suffering. The Chinese translate the Four Noble Truths as the Four Holy Truths. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Our suffering is holy if we embrace it and look deeply into it. If we don’t, it isn’t holy at all. We just drowned in the ocean of our suffering”
The Buddha actually used the word Dukkha to describe the set of obstacles human beings face to awakening. Besides suffering, Dukkha can also be translated as unsatisfactoriness, pain, ill at ease, craving, etc. From a Buddhist’s perspective, Dukkha arises from the cycle of birth and death, not getting what we desires, getting what we don’t want, growing old, impermanence of relationships, and basically not understanding the true nature of life. Even when things are going well in our life, we can face pain. Pain of the happy moment ending. We then face the fact that we want it back.
The Four Noble Truths can be succinctly stated as follows:
1. There is suffering
2. There is a cause or origin of suffering
3. There is an end of suffering
4. There is path out of suffering which is the Eightfold Path.
At first glance, these truths seem like little more than pithy little sayings. But what they are pointing to is that we need suffering to see the path of liberation. It is through meditation and mindfulness that we gain insight into our suffering and gain a deeper understanding of how these truths can change our lives. For example, for the First Noble Truth, ‘There is suffering’ is the first insight. What is that insight? We don’t need to make it into anything grand; it is just the recognition: ‘There is suffering’. That is a basic insight. The uninformed person says, ‘I’m suffering. I don’t want to suffer. I meditate and I go on retreats to get out of suffering, but I’m still suffering and I don’t want to suffer.... How can I get out of suffering? What can I do to get rid of it?’ But that is not the First Noble Truth; it is not: ‘I am suffering and I want to end it.’ The insight is, ‘There is suffering’.
The Four Noble Truths are a lifetime’s reflection. It is not just a matter of realizing these truths in our lives and then going onto something advanced. The Four Noble Truths are not easy like that. They require an ongoing attitude of intention and compassionate effort, and they provide the context for a lifetime of examination.
Guest Dharma Teacher January 21st
Starting this year it is our intention to have a guest teaching present a Dharma talk at our Sangha. Our speaker this month is Maria Straatman. Maria, a former scientist and businesswoman, has been a student of Vipassana meditation since 1996 with Gil Fronsdal as her teacher. She is a graduate of the Sati Center Buddhist Chaplaincy Program and End of Life Counselor training with Metta Institute. She is a Spirit Rock Buddhist Ritual Minister. Her emphasis as a teacher is on freedom through seeing things as they are and letting go of unskillful mind habits, on the cushion and especially in daily life.
Please mark your calendar and plan to attend on the 21st if you can. Our speaker nights are a great opportunity for us to invite friends who may interested in starting a meditation practice.