Part 1 of 4
It's your soul that's hungry, not your body. Many of us are curious as to what Buddhism is all about. In my view, Buddhism is not a religion but rather a way of life.
In this four-part blog series, we'll explore the foundation of Buddhist teaching, the Four Noble Truths.
Over 2,500 years ago, Buddha taught about suffering and the end of suffering in the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths are considered to be the very central teachings of Buddhism.
The basic tenets of Buddhist practice are to understand suffering and practice ways to become free from suffering. In essence, the best way to practice the Four Noble Truths is to first become interested in our suffering. Once we have a sense of its root causes, it is only then that we can free ourselves from it. It’s from here that we can meet the world with love and compassion. And it is only from this place that we can be happy.
At the time of the Buddha, doctors would recognize a problem, define its causes, formulate a prognosis for the cure and then prescribe what was needed next. The Buddha adopted this format when he stated the Four Noble Truths which is why he is considered in some teachings as “the first physician.”
The Buddha avoided dogma. Instead, he offered practices and insights that we can verify for ourselves and in our own lives as opposed to the doctrine that we should believe in or subscribe to.
Here are the Four Noble Truths
- Suffering occurs
- The causes of suffering are craving, aversion, and ignorance
- There is a possibility to end suffering
- The end of suffering can be achieved through the Noble Eightfold Path.
What we know as human beings about how to be free from suffering is actually quite little. Most of us search for happiness outside ourselves believing somehow that if we have more, learn more, and educate ourselves more, that will make us happy. But in the end, it's your soul that's hungry. When we go through life along that trajectory, we actually cause more suffering since none of that has the capacity to provide happiness.
In future dharma talks, I will pull apart the Noble Eightfold Path one by one, but let's begin by exploring over these next few blogs, what are the Four Noble Truths before we embark on the path to the practices Buddha so clearly outlined for us.
#1 - The Truth of Suffering
The First Noble Truth simply says that suffering occurs. Not a profoundly poignant statement to be sure. Suffering comes with the territory of being human. It’s part of the human condition. Not only our own "suffering," but if we are open to the world, when someone else is suffering, we feel the discomfort of someone else's suffering as well because we can empathize.
There is a distinction between inevitable suffering and optional suffering that comes into play from a Buddhist perspective. The ancient Buddhist texts suggest that no one comes to the Buddhist path except through suffering. And from the Buddhist perspective, the recognition of suffering is actually considered sacred and worthy of respect.
But not all suffering is monumental and we can learn from our more subtle suffering like how we react in a disagreement, a traffic jam, or an irritation over something someone has done or said.
Optional suffering is created when we react to an experience.
Things happen in life and we add our little (or maybe even big!) stories to them. See if you can catch yourself creating a story around something that happens this week in your life. Maybe it’s as simple as the mailman arriving late, the neighbor’s dog leaving a gift on your lawn, one of your kids acting a bit snarky, or someone at work rubbing you the wrong way. Just see if you can notice.
The main forms of suffering identified by the Buddha are in the forms of our grasping, clinging/attachment, and craving.
"It's your soul that’s hungry, not your body."
- Maggie Kelly
We grasp onto our sense of self as a solid identity or the things we think we need to make us happy. Maybe we even grasp sensual pleasures which help us avoid discomfort. We sometimes cling to our viewpoints and positions, we crave attention, adoration, and acknowledgment as a path to quelling our insecurities.
This week, I invite you to investigate the ways in which you create your own suffering. See if you can identify when you become attached to the idea of things somehow being different than they are. Listen to your internal dialog and see if you can identify that moment when your mind tells you that you need to do something, purchase something, or change something.
Just notice. Use this week as your practice. Each day, start anew. Remember - it's your soul that's hungry, not your body.
When you catch yourself reaching for that cookie or bag of chips, a cigarette, a glass of wine, or perhaps shopping for something online you know you don’t need, ask yourself: What am I really craving? Is it love? Attention? Acknowledgment? Rest?
What are we really looking for?
When we find ourselves attached to anything or anyone outside ourselves, many of us feel something is wrong when things are unpleasant or aren’t going as planned. Stop for a moment to think if you instead may be a confusing pleasure with happiness.
An important part of the Buddhist spiritual practice is discovering that happiness is not connected to objects of desire or pleasure whether it’s food, a new car, a partner or job, or more “stuff.”
How can we help you on this journey? Join us at Satsang House, San Diego’s premier meditation center, to learn how to set a solid foundation of mindfulness into your daily life. Or consider coming to one of our classes or signing up for an online course!