C O U R S E L E C T U R E
The First Two Noble Truths
Notes taken on June 25, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
which recording artist sang the most Buddhist song in recording history?
"I can't get no satisfaction"
if you've read much Buddhist literature you probably don't recall running into that phrase, because I don't think it's there
but Mick Jagger's song captures the spirit of Buddhism's First Noble Truth, or "Duhka" is usually translated into English as "The Truth of Suffering", yet a more accurate translation is "unsatisfactoriness in life", which makes the first noble truth sound a little bit more plausible and reflects the teaching that Duhka is not something that happens occasionally but is is pervasive in life.
if you study Buddhism, you may encounter this word in Sanskrit/Pali
the result if you follow the four noble truths
the truth about the way things are and the path Buddha said we should tread in recognition to the way things are
the First and Second Nobel Truth constitute the diagnosis of the human predicament
the four noble truths are:
1. The Truth of Suffering
take the example of powdered donuts, if you ask me while I'm eating one of these things if I'm suffering, I would say obviously not, yet even before I start to swallow that first donut, I'm always starting to think about and yearning for the next doughnut, and the fact that I want another doughnut means in a literal sense that I didn't get satisfaction from the first donut., it is this undercurrent of yearning that we experience in our lives, and not suffering per se, which best describes the Buddha's First Noble Truth.
no matter what it is: food, warmth, sex, if feels good but we can never get enough
things not lasting is a major theme of the Buddha
nothing is permanent in the world, certainly not pleasure, and yet, we seem to try to cling to it
2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering
the cause of suffering is "thirst" or "craving"
if you want pleasure to last, you simply aren't getting the picture of the non-permanence of things, you're not reckoning with the truth about reality
we're not just talking about raw, sensual pleasures but gratifying things in general: getting an A on an exam, winning the esteem of your friends, winning the acclaim of society at large, whatever makes you feel good, eventually that feeling will fade and you're going to want more
psychologists refer to this as the "hedonic treadmill", hedonic meaning "pleasure seeking", and treadmill meaning "you're not getting anywhere", you keep striving for that feeling that you used to have, but you don't generally don't find it, and when you find a new pleasure, when your job is going well and your relationships are buzzing with excitement, the happiness that these generate will eventually return to a normal level
but this also covers anxieties and fears, e.g. about being criticized in public or going to some cocktail party you don't want to go to, the fear when walking home at night through a dangerous part of town
3. The Truth of the End of Suffering
4. The Truth of the Path leading to the End of Suffering
the Buddha delivered these truths in a sermon in a deer park after meditating for a long time
yet we don't have any evidence of the historical truth of this, and these events were written down much longer after they happened
what we do know is that the teaching of the Buddha were being promulgated centuries before the time of Christianity
this endless craving, this endless desire to want what we don't have and can never have again, is what causes suffering in life
Buddhism encourages your to detach yourself from this craving in your life