Moving through the Four Noble Truths

Photo by Stefan Wagener on Unsplash

Fully understand suffering.
Let go of arising.
Realize cessation.
Cultivate the path. 

Adapted from the Dhammacakkappavattana sutta
translated by Stephen Batchelor

The Dharma is vast and profound. There are various philosophical traditions and practice lineages, as well as various presentations of the path. The challenge of deciding how to start can seem daunting. 

Start where you are. 

The four noble truths can be interpreted as a process that we move through. 

Fully understand suffering.

Look at your current situation. Look at the ways in which you are unhappy. Look closely at your body, how does it feel? Where is there discomfort and pain? Look at your emotions, where do you experience sadness or fear? Look at your perceptions, how do you view your self and the world around you? Look at your habits and inclinations, where are you stuck? 

Fully understand your suffering. This is the first noble truth. It is not a Truth, but the truth of your experience. Understand it. Embrace it. 

Let go of arising. 

What are you holding onto in your experience? What are you accepting or rejecting, holding onto or pushing away? Fixation and grasping are subtle and pervasive, you won’t even realize what you are holding onto until you can calm your mind and look. Meditation is the practice of creating a calm and clear mind, so that you can see the various levels of your fixation and grasping. When you see your fixation, whether it is feelings, appearances, concepts, whatever, let it go. Relax. Release the tight knot of grasping and reactivity. 

This is how we train. This is the practice. This is the truth of the origin of suffering. 

Realize cessation.

Cessation means attachment, aversion, and ignorance have ceased to control your experience and understanding of your self and the world. What is left in the wake of the cessation of ignorance, attachment, and aversion? Is it a void, a blank nothingness? What do we realize in the truth of cessation? 

A vast equanimity. All that appears and exists is naturally present and free in its own place. Nothing to accept, nothing to reject, we abide in complete openness. 

Cultivate the path

You thought you were done? Cultivate the path. Do the work. Walk, share, be present and kind in the world. It takes effort and patience. 

You will fall back into suffering and confusion, and you just keep on repeating the process by understanding your suffering and letting go of your fixation. Give yourself a break, failing means your making progress.

This is the truth of the path.