Buddhism Basics: The Four Noble Truths

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Background

Let’s start at the beginning. Buddhism was born from Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince who lived between 500 and 600 BCE. According to legend, seers foretold he would be a great ruler or an enlightened teacher. It all depended on his exposure to the realities of life outside the palace. As the story goes, despite his father’s best efforts to shelter him, Siddhartha saw the realities of old age, sickness, and death. He shed his wealth and privilege and stepped onto the path of spiritual exploration. First, he lived in the forest as an ascetic, learning from those who denied themselves comfort. But eventually, when truth did not come to him, he saw the “middle way.” There was a path between the luxury he experienced in the palace and the extreme austerity his body underwent in the forest.

Meditating under a bodhi tree, determined to stay there until he discovered the truth of suffering, he finally saw through ego and desire. For the rest of his days, Siddhartha was known as the Enlightened One, the Awakened One, or Buddha. These are not original titles. Anyone can attain enlightenment and reach Nirvana, the state of wakefulness. Siddhartha, now the Buddha, decided to share his newfound knowledge with the world. He traveled the realm for the rest of his life, teaching others what he had discovered.

“Of paths, the eightfold is the best. Of truths, the four statements. Detachment is the best of dhammas. And of two-footed ones, the one endowed with eyes.”  

— Dhammapada

The Four Noble Truths

A cornerstone to his enlightenment, which he shared with his followers, was about the Four Noble Truths. They are:

The truth of suffering

Dukkha, the truth of suffering. Our lives are full of it in large and small ways. The translation is not exact. Dukkha doesn’t have to be some profound or terrible agony, it is more like the underlying anxiety each of us experiences throughout our days.

The truth about desire

The number two truth is the cause of Dukkha, desire, also known as craving, wanting, or the clinging mind. It’s the need to have, own, and attain. To make permanent when there is no permanence in our lives, the world, or the universe. It is the tendency to define ourselves through objects or concepts when, in reality, there is no self to define and no amount of toys, cars, or houses will ever bring us peace.

There is cessation from suffering

Can we find respite from the clinging mind, from desire and anxiety? The third truth is simple. It says yes, there is cessation from suffering and anxiety, a way to not attach to our desire and cravings. Not that we turn feelings off or “detach,” rather, that we observe the truth of life, the impermanence, and even as we feel emotions, big or small, we know they will rise and fall, ebb and flow. Rather than detach, we can practice non-attachment, which leaves us room to feel and experience without the need to cling. We do not have to attach to feelings or create identity based on them, or any object in the physical world.

Follow the Noble Eightfold Path

But how do we attain this wakefulness, this non-attachment? The number four truth shows us that the Noble Eightfold Path is a road map to living that, if followed, helps deliver us from our desire, anxiety, and suffering. The path emphasizes morality, meditation, and insight, also known as morals, mental state, and wisdom.

There are different interpretations but the basic components are:

  • Right view
  • Right resolve
  • Right speech
  • Right action
  • Right livelihood
  • Right effort
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right concentration

In the next Buddhism Basics article, we’ll dive into the Noble Eightfold Path and talk about what each component means in modern life.  

“Spoils” by Brian Van Reet

Spoils, by Brian Van Reet, takes the reader on a journey through Iraq in the first months of the 2003 invasion. The author writes with clear authority and knowledge after serving his own tour in the region with the U.S. Army as a tank crewman. According to his website, he received the Bronze Star for valor. Spoils centers on Cassandra and her comrades who are kidnapped by a mujahideen force engaged in jihad. The perspective shifts between a U.S. Army tank crewman, full of guilt at what they did to contribute to the kidnapping, Cassandra before and during the ordeal, and a senior mujahid in the insurgent force. It is an experience of perspective as these characters live through the same conflict.

It’s up to the readers how much belief they suspend and to decide how authentic the voices are. I’ve never talked to a mujahid, as far as I know, so I take the characters at face value. As in most novels, there are some slow spots, but overall, the pacing is quick but not manic. The scenes are poignant without being over the top. The characters are well written with rich histories, and the action pulls the reader in. In only one scene did I want Van Reet to slow down and deliver slower-paced visuals, emotion, and terror. I’ll let you guess which one that is as you read for yourself.   

After the last page is turned, the reader may find themselves wondering about war, the character’s lives, and why they made the choices they did. They may also wonder about real-life soldiers, real characters, and what it was like over there. I hope so and I bet Van Reet does, too. When did the rise of extreme terrorism, beheadings, and the use of video and propaganda really make its way onto the world stage? Little did these characters know that just around the corner from 2003, the world would enter the age of YouTube (the platform came online in 2005). This is not a happy thought in this context because it’s not a happy story in the book, or in real life.

Overall, the story is comparative as the reader experiences one conflict from three sides, contemplative as the reader absorbs many voices, and maybe a little melancholy, especially if one is motivated to look up actual prisoners of war. Real people. Real outcomes. For those who like novels about war written by those who were there, this is a good pick.

You can find Spoils at Amazon or other retailers.

The Nost

A thrilling and magical tale of humanity’s creation, destruction, and the war waged across centuries to control them. – Max Watson, author of Chains of Nurture

Jack hears a voice other people don’t. It whispers in his ear, telling him to commit acts of violence against the humans around him. Ranting and raving about the need to control and suppress them, stop them from spreading across the earth. He always found this curious because it was far too late for that. And didn’t the voice realize he was human? After years of resisting the voice, in a moment of clarity, Jack finally ends it all. With the twitch of his wrist, his motorcycle careens headfirst into a tree. The lights go out.

But moments later they’re back on. The creator has other plans for him, and she won’t take no for an answer. Apparently, this isn’t his first life and it won’t be his last. This time, though, there is a chance to end the war he doesn’t remember fighting. And this time, there is a chance to save the new humans he’s fought for since the beginning of time. All he has to do is find a girl, bond with her, awaken to his true Nostshen ability and save the world. It turns out, he might not be as human as he thought. And the reality he knows might be built on a bedrock of ancient technology he doesn’t understand.

Will he answer the call?

Will he finally break his cycle of rebirth and atone for his sins in this life and the ones before it?

Or maybe he just needs to get over it.

Follow Jack as he discovers the foundation our world was built on and how the creators are still fighting to control it. Fantasy and myth, he discovers, are often tales we create to explain science and technology we don’t understand.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover

A Book Review by Shannon Bond

Aiden Bishop has watched Evelyn Hardcastle die more than once and his only hope for salvation is to solve her murder. If this sounds confusing, it is, but after the first few chapters of “The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” you’ll gladly buckle in for the mystery-solving ride. The book has fantastic reviews on Goodreads for good reason. Stuart Turton has crafted a story that does a great job at keeping that eternal fiction question alive throughout… “what happens next?”read more on The Regular Joe