However, this should not be considered as a pessimistic view rather it should be seen as a noble truth. Instead of denying the existence of dukkha, acknowledging its existence is the first step towards dealing with dissatisfaction, anguish, and pain. When we are diagnosed with a disease, we need to acknowledge the fact that we are ill. It is only by realizing that we have a disease can we seek treatment and cure ourselves. All of us have our share of negative experiences, like betrayals and frustrations that are rooted in our own desires, expectations, and personal beliefs. Life never goes the way we plan it and often goes in unexpected directions. In fact, the more we seek pleasure and have cravings, the more we set ourselves up for disappointments. Sadly, even when we are able to achieve certain goals or satisfy certain cravings, happiness lasts only for a fleeting moment. Whether dissatisfaction is unexpected or self-created, none of us can avoid pain and suffering in life and that is the first truth. This view is neither pessimistic or optimistic, but simply realistic.
2. The Second Noble Truth: The origin of suffering
Samudāya, one of the four noble truths of Dharma, refers to the truth of the origin of suffering and focuses on determining the causes related to the origin of suffering. According to Buddhists, suffering arises mainly from ignorance and desire. In Buddhism, desire mainly refers to seeking pleasure and craving material goods that cannot be satisfied ever. As we desire things and experiences that can only cause temporary happiness, this leads to suffering. On the other hand, ignorance prevents us from experiencing the world as it truly is. Ignorance gives rise to certain vices, like anger, hatred, envy, and greed. The truth of arising of suffering is explained as “It is this thirst or craving that leads to rebirth or re-becoming and is associated with passionate greed that seeks fresh pleasure nowhere and now there, like craving for sensual pleasure and craving non-existence or self-annihilation and existence,” according to the Pāli Canon.
Although most of us tend to blame external factors and people for our problems, the Buddha says the main reason for our problems originates from our thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions. He observed that our impulse to crave and attain things that we do not have at present is the main cause of the origin of pain and suffering. According to an article in the BBC, the three roots of evil and suffering are:
- Greed and desire, represented by a rooster
- Ignorance or delusion, represented by a pig
- Hatred and destructive urges, represented by a snake
Understanding these causes of suffering can help us to observe and analyze our experiences more realistically and prepare ourselves for whatever comes next.
3. The Third Noble Truth: The cessation of suffering
Nirodha, the third truth of Dharma, refers to the end of pain and suffering in mortal life or in our spiritual life by achieving Nirvana or liberation. It is a transcendent state that frees us from the limitations of the cycle of birth and rebirth and enables us to experience spiritual enlightenment. By letting go of limiting beliefs about the world and ourselves, we can remove all our boundaries and restrictions and unlearn wrongful things taught by social conditioning. According to the Buddha, detaching yourself from attachment is the only way to remove desire. This is one of the four noble truths focused on the solution and gives us hope with the probability of liberation. According to the BBC article, Nirvana can be attained by eliminating hatred, delusion and greed as “Nirvana is better understood as a state of mind that humans can reach. It is a state of profound spiritual joy, without negative emotions and fears.”
The third truth refers to the complete cessation of craving – withdrawal, letting go, rejection, renouncement, liberation and detachment from desires. Buddhism does not believe that everything is suffering, but simply accepts the fact that suffering exists. But it also acknowledges the fact that this suffering can end. The article by Harvard University adds “This is the good news of Dharma. It is possible to put an end to ego-centered desire, to put an end to duhkha and thus attain freedom from the perpetual sense of unsatisfactoriness.”