The First Noble Truth

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and even longer since I’ve written about Buddhism. But as I sit here annoyed (and really, am I ever anything other than annoyed?) at Eleanor pawing at my typing hands, I realize that a little Buddhist wisdom would be appropriate.

Get OFF my keyboard, Frito.

The first of the four noble truths is that life means suffering. Our human bodies make physical pain an unavoidable part of living. Our human minds make psychological suffering an unavoidable part of living. Just as we feel such negative sensation, we are also thankfully subject to what we view as the opposite of suffering – happiness, contentment, pleasure.

I was in Winston-Salem yesterday for my niece’s two-year-old birthday. Before we embarked for the party, I sat at the kitchen table with my mother as she let the hair color soak into her scalp.

“I think some people are just incapable of lasting happiness,” she says.

I agree, but I’ll take it a step further. I don’t think most anyone is capable of lasting happiness. I know what she means though, the constant waiting  for something better or something easier or something more fulfilling. It’s not going to happen. And yet, Buddha didn’t ever attempt to explain suffering as a by-product of a divine plan.

The Sanskrit term for this is dukkha, and it covers the gamut of suffering – from mild unease to extreme anguish. While the term is often translated to English as “suffering,” its actual meaning is closer to “disquietude.” When we feel this, any discomfort, our first instinct is to immediately find cessation. And when we do that, we’re trying to separate the self  from what we’re experiencing. In doing this, we’re also separating ourselves from the mystery of being, the very nature of existence. The first noble truth, then, implores us to acknowledge that suffering is the central issue of the experience of being.



Filed under Buddhism

10 responses to “The First Noble Truth

  1. AD

    Just what I needed to reflect on this morning. Thank you.

  2. Jed

    I have to strongly disagree with you.
    Everyone is capable of lasting happiness. It is a choice. Most suffering is self-inflicted. If one is always looking for a better life, one will always dismiss one’s present situation as unacceptable or intolerable. Sometimes one needs to step back to appreciate one’s present situation.
    I am not proposing that one should never try to better one’s hand in life or not strive for perfection, but to disregard what one has already achieved or where one stands right now will only ever lead to discontent.
    Acceptance is the key. What’s wrong with being part of the great unwashed masses? There should be no shame in this. Accepting and embracing one’s place in life and society is what makes us. It shouldn’t break us. Hindu’s understood this, thus developing the Caste system. Of course the caste system, like the British Class system has been abused and bastardized over the centuries, but the premise behind them was for people to accept their place in society. Constantly looking for greener grass only renders the grass one is standing in dull and unappetizing.
    Being discontent or disquieted serves no purpose. Acceptance is the key. Once this is understood, and one appreciates one’s life for what it is, then it releases one from the bondage of suffering and allows one to move forward and strive for better things, without the constant feeling of failure when one fails to achieve one’s goals.
    Take a deep breath, appreciate the beauty that one is surrounded by and navigate gracefully. That’s the road to happiness.

  3. Jenna

    So if my caste in life is to clean shit out of horse stalls, I should accept that is my place in life and be the happiest shit cleaner outer on the planet? You sir, are a twat.

  4. Jed

    You’re both ridiculous. Of course I am not condoning a Caste or Class system. What I am saying is; If one spends one’s life searching for something bigger than one’s self and ignores what one has, then one will obviously become discontent. Why not be happy with what one has? Of course there is no problem with trying to improve one’s lot. Just don’t forget to appreciate what one already has.

  5. Pingback: Tanha (Gimme gimme, gimme, I need, I need) | Misadventures of a Modern Mommy

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