What are the four noble truths?

The four noble truths are the summary of the 84 thousand teachings Buddha granted when he first turned the Wheel of the Law. They are called noble because they are superior truths that do not deceive us. They explain what to expect from self-evolution and the path towards enlightenment.


Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, ageing is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.


Normally the ones suffering, both human and animals, recognize their own suffering. But Buddha’s truth about suffering is not related to the ones we are facing just now.

He is trying to propose a way of freeing ourselves from suffering in the future, from suffering again. He is trying to make us understand that suffering is not something exterior to us.

Suffering is within us. We are the ones causing it. You might think that you are not responsible for your birth, aging, illness (which you are, but this is something we will talk about some other time) and dying. And, in some way you are right.

But as the other items he listed on his Sutta, suffering is determined by the way you deal with those things. The way you face and act towards events you cannot control.

The point of this first truth, Dukkha is to recognise who is actually holding the flogger that’s whipping your back. You might think this is a cruel picture, but we do it more often than we know. Being mindful of this, will help us overcome our tendency to choose to suffer.


Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to re-becoming, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for becoming, craving for unbecoming.


The second noble truth, Samudaya, is related to recognising the origin of our sufferings, which is usually related to attachment, ignorance and hatred. The delusion of a “forever”, an “eternity”, the need for “endless joy and pleasure”.

The desire to always be content and get what we want. The urge to be admired, to be an individual and be appreciated for that, all that leads us to develop an ego that will keep us apart from unity. This truth is the key to freeing yourself from ego. 

These feelings are called delusions because they don’t really exist. We are the one granting them existence. They are also called origins because that is the source of all suffering. 

Name any kind of suffering and it will bring you back to those origins. It is the most painful exercise of all, trust me, no one is ready to acknowledge they are suffering because they are selfish. Aging hurts us because our skin is wrinkles and we’ll no longer be admired for our beauty. 

When we develop the purpose of recognizing it in our hearts, we commit to making the most of our time and presence on Earth in this life. We get a glimpse of what really matters and feel bonded to kindness and being able to live well by dominating our urges and impulses. In that way, we can achieve detachment.


Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is this noble eight-fold path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.


In the first truth you acknowledge you suffer, in the second truth you realise you are the one causing your suffering, but here, in the third truth, Magga, you are granted a solution to all that. There is a Path out of suffering.

It is the Eightfold Path. The one Buddha speaks of is not material. It is not really spiritual either, it is more  a process of self-development, that will lead you to the cessation of suffering and the reaching of pure enlightenment.

The Path is composed of three main areas: Ethics, Mind and Wisdom. First you work on your character. You deal with Ethics and practice the right speech, the right action and the right livelihood. This is what people see from you.

When you work on Mind, you are developing your abilities to make the change in yourself. You are doing the right endeavor, the right mind-development and the right concentration. These are tools that will help you through the way.

The last part of the Path is a part of yourself that sometimes not even you know it exists. It is  Wisdom, the right views and the right intentions. It is what you keep in your heart. 

There is no rigid format of walking the Path, the most common is in the presented order. But we can adapt it, but I believe it will be harder to accomplish. They are based on self-discipline and self-resignation on an evolutionary transformation.


Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainder less fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, non-reliance on it.


The fourth noble truth, Nirodha, is about putting a definitive end to suffering. We all have experienced moments when suffering was absent for some time. But it keeps coming back, in different forms, in different intensities.

But surprisingly, with the same origins. This truth is about getting free from the wheel of suffering, from the ups and downs, from the duality of sentiments.

At this point, we see things for what they really are; we wake up, we don’t need to control our desires and cravings because we no longer have them. We have stepped out of the illusion we have built around our minds.

What Buddha proposes here is the result of walking a path of hard self-work. A path of complete transformation, changing your personal compass to a different direction and most of the time causing a domino effect of changes in your life. 

The pieces won’t all fall at the same time, but they will fall eventually, making room for virtues that will fulfil your heart. This is Nirvana. This is the end of the road, and this is also why these truths are noble.