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The Buddha's Four Noble Truths


Traditional translation (1):

Note: When reading the following words by the Buddha, imagine that he, while speaking, was actually pointing to various parts of his body:
  1. to his brow when he talked about the mind,
  2. to his chest when he talked about his heart and sensuality,
  3. to his navel when he talked about the fermentation of becoming,
  4. to the top of his head (higher awareness) when he talked about ignorance.
'When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady & attained imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. I discerned, as it was actually present, that 'This is stress... (2) This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are fermentations...(3) This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.' My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, 'Released.' I discerned that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

~ The Buddha in a conversation with the Jain Sage Saccaka (4)

Notes: 

(1) There are many commentators who wonder why the usual list...
  1. Dukkha or Stress, Mental Suffering - its existence (2),
  2. Samudaya - its origination,
  3. Nirodha - its cessation,
  4. Magga - the way leading to the cessation of dukkha (5),
...is so grandly named 'The Four Noble Truths'.
When I went deeply into the original text (as much Pali and Sanskrit as I could figure out) and the many variations of translations and interpretations, I eventually saw an additional series of four points emerge. It then dawned on me why this part of the Buddha's teachings was called 'The Four Noble Truths'. What I noticed was, when I while reading, pointed to the various parts of my body as suggested above, that the Buddha in his conversation with Saccaka, clearly put emphasis on his:
  1. mind, '…ending of the mental fermentations…'
  2. heart, '…release from the fermentation of sensuality…'
  3. will, '…release from the fermentation of becoming…'
  4. awareness, '…release from the fermentation of ignorance.'
(2) Dukkha - In this version translated as 'stress'
Etymologically 'dukkha' can be understood as being 'led astray or cut away from oneself'. Dukkha consists of two parts duk- and -kha, from the Aryan / Sanskrit roots DUK and GHA.
DUK means 'to go' or 'to lead', as in the English duct, seduction, conduct, production, duke.
GHA, KA or KAD mean 'cut away' or 'fall away', as in the English 'cathode', 'catastrophe', 'cut'.

(3) Fermentation: effluent or mental diarrhea - confusion

(4) An excerpt from 'The Longer Discourse to Saccaka' MN 36 PTS: M i 237
© 2008–2011 translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Another translation using the word 'effluent' instead of 'fermentation':
http://www.buddhanet.net/w_s1.htm
(the last two paragraphs)


(5) The 'Eightfold Path' and the 'Triple Gem' were designed by the Buddha to accomplish the cessation of suffering and confusion.

~~~

A free translation treatment of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths:
  1. 'When my mind became focused, pure and clear, unstained by any defilement, when it became flexible and steady and when it could no longer be disturbed, I aimed it at finding out how to end all mental stress and confusion and I found that (1):
    • when the mind is filled with the ferment of confusion that that is mental suffering,
    • that from this ferment more stress and suffering arises.
    • I  concluded though that all this mental suffering and confusion can be overcome, so
    • I looked for and found the way that leads to the release of suffering and mental confusion.
  2. When I focused on my heart, I found how this knowledge also released me from the ferment of emotional confusion.
  3. And when I focused on my will (2), this knowledge relieved me from the confusion that leads to willful strife.
  4. As to my higher awareness, this knowledge released me from the confusion of not knowing who I am.
With this release, I now know what freedom (3) is.
I now know how birth comes to its fruition, how divine life fulfills itself.
Nothing further is needed in this world. That's it.'

~ After the Buddha

Notes:
(1) The Four Noble Truths:
  • The existence of dukkha,
  • The origination of dukkha,
  • The cessation of dukkha,
  • The method for the cessation of dukkha (4).
(2) The will - seated in the 'hara' according to Zen - when deviated a dysfunctional will drives one to 'become that, what one presumes one ought to be'

(3) Hence, the possibility of 'moksha', freeing oneself from dukkha, a return to one's authentic self.

(4) The 'Eightfold Path' and the 'Triple Gem' were designed by the Buddha to accomplish the cessation of suffering and confusion.

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