The Four Noble TruthsI: The Truth of Suffering
by Venerable Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche
June 3, 1999
at Ratnashri Meditation Center, Sweden
The Four Noble Truths was Buddha’s first teaching given at the Deer Park near Benares to his fivedisciples. The Four Noble Truths is the most fundamental teaching among all the Buddha’s teachings.The Four Noble Truths are the truth of suffering, the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of thecessation of suffering and the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering.
First, the truth of suffering, Buddha said, "This is suffering, we should know. Once we know aboutsuffering, then there is no more to know." Next, he said, "Since suffering does not arise without acause, by knowing the causes of suffering, we would abandon and purify the causes and the origin ofsuffering. Once we have purified the causes of suffering, there is no more to purify and then comesthe cessation of suffering. By knowing that there is cessation of suffering, we would follow the path,attain the path that leads us to such cessation. Once we have perfected the path, there is no more toattain and no more path to follow." This was how Buddha taught.
This evening we will discuss about the truth of suffering. When we study and practice Buddha’steaching, there are lots of discussions about suffering, different types of suffering. Some people maythink that Buddhism is very pessimistic. They do not like to hear about suffering. However, it is veryimportant because in order to be free from suffering, we have to know the suffering. Just like whenwe are sick, we have different types of diseases and sicknesses. We want to get rid of the disease andsickness. In order to be free from the sickness, we have to know about the sickness – what type ofsickness we have, what are the causes of the sickness and then find a way to treat the sickness.Without knowing the sickness, we cannot free from the sickness. Similarly, to free from suffering, wehave to first know the suffering – what is suffering, what are the different types of suffering. Whenencountering some undesirable conditions, we think, "I don’t like this. Why is this happening to me?"So, basically, we know that there is suffering. What is the purpose of suffering? We will see in ourlater discussion that there is in fact a deeper meaning to suffering. First of all, every sentient being,including human being, even a small insect, desire to free from suffering whether one can express itor not, whether one can explain it or not. The innate nature of the mind of everybody is to desirehappiness and to be free from suffering. That is universal. Because of that, we make effort and wework hard. We try to train ourselves on different skills, techniques to bring more happiness and to befree from the suffering. It is very obvious, whether we are in the spiritual world, business world,political world, animal world or any world. We all do something, go somewhere to experience someharmony, peace, joy, happiness, to be free from undesirable conditions, to be free from suffering.Maybe we do not know what suffering is. Because of that when we try to free from suffering, wecreate more suffering. Some may know somehow that suffering is there. The reason why we need todig out different types of suffering, different states of suffering, is because there is a way to be freefrom the suffering. If there is no way to be free from suffering, then there is no use to talk aboutsuffering. It is better to forget it and just leave it behind. But since there is the truth to its causes andthe truth to its cessation and most importantly, there is a way, an alternative to be free from suffering,therefore we need to know, understand, study and analyze about the suffering.