The four noble truths all directly deal with dukkha, or suffering. Whereas the four dharma seals were identified by early followers of the Buddha, the four noble truths are part of the original Buddha dharma, the teachings of the Buddha himself. In fact, it is held that the four noble truths were the very first teaching of the Buddha upon attaining his “Awakening,” or “Enlightenment.”

The Truth of Dukkha

The first noble truth is simply that dukkha, or suffering, exists. This is an obvious statement, as all humans (and indeed, all beings capable of experiencing pleasure and pain) have experienced a great variety of suffering.

The Truth of the Cause of Dukkha

The second noble truth is that dukkha is caused by cravings and aversions of all sorts – in other words, by dualistic, ego-based demands. Note that the truth of the cause of dukkha is not that it is caused by pain or something of that nature. This is because pain is something which one can never totally avoid: it is an unavoidable part of life. Even if pain were completely eliminated, then dukkha would arise as a result of the absence of pleasure. Furthermore, even if all pain were eliminated, and even if one experienced constant physical pleasures, eventually one would become bored with the pleasure. Regardless of any condition or set of conditions in the external world, one will experience dukkha as a result of one's dualistic, ego-based demands.

The Truth of the End of Dukkha

The third noble truth is that the only way to eliminate dukkha is not to continually try to change conditions in the external world in order to meet the demands of one's dualistic ego, but through the cessation or elimination of these demands themselves.

The Truth of the Path that Frees one from Dukkha

The fourth and final of the four noble truths is that there is a path, called “the noble eightfold path,” which leads to the cessation or elimination of dualistic, ego-based demands and freedom from dukkha. The noble eightfold path will now be explored in detail.

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