THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
About 2600 years ago in Northern India, a man named Siddhartha Gotama, who became the Buddha, discovered the Four Noble Truths. According to what we understand, after being somewhat shocked when coming in contact with what we now call the Four Messengers; Old Age, Illness and Death, and then seeing a homeless spiritual seeker or mendicant, Siddhartha had a realization that his sheltered life as a Prince would no longer do. In my understanding he had some sort of an existential crisis and left his home seeking answers.
Siddhartha studied with two of the greatest teachers of his day but still did not experience the awakening and answers to his questions he so deeply desired. At some point he decided to meditate until the answers came. The result is what we call the Buddha's Four Noble Truths. Since that time people have been practicing with these teachings and finding a way to reduce and eliminate their suffering. I hope you find them as helpful as I do.
Dissatisfaction exists. Often the ancient word of Dukkha is described as suffering but this is misunderstood. Stress, difficulty, dissatisfaction is probably closer to what we experience.
2. The cause of suffering is craving. We crave for things to be different than they actually are. This ends up causing us suffering. Samudaya is the Pali word for arising which is what we experience when a craving "arises" Tanha is the Pali word meaning thirst or desire to describe the feeling of the craving which arises and leads to suffering..
3. The end of suffering is possible. Nirodha is the word to describe the ending - which is what this Third Noble truth tells us, that there is an ending to the suffering we experience, and it is available to us with the right effort..
4. The path to the end of suffering is available. The word Magga means path - that the Noble Eightfold Path is what leads us to the end of suffering. Dukkhanirodhagaminipatipada is another word used in this Fourth Noble truth - it means "the way leading to the ending of pain". That is where this path can lead for all of us.
THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
The Buddha discovered this path that leads to the end of suffering. Luckily for the world, he decided to teach what he had found. With the generosity and kindness of millions of individuals throughout history we still have access to these beautiful teachings today.
This path is often described as an Eight Spoked Wheel, called a Dharmacakra.
Wise view or understanding
Wise intention or resolve
Wise communication or speech
Wise effort or energy
THE HEART PRACTICES
These four qualities of heart and mind were taught by the Buddha. They are known by many different names, BrahmaVihara or "abode of Brahma", the Divine Abodes and the Four Immeasureables. They are described in this way because through the practice of developing these mind states in meditation our mind and heart opens, the experience described as immeasurable. During practice we offer these qualities of heart and mind to all beings everywhere - beginning first to ourselves, next to people who have and are helpful and supportive to us, on to strangers, then family and friends, next people we may hold resentments or grudges towards and then last we offer them to all beings everywhere. This is done regularly and as we practice the four states of kindness, compassion, appreciation and equanimity eventually we begin to become more kind, compassionate, appreciative and equanimous.
METTA or Loving Kindness - The wish that all beings are happy, healthy and live with ease, wishing kindness towards everyone..
KARUNA or Compassion - This is the quality of heart when the loving and kind state of mind experienced in Metta comes in contact with suffering. A wish that all beings be free from suffering. A feeling against meaness and cruelty.
MUDITA or Appreciative Joy - When someone does well, has wonderful success and joy, and we are truly happy for them without jealousy or greedy thoughts. Just pure joy for their good fortune.
UPEKKHA or Equanimity - This state of mind is developed in one way by offering the other three Heart Practices equally to people that we have different relations to. Over time we can genuinely offer care and love to people we don't even like but we can love. Through contemplation and practice we learn to meet others with impartiality, without grasping or ill will. We also learn to understand that we are responsible for our own actions (karma) and others are responsible for theirs.
THE FIVE DAILY REFLECTIONS
I have two recorded guided meditations on my Insight Timer page of this teaching. An easy way to remember these is to use these five words:
Aging, Illness, Death, Separation, Karma
The Buddha’s teaching of the Upajjhaṭṭhana Sutta (AN 5:57) he gave five facts that he said one should reflect on often, regardless of who we were.