The buddha brought forth his teachings for forty-five years. The content is voluminous and inspirational. What he taught is not philosophy, psychology, poetry or the words of a god. Rather, his teachings are a scripture of compassion and wisdom that revealed the true nature of life and the universe. It is also a scripture of liberation. A clear understanding and mastering of his teachings can liberate us from the forces of greed, hatred, delusion, doubt and fear. He was neither an advocate of misanthropy nor one of pessimism. He taught us to assertively face the reality , cultivate hard and realize the state following the cessation of all suffering.

In 530 B.C., the Buddha held his first sermon in Deer Park at Isipatana in northern India. At that time, he expounded the Four Noble Truths for the first time.

The Four Noble Truths are of pivotal importance. The Buddha says, "Without seeing the Four Noble Truths, one will be forced to fall into the miserable sea of birth and death. Being able to see the Four Noble Truths, one can destroy the roots of birth and death."

The Four Noble Truths are:

   The Truth of Suffering

   The Truth of the Cause of Suffering

   The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering

   The Truth of the Path Leading to
   the Cessation of Suffering

Like a medical doctor, the Buddha pinpointed the disease, analyzed it and prescribed a treatment plan for it.

The Truth of Suffering

All human life is intrinsically suffering. Everyone has to go through birth, old age, illness and death, and no one can avoid the pains associated with each of the four stages. Is there no happiness in life? Of course, life has its happy moments. However, they do not last forever. What they leave behind is always frustration and anxiety. The Buddha said:

   Life is like the shapelessness
   and intangibility of a dream,

   Like the emerging and vanishing
   of an illusion,

   Like the blankness and emptiness
   of bubbles,

   Like the floating and drifting
   of an image,

   Like the briefness and transience
   of water dews, and,

   Like the sparkling and
   extinguishing of lightning.
From birth to death, we only have a brief span of years. Very often events do not turn out to be what we want. The pain and suffering associated with loss, hatred and separation are endless. Moreover, the pain of not knowing our whereabouts after death is especially hard to bear.

The Truth of the Cause and Suffering


Human craving causes all suffering. We crave sensual pleasures, power, wealth and immortality. Craving these things makes us selfish and cruel. We try to create an ideal world for ourselves at the expense of others. This type of desire not only causes harm and pain, but also propels us into the cycle of birth and death.

Who Am I

In explaining the formation of rebirth, the Buddha set forth the Twelve Links Of Causation. It is this chain of links that constitutes the inseparable cycle. At the top of the chain is ignorance. It means confusion or lack of understanding. Without understanding our true nature, we are confused and lost. We create an individuality, identity or image of ourselves and become attached to it. The identity "I" is only a combination of five components, namely,

   (1) The aggregate of matter
   (2) The aggregate of sensation
   (3) The aggregate of perception
   (4) The aggregate of impulse
   (5) The aggregate of consciousness
They are the basis of life. Their fundamental characteristics are ever-changing and impermanent.

The Emptiness

One of the most famous references to the five aggregates can be found in the Heart Sutra. It says:

  By realizing that the five aggregates
  are intrinsically empty, 

  The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is free
  of all ills and suffering.

We suffer because we fail to recognize the impermanence of our "self". The "self" is merely a combination of four aspects of mind: sensation, perception, impulse and consciousness plus the form aspect. The Buddha said, "Form does not differ from emptiness, and emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is emptiness and emptiness itself is form. The same is true for sensation, perception, impulse and consciousness." Once we see the non-self, the empty nature of phenomena or simply the emptiness, we no longer attach to other things for the benefits of "self". After letting go of all attachments, we have no obstruction in our mind. Without obstruction in our mind, we have no fear.

The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering

Stop Clinging

According to the teachings of the Buddha, all suffering can be brought to an end. It is a disease that can be fully cured if we are determined. The root of suffering is craving triggered by ignorance or not understanding. Therefore we can put an end to our suffering through right understanding of our true nature and by stopping our attachment to material things and wandering thoughts.


Nirvana is the state when we put all our ignorance to extinction. It is the state of complete enlightenment. There is no greed, hatred and delusion. There is also no birth, old age, illness and death. There is only eternal serenity and happiness. It is eternal because it is no longer conditioned by a cause or causes. Anything that arises due to a cause or causes will have to go through becoming, changing and disintegration.

Nirvana is non-conditioned because karmic activities cease to take place with the extinction of ignorance and craving. The peace and happiness in the state of Nirvana is beyond any description or expression we have in this world. It is not something we can perceive or experience with our five senses. The Buddha said in the Lotus Sutra, "These dharmas cannot be demonstrated. They are beyond the realm of words." He also said in the Diamond Sutra, "Words cannot express truth." In other words, the only way to understand Nirvana is to actually realize it.

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