Session Three

The First Noble Truth

The teaching of the four noble truths is a central teaching of the Buddha and is at the heart of insight meditation. It explores suffering, its origin, its cessation and the path leading to the end of suffering. It is a teaching about how to find profound peace of mind and to be free from greed, hatred, and delusion. The four noble truths were the first thing that the Buddha taught after his awakening and provide a framework within which other teachings can be understood.

Dukkha

The teaching of the four noble truths is a central teaching of the Buddha and is at the heart of insight meditation. It explores suffering, its origin, its cessation and the path leading to the end of suffering. It is a teaching about how to find profound peace of mind and to be free from greed, hatred, and delusion. The four noble truths were the first thing that the Buddha taught after his awakening and provide a framework within which other teachings can be understood.

The teaching on dukkha is not meant to be pessimistic. It does not deny that life also includes pleasure, joy, and beauty. However, it does teach that loss, pain and sickness are an inevitable part of life and that there is a freedom that comes from understanding this clearly.

One way to begin contemplating dukkha is to reflect on the difference between struggles that are intrinsically part of human life and those that come from resistance to these difficulties. We see that ultimately we cannot stop the body aging and getting sick and that we struggle when we try to hold on the things that by their nature will not last. As we make peace with the losses and changes that are intrinsic to life, the secondary sense of struggle with these events begins to soften.

These kind of reflections lead us naturally to explore what supports and strengthens the arising of dukkha and what helps us to let it go. These questions form the heart of the truth of the origin of suffering, which we’ll explore in the next session.

Reflections 

Notice the times during the day when things feel difficult. What are the triggers that you notice? Is the difficultly intrinsically part of the event? What are the factors that increase or lessen the sense of dukkha? Does the reflection on dukkha feel pessimistic or freeing? If you wish, balance this reflection by also looking out for what is joyful and beautiful (trees, plants, animals, someone’s smile, the sky are often good starting points). Does an appreciation of these qualities also help you to open to the difficult?

Home Practice

Practice the meditation on breath and body each day for twenty minutes.

Write brief notes in your journal about what you notice in your practice.