the four noble truths

Neuroimaging sheds light on the seat of suffering

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This is a lesson based on a tradition called “the four noble truths.” Briefly, those truths are the first truth of suffering, the second truth of the cause of suffering, the third truth of the discontinuing of the cause of suffering, and the fourth truth of the way to live life after suffering.

The first truth of suffering involves relating to life as if there is some part of life that should not be how it is. Suffering is not simply pain or illness or old age or dying or even violence. Suffering is a way of relating to life. Suffering involves ill will as in contempt as in enduring madness as in mental illness as in agonizing as in hell. While there are a variety of forms and intensities of suffering, what I mean by the word suffering includes all of them.

The second truth of the cause of suffering involves the recognizing of the power of words. Words are symbolic codes with an origin as signals of sound, though words can also be written. The term “words” can even include gestures and hand signals or “sign languages.” 

Words are distinct from a mere signal because of the importance of the sequencing of the words. Words are the origin of what can be called nonsense, such as “this should be what should not be.” The second truth, briefly, is that all suffering is caused by nonsense made of words.

Specifically, “this should not be how it is” is the kind of formation in words that can correspond to the experience of suffering, at least if there is a belief in the nonsense rather than a recognition of the nonsense as nonsense. “This should not be how it is” is rooted in “there is exactly one way that this should be.” In other words, suffering is rooted in the linguistic model of “there is exactly one way that this should be,” at least as it applies to some particular perception or experience. “There is exactly one way that this should be” is further rooted in “there is exactly one way that life should be,” which is nonsense.

However, if operating as if it is inherently true that life should be a certain way, then suffering is the natural and inevitable result. That suffering could be in the form of ill will as in contempt as in enduring madness as in mental illness as in agonizing as in hell. Or that suffering could be mere frustration, worry, resentment, sorrow or grief.

Earlier than the belief that “there is exactly one way that life should be” is another presumption in language. That presumption is “there is exactly one way that life is,” which is also nonsense.

So, if there is a belief in the nonsense that there is exactly one way that life is, then that leads to the belief in the nonsense that there is exactly one way that life should be (which is also the way that it allegedly is), which leads to the various forms of suffering such as shame and blame and rage. If there is a belief that there is exactly one way that a particular thing is (which is also the way that it should be), then that belief in nonsense inevitably leads to various forms of suffering.

Beliefs are made of words. Beliefs are all nonsense. They are the origin of suffering.

Beliefs in what should be produce suffering. Beliefs in what is also produce suffering. Belief is also called idealism and idolatry and foolishness.

So, before we proceed to the third noble truth of the discontinuing of the causing of suffering, let’s review. The first noble truth is that suffering is relating to some part of life as if it should not be how it is. The second noble truth is that suffering originates in the belief that there is exactly one way that a particular part of life is and that is the only way that it should be.

Now, by summarizing those two truths close together, the nonsense of suffering may be extremely clear. If there is exactly one way that life is, but then life is not that way, then how can there be exactly one way that life is? Obviously, a linguistic construction of how life is exactly one way is part of life. So, if there is a logical conflict between a linguistic construction (or belief) about how life should be and the actual experience of how life is, then suffering is neglecting the actuality of life for the nonsense belief in words. 

In the Judeo-Christian terminology, neglecting the actuality of life by worshiping a nonsense belief in words is what is referenced by “placing another God before God.” In Muslim terminology, recognizing the actuality of life as distinct from worshiping a nonsense belief made of words is what is referenced by “there is no God but God.” Of course, because language involves codes, various interpretations of the encoded messages in words are possible. However, worshiping language instead of God is the root idolatry. 

Even the phrase “literal interpretation” is ironic because if something is recognized as an interpretation, then interpretation implies the use of symbolic codes of language. How can there be a “literal symbolism?” Such idealisms and idolatries are nonsense from the start.

However, nonsense is part of life. Should there be no nonsense? Should there be no beliefs made of words and no words? Should there be exactly one interpretation of anything?

Those ideas fall back in to the same trap of nonsense. It is not that there should be no suffering, nor that there should be any suffering. There either is suffering or there is not suffering. That is all.

So, the third noble truth of the discontinuing of the cause of suffering is simple. To discontinue causing yourself suffering, simply recognize how you have been causing yourself suffering through the inattentive use of language. That recognizing is sufficient to discontinue the causing of suffering. 

In other words, suffering does not need to fixed. Suffering can be distinguished. The distinguishing of suffering results in a relaxing away from the beliefs that cause suffering. Once the beliefs are distinguished as nonsense, no additional beliefs are required to replace the presence of the prior beliefs. More beliefs will only bring more suffering.

To review again, the first noble truth is that suffering is relating to some part of life as if it should not be how it is. The second noble truth is that suffering originates in the belief that there is exactly one way that a particular part of life is and that is the only way that it should be. So, the linguistic belief that there is only one way that some part of life should be results naturally in relating to one or more parts of life as if they should not be how they are, which is suffering.

Further, the third noble truth is to discontinue causing yourself suffering by simply recognizing how you have been causing yourself suffering through the inattentive use of language. Recognize the power of language and you will never worship any beliefs of language. You will be free of the suffering caused by the inattentive use of language.

So, there is no single way that life should be. There is no single way that anyone should be. There is no single way that I am. There is no single way of labeling life with language that is the only possible interpretations. All of those constructions in language are nonsense. Many interpretations in language are possible.

As for the fourth noble truth, the way to live life after suffering is basically to be attentive to language. Do what you must do. Do what you can do. Do what you should do. Do what you will do.

Now, there may be other interpretations of these four noble truths. Since these four noble truths are just symbols made of language, why shouldn’t there be multiple interpretations?

Is there exactly one way that the four noble truths should be? Is there exactly one way that the four noble truths are? 

Are there exactly four noble truths? Are these noble truths even true? What if there is no such thing as a noble truth except as a symbol in language?

If someone says “attention to language makes no difference,” so what? If someone challenges you with a nonsense belief made of language, so what? If someone says that their nonsense belief made of language is not a nonsense belief made of language, so what? If someone says that idolatry is not idolatry, so what? If someone says that their language is not idolatry but some other language is idolatry, so what? If someone says that there is no such thing as freedom, so what? If someone says that there is no such thing as language, so what?

Remember, when nonsense is recognized as nonsense, nonsense cannot cause suffering. Only believing in nonsense can cause suffering. So, one can play along with someone else’s beliefs or not. If someone is speaking the language of suffering, you can speak in that language as well, yet is there another form of language beyond suffering? Also, is there another form of interacting beyond the use of language?

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7 Responses to “the four noble truths”

  1. Language can form anything (the new “realm of possibility” or “kingdom of heaven”) « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality Says:

    […] the four noble truths (jrfibonacci.wordpress.com) […]

  2. lantanagurl Says:

    Reblogged this on Exploration of the Sacred & Conscious; including Sexuality.

  3. jacksjottings Says:

    My understanding of the second of the 4 noble truths is not as complicated as yours. The main cause of unhappiness is the fact that all things are subject to change and in ignorance people go to extreem lengths to chase after and cling to these impermanent things. Duhkha is the ailment.Then there is the cause and a cure, and the cure is the 8 fold path. It takes practice rather than words to acheive the understanding.

    • jrfibonacci Says:

      Thank you for your reply, Jack. Have you ceased from the practice of suffering? Have you ceased from clinging to what is passing? Have you ceased from struggling for an outcome? Have you ceased from causing yourself unhappiness?

      If not, then you may not yet be clear on the mechanism by which one would practice suffering. You can use a word like ignorance, but if you do not know what it means or how it relates to the particular issue, using a particular word is irrelevant.

      When people learn language, there are challenges that arise. There is the possibility of confusion because of language. When someone is ignorant or unaware of the distinction between labeling a portion of reality and the reality of reality, suffering can result. Reality changes forms. However, if I am so attentive to a label that I neglect to notice the reality of something, that is ignorance. The particular mechanism of that ignorance is the confusing of the label for the reality. I may keep labeling something presumptively and the reality may no longer correspond to my labeling in language.

      So, simply understanding this conceptually (or being able to repeat the words in a chant) is fine, but that is not the actual cessation of suffering to comprehend how suffering arises. When there is a mismatch between my own labeling of reality and the reality of reality, suffering is the attempt to fit reality to my labeling of reality, rather than revise my labeling to conform to reality.

      I may want to make reality conform to some linguistic label that I name as my ideal. I may want to prevent reality from being in a particular way that violates some linguistic model that I worship as my idolatry.

      We can notice the experience of distress, the arising of distress, the subsiding of distress, and also “the middle way” that involves living without the production of distress. The last item (the fourth noble truth) includes, traditionally, eight aspects, one of which is specifically about language. However let us next consider the “fold” of the 8 that you might recognize as “right view” or “right perspective” or “right understanding….”

      If there is not proper comprehension as in clarity, then of course there will be potential for confusion. When there is clarity about reality, it is clear that reality includes language. So when there is total clarity about reality, that includes total clarity about language.

      Many translators (or even many Eastern practitioners of Buddhism) may not have total clarity about reality. So, if one who is confused about the nature of reality comments about the various folds of the eightfold path, they are subject to great confusion and suffering. If the blind lead the blind, then more confusion and suffering may result, even as the people are chanting the words dukkha and suffering and ignorance and clarity and so on.

      Dukkha is not the ailment. Dukkha is the symptom.

      Follow the symptom back to its source and then unwaivering clarity may be recognized without any requirement for any particular words. Your understanding may not be as clear as mine, and thus you may mistake the profoundly simple as being complex (complicated).

      Life is not complicated unless it is mistaken for something else. When life is mistaken for what it is not, that produces many complications, many symptoms. What do the complications point to? A simple clarity. Follow the symptoms all the way back to their root and you will have no concern about understanding.

      Do you have any concern for understanding how to make the sound of the word: “wow?” You just make it effortlessly. When life is effortless for you, it does not matter to you whether you understand it or not. There is no longer any concern about understanding. That is called total understanding.

      • jacksjottings Says:

        I am not intrested in a lengthy discussion on semantics and pragmatics. To your three questions the answer is yes, I have no suffering even though i do encounter pain. I have ceased to cling and I am contented and have learned to avoid most self inflicted problems. I attribute this to meditation and trying to following ethical principals. .

    • jrfibonacci Says:

      You may be interested in being witnessed. You may be interested in communicating and sharing. You continued to reply and interact, so there must be some interest and we may find it right away and then sit in the middle of the wheel of dharma, at the end of the eightfold path, at the destination of stillness within and the witnessing of activity spontaneously. There is a stage that is deeper down to the root of ethical principles, even beyond a concern for them. If you are exploring the eightfold path, that may be perfect for you to keep doing, and to keep dropping in to the root, to the core, to the origin that created the words of the eightfold path. When you look in the mirror, you can see only one face, right? When you look at this screen right now, do you know where your original face is? Do you know where the Buddha is? Do you know the source of the words that authored the eightfold path and the source of these words on your screen right here and the source that you eternally are, for there is no other? If clarity is total, then confusion is just a playful joke. Presence cannot be confused. Words arise and they are either clear or otherwise, but neither of those arisings (clear words or other words) would matter much at all for the presence that is clear within itself. Words cannot be as clear as the presence that you are. That is total clarity. Words are just words.

  4. spiritual authority and the forgotten essentials of buddhism « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci Says:

    […] Now, we turn to another great religious tradition, Buddhism, with the same interest regarding spiritual authority and clear demonstrations of spiritual authority, as evident in coherent presentations of doctrines like the element of “complete understanding” in the Noble Eightfold Path (within the last of the four Noble Truths). Last night, a fellow named Jack wrote me the below response to my blog and videos of https://jrfibonacci.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/the-four-noble-truths/ […]

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