The Fourth Noble Truth – The path to the cessation of suffering.
Whether I’m here or not, the absence of true phenomena is always here.
Without understanding suffering, it causes and the existence of a state which is free from this suffering, there will be no use in taking the path of cessation. The root of the origin of suffering is ignorance – Not knowing that things are not truly existent, and have always been empty of existence. This ignorance is impermanent and adventitious when we realise that there is no more suffering and no more reincarnation in samsara. In order to achieve this ultimate liberation, we need to realise the wisdom of selflessness of self and phenomena. This is not an easy path, but slowly through meditation practices on the nature of our mind, our delusions decrease.
In Maitraya’s Abisamayalnkara, Bodhicitta, the mind for enlightenment, is explained:
With the accumulation of merit as the cause and the accumulation of wisdom as the condition, one achieves the form body of a Buddha (Rupakaya) for the benefit of others. By the accumulation of wisdom as the cause and of merit as the condition, one achieves the Dharmakaya body for one’s own benefit.
THE TRUE PATH IS THE PRACTICE AND HAS FOUR ASPECTS:
- Path: To counter the view that there is no possibility of liberation and stable happiness
- Suitability: To counter the saying that wisdom realise selflessness is not the path
- Achievement: To counter the view of those who believe that there is liberation and a path, but that achieving the peak of existence through stabilised meditation (worldly path of Brahma) is nirvana and liberation. It is actually possible to achieve real, complete liberation
- Deliverance: To counter the idea that suffering is permanent. Suffering can be exhausted and there is no more need for rebirth in samsara. This is the ultimate freedom.
Taking refuge is entering the path that leads us to the state of enlightenment. There are five paths we can rely on to eliminate our suffering and achieve liberation. If one practices the unmistaken path of Dzogchen purely, it is possible to attain enlightenment in this lifetime. Dzogchen, also known as Atiyoga, is a tradition of teachings in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism aimed at discovering and continuing in the ultimate ground of existence. This primordial ground is said to have the qualities of purity, spontaneity and compassion. But whether you can achieve the result is up to you.
THE 5 PATHS TO ENLIGHTENMENT APPLIED BY BOTH HINAYANA AND MAHAYANA SCHOOLS:
- The path of accumulation.
- The path of preparation.
- The path of seeing.
- The path of meditation.
- The path of no more learning.
- The path of accumulation..
The path of accumulation: This is where we begin the accumulation of merit and wisdom, which become the causes for the achievement of the 2 bodies of the Buddha (the form body and the wisdom body). From the moment one aims for the state beyond samsara one enters the path of accumulation. For Mahayana practitioners, the Bodhicitta motivation has to be developed to enter the path: We should generate the mind to attain enlightenment for the sake of others. Although, achieving the 2 accumulations of merit and wisdom could take a long time because it depends on the strength of our practice, our capabilities, and on the methods used to complete them.
From the Mahayana point of view, the path of accumulation has 3 levels:
- 1st level: There are the 4 close placements of mindfulness on mind, body, feeling, and phenomena.
- 2nd level: One practices the perfect abandonment by generating virtues that don’t yet exist, increasing virtues that already exist, abandoning non-virtues that already exist, and not letting non- virtues that don’t exist arise.
- 3rd level: One practices the development of the 4 qualities without which further progress on the path will not be possible:
- Aspiration to practice Dharma.
- Diligence (enthusiastic effort).
- Recollection (not forgetting the practice),
- Meditative concentration (one-pointedness of mind without distractions).
The path of preparation: We enter this path when we generate the desire to achieve liberation from samsara.
- There are 4 levels:
- Supreme qualities (or ultimate Dharma).
- Heat and peak: One practices the 5 powers: faith, effort, mindfulness, meditative concentration, and wisdom.
- Patience: One cultivates the 5 strengths: faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. When we reach the stage of patience we achieve a state of never re-entering the lower realms.
- Supreme qualities (ultimate Dharma): We enter the path of seeing.
The path of seeing: The 1st moment of the path of seeing is when one directly perceives the emptiness of self and phenomena. One is no longer an ordinary being but becomes an Arya, a Noble being. Their main practices are the 7 limbs: pure mindfulness, discrimination, enthusiastic perseverance, joy, pliancy, single-minded concentration, and equanimity. There are 10 bhumis or grounds, and when one attains the extreme joyful’ bhumi, of realising emptiness, they have entered the 1st Bodhisattva ground. Where the subtle delusions are eliminated and one proceeds on the path of meditation.
The path of meditation: This path corresponds to the 2nd out of the 10 Bodhisattva grounds. After having gained the direct realization of emptiness, the Bodhisattva meditates on it to familiarise his/her mind with it and make it stronger.
The 10 bhumis or Bodhisattva grounds:
- Very Joyous: in which one rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth.
- The Stainless: in which one is free from all defilement.
- Light-Maker: in which one radiates the light of wisdom.
- The Radiant Intellect: in which the radiant flame of wisdom burns away earthly desires.
- The Difficult to Master: in which one surmounts the illusions of darkness or ignorance as the middle way.
- The Manifest: in which supreme wisdom begins to manifest.
- The Gone Afar: in which one rises above the states of the two vehicles.
- The Immovable: in which one dwells firmly in the truth of the middle way and cannot be perturbed by anything.
- The Good Intelligence: in which one preaches the Law freely and without restriction.
- The Cloud of Doctrine: in which one benefits all sentient beings with the Law of dharma, just as a cloud sends down rain impartially on all things.
From the 1st to the 8th ground all the obstacles to delusion are removed. From this point, no one can create any more contaminated karma. On the 8th, 9th and 10th grounds, the obstacles to omniscience are removed.
The path of no more learning: According to the Mahayana school from the 4 close contemplations up to the Arya level, there are 37 paths to enlightenment, ordinary beings will only travel the first two. Once you have reached the 10th bhumi (all-encompassing ground), you have reached Buddhahood and the state of omniscience: All obscurations have been abandoned and you achieve the 2 bodies of Buddha and the completion of the 2 accumulations of merit and wisdom. The wisdom body or Dharmakaya refers to the state of emptiness, to the wisdom side of the practice. The form body (Rupakaya) is the method side of the path achieved through love and compassion.
THE FORM BODY IS DIVED INTO TWO:
The manifestation body or Nirmanakaya is an emanation of the Sambogakaya. An example of this is Buddha Sakyamuni.
The enjoyment body or the Sambogakaya, can be seen by a certain level of Bodhisattvas and not by ordinary beings.
The truth of the path is made of these 5 paths, and you move from the 1st to the 5th through the practice of the 6 perfections – Generosity, Morality, Patience, Vigor/diligence, Concentration, and Wisdom. As you perfect these perfections you move along the five paths. (I will touch on this in another article soon.)
In the 3rd turning of the wheel, the Buddha explained the path but it is condensed in the 4 Noble Truths, which are the foundations of the practice of Dharma. The Buddha has no power to take us by the hand, we can only be liberated from the suffering of cyclic existence if we engage on the path.
I show you the path, liberation depends on you.
To stop rebirth in the lower realms, it is necessary to practice virtue and abandon non-virtuous actions. Although this is a lower level of motivation, it is still good. But If you are truly fed up with samsara, have courage, and realise that the higher realms are not the ultimate goal to reach, you will make aspirations to free yourself from samsara. Beings with great courage will soon reach the path of accumulation and generate the Bodhicitta mind. They will understand that all beings have once been our parents, and to repay their kindness, they will wish to develop love and compassion for all sentient beings.
- Because all beings like us, want happiness we develop love.
- Because all beings want to be free from suffering, we develop compassion.
- Because all being experience both happiness and suffering, we develop equanimity, without making any differentiation between close people and others.
But meditating on love and compassion is not enough, we need to become a Buddha in order to come back in samsara and be able to help all sentient beings. This is the Bodhisattva path.
In brief, the Buddha-Dharma path is a path of non-violence: anything that hurts others or doesn’t help them is not following the Buddhist practice.
Everything is this, there is nothing that is not this.
Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the Fourth Noble Truths. I hope you got something out of it and you find it a useful life navigating tool. Back soon with the six perfections.