What is:The Four Noble Truths (3 of 4)

The Third Noble Truth: The cessation of suffering.

Suffering ends when craving ends.

  In our human daily life, it’s difficult for us to have a sense of renunciation for the small happiness and pleasures it brings, like Friday nights, birthdays, holidays, and parties. But this fleeting contaminated happiness arises from contaminated virtues, and it is still part of samsara and will keep us trapped in cyclic existence. So it’s helpful if we look at this human life as being part of the six realms because, at the time of death, all the experiences of suffering and happiness we have had will be like a dream, a memory.  It is only our karma that is in our mind streams/ consciousness that we will take with us to our next life. This karma could cause us great difficulties or great freedom, depending on what we have accumulated or cultivated. Therefore we should cherish this precious human birth, which is the result of accumulated karma of perfect morality, and remember that our actions or karma will follow us like a shadow in this life and future lives. Buddha taught the cessation of suffering at its ultimate level, by looking at the causes of suffering and understanding how they work. He realised that we can achieve a stable and lasting cessation of suffering, which brings ultimate happiness/ liberation, which is the state where the suffering is completely removed.

Renunciation is the definitive emergence out of samsara.

Buddhist cosmology typically identifies six realms of rebirth and existence: gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hells. (refer to the 1st noble truth)

There are specific causes that will lead you into a rebirth in one of the lower realms or one of the higher realms. The latter is the result of having abandoned the 10 negative actions:

  • Body –     Killing, Stealing, Sexual Misconduct.
  • Speech – Lying, Divisive Speech, Harsh Speech, Pointless Gossip.
  • Mind –    Greed/Covetousness, Harmful Intent, Wrong View (denial of cause and effect).

 It is very difficult to practice this perfect morality, which is the cause to be reborn as a human or a god. But by contemplating on the suffering of the lower realms and the danger of falling into them, we can develop revulsion toward samsara. We need to realise that suffering comes from our delusions and the karma produced by these delusions is what leads us to non-virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind. Which are the cause of rebirth in one of the lower realms and thus the origin of suffering. In order to achieve liberation from suffering, we have to accumulate uncontaminated karma and for that we need a mind which is dissatisfied with samsara, seeking freedom from samsara and full Buddhahood. So it is better to spend this human life completing the accumulations of merit (good deeds) and objectless wisdom, the wisdom of emptiness, which realises the selflessness of persons and phenomena.

The reason true cessation or Nirvana/ Liberation/ Buddhahood, is possible is that every sentient being has Buddha-nature. This is the essence of clear light, which is inherent to the mind. Karma and delusions come and go, they are obscurations like stains on a cloth or clouds in the sky. The stains are adventitious and as such can be abandoned.

As an example, clear water and murky water have the same nature – that of water. If the water is calm the mud will settle and can be separated from it. Our clear light mind (clear water) obscured by karma and delusions (mud) has “degenerated.” But because these obscurations are different entities (not of the same nature) than the mind, they can be separated from it. It is the negative emotions that are stirring up the mud that produces the murky water.

There are coarse, subtle, and very subtle delusions that are always subject to change, and come from grasping at self. By decreasing the grasping at the self, one decreases the delusions of ignorance, desire, and hatred, which lead us to negative actions that produce negative karma and further suffering. To be able to realise the selflessness of the root delusion (grasping at self), you need to meditate on the wisdom of realising selflessness. This is like in a dream, when by the practice of dream yoga a fearful dream loses its strength as soon as you recognise the reality of the situation (that I am dreaming). By decreasing the grasping, one decreases the delusions, and the negative actions, and then karma and suffering will decrease as well.

The highest level of realization is one of the Bodhisattva, who although abiding in samsara, have realised selflessness and thus remain free from delusions. To sum it all up, there is selflessness (or emptiness) of phenomena and selflessness of the self. Their nature is not truly established, like the nature of a dream is not truly established. Although the dream appears, its existence is not truly established, it does not truly exist.

When one directly experiences emptiness of self and phenomena, one reaches full enlightenment of Buddhahood.

For ordinary beings the cessation of suffering arises when they achieve meditative stabilisation, resulting in rebirth in the formless realm (the peak of cyclic existence). This is the top of samsara where delusions are being purified.


  •  Never returnees Have cut off the first five chains that bind the ordinary mind, and are reborn in one of the five special worlds or “Pure Abodes” where they attain Nirvana.
  • Once returnees – Have cut off the first three chains with which the ordinary mind is bound, and significantly weakened the fourth and fifth.  They will at most return to the realm of the senses. The lowest being human and the highest being the devas, wielding power over the creations of others, one more time.
  • Returnees – Have “opened the eye of the Dharma” and are guaranteed enlightenment after no more than seven successive rebirths, possibly fewer.  They can also be sure not to be reborn in any of the lower realms (animal, preta, or hell), only in the upper realm ( human god, demi-god), and have good moral behavior.

All of them will attain the stage of foe destroyers (Araths). The cause of delusion has stopped so this stops them from being reborn in samsara, but they still have obstructions to omniscience i.e. to full Buddhahood.


  • View of a personal identity.
  • Deluded doubt.
  • Attachment to rites and rituals.
  • Attachment to sensuality.
  • Ill will.

The liberation of the Hinayanists practitioners is a meditative absorption, a state of mind meditating on emptiness in which they can remain for many eons. Then through the blessings of the Buddha, they wake up and are led to the greater vehicle where they achieve Buddhahood. This full enlightened state is achieved by realising the selflessness (emptiness) of self and phenomena when obscurations of delusions and obscurations to omniscience have been removed.

The difference between the two liberations of the Hinayana and the Mahayana schools comes down to the different views of the practitioner. The Hinayana finale state focus is only on the selflessness of self without the love and compassion generated by Mahayana, bodhicitta mind of awakening. Which refers to the state of mind of a bodhisattva, who pursues Buddhahood in order to benefit others. When the Hinayana practitioners achieve the state of nirvana they will not be reborn in samsara because their five aggregates have been destroyed. They are called ‘Arhats’ and will abide in nirvana. But from the Mahayana point of view, this is not the ultimate liberation. The greater vehicle practitioners generate the Bodhicitta motivation and focus on both the selflessness of persons and phenomena. This doesn’t mean that the Hinayana don’t have love and compassion for beings, they rest in the meditative absorption while Mahayanists go back to samsara out of their desire to help others. Their returning to samsara doesn’t mean they return to a state of suffering like ours. They are free from experiencing suffering but through their love, compassion and motivation these Buddhas emanate back into samsara in any form to benefit beings. One Buddha can manifest in hundreds and thousands of emanations to benefit beings. They have achieved the state of ultimate liberation that is beyond the 2 extremes – that of samsara by their wisdom and that of nirvana by their compassion. Because they have realised the selflessness of self and phenomena, they are free from the obscurations that keep beings in samsara. And because of their great compassion and aspiration to help all sentient beings, they can’t stay in the peace of nirvana, where there is no way to help others.


  • Cessation: Having found antidotes to the wrong views, it is possible to abandon obscurations.   
  • Peace: One can abandon all contaminated delusions and achieve peace.
  • Complete satisfaction: The antidote to the belief that it is not possible to stop the all-pervasive suffering. It is possible to achieve ultimate happiness and never fall back into suffering. 
  • Renunciation: The definitive emergence out of samsara.

To come back to the analogy between our suffering and a disease. Knowing that the disease can be stopped is the truth of cessation.

  • Looking for the cure is the truth of the path.
  • Understanding the true nature of one’s own mind.
  • Understanding the true nature of phenomena.
  • The most important is to know your own mind.

“Suffering comes from karma dependent on the mind” Chandrakirti

To abandon karma one needs to realise the grasping at self by understanding the nature of the mind. The wisdom of realising selflessness is the wisdom of realising the nature of the mind. By meditating on this wisdom we achieve true cessation.

Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the Third Noble Truth. I’ll be back soon, with the fourth and final Noble Truth The path to the cessation of suffering.

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