I think it important that we examine the Four Noble Truths along the lines of the idea of the Wheel that so many of us have brought up already. The image of the wheel is important when we talk about the Way, because you can see its mechanics and interpret them in the terms of the Dharma. I think that the Four Noble Truths were first taught by the Buddha, because they are like the hub of the wheel. At the Hub, all things are connected, and here is where the greatest weight can be found. Like wise, the Four Noble Truths touch every part of our practice, and our entire practice pivots on the strength of these Truths. All the aspects of our practice are like the spokes coming out of the hub. Just as necessary to the operation of the wheel, after all what would you connect the rim to if there were no spokes!?! By themselves, though, they are only appendages; without the central hub of the Four Noble Truths, we have nothing to connect our practice to. Why sit shikantaza without the Truth that suffering can be ended by following the 8 fold noble path? Why be mindful and compassionate without the First Noble Truth and the light it causes within us, that there is Great Suffering in this world? With the 4 Noble Truths, the “Why” becomes clear. We do these things because there is Great Suffering. We do these things because we know that Suffering is because of delusions and attachments. We know the Truth that there is a way to end this Suffering for all beings, and the way in which we work is the 8 fold Noble Path. As the Wheel turns, the hub is still the focus of the wheel but different spokes take up the burden at different times, and perhaps the rim is our realization of how the “rubber meets the road” and the karma that our actions create in this world.
That’s my take on why he taught this first, anyway. Could be wrong.
Maybe it was like cleaning a messy room, you just pick a place, any place will do, and work out from there. :mrgreen: