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Thread: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

  1. #1

    That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    From the Shambhala Sun Space article by Monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=22527

    1) “Life is suffering.”

    This is one of the Big Lies of Buddhism—a claim assumed to be true simply because it is repeated so often—both in popular books and academic books. The phrase “Life is suffering” is supposed to be a summary of the Buddha’s first noble truth, but the first noble truth simply lists the things in life that constitute suffering: “Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.” (Quotation from Samyutta Nikaya, The Grouped Discourses of the Buddha, 56.11)
    Life, you’ll notice, isn’t on the list.

    The other noble truths go on to show that there’s more to life than just suffering: There’s the origination of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of suffering as well.
    I know he is of the Theravada tradition and he is quoting solely from that canon. So. Where do we get that first noble truth is stated as such? "Life is Suffering". :?:

  2. #2

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Life is not suffering, life is not joy, life is not anything. Life doesn't fit into any ideologies, philosophies, or anything you wish to plug it into. If you think life is suffering you will find a hundred and ones different confirmations to this statement, because when you look out at life you will only see that which you call suffering.

    Our practice is to experience life as is. Outside of any pre-made ideologies

    Just some thoughts

  3. #3

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    I know he is of the Theravada tradition and he is quoting solely from that canon. So. Where do we get that first noble truth is stated as such? "Life is Suffering". :?:
    I think that by being born into this body, we are automatically subject to suffering. Our aversion to suffering, i.e. clinging to non-suffering is what our whole lives are about. Whether we label things as suffering or not, the truth remains the same – we want to continue living, it's our nature and in that "want" there's automatic suffering.

    Buddha presented his way of living this life with the least amount of suffering and that's why there're four noble truths, not one.

    Zen is still based on teachings of Buddha, so everything we talk about in Zen you can find in the canon. At least that's what my experience has been so far.

    As for the actual places in the canon where Buddha teaches about the four noble truths:
    The Four Noble Truths
    A Study Guide
    by
    Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/truths.html

  4. #4

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Quote Originally Posted by andyZ
    I think that by being born into this body, we are automatically subject to suffering. Our aversion to suffering, i.e. clinging to non-suffering is what our whole lives are about. Whether we label things as suffering or not, the truth remains the same – we want to continue living, it's our nature and in that "want" there's automatic suffering.
    I would maybe say "... born in this body and mind, ...", but I feel just like you here
    _()_
    Peter

  5. #5

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    From the Shambhala Sun Space article by Monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu

    I know he is of the Theravada tradition and he is quoting solely from that canon. So. Where do we get that first noble truth is stated as such? "Life is Suffering". :?:
    It's stated that way because of the way that Pali and Sanskrit have been translated. They're complex languages where one word holds multiple meanings...and I think back in the old days when the Western academics were doing the translation, they had the idea that Buddhism was essentially a pessimistic and nihilistic religion. Western missionaries also believed this, and used the "suffering" translation to contrast against their own beliefs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha

    Su and dus are prefixes indicating good or bad. The word kha, in later Sanskrit meaning "sky," "ether," or "space," was originally the word for "hole," particularly an axle hole of one of the Aryan's vehicles. Thus sukha … meant, originally, "having a good axle hole," while duhkha meant "having a poor axle hole," leading to discomfort.
    It made me chuckle to find that dukkha can mean your axle-hole's out of alignment. :lol: Ain't that the truth!

  6. #6

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Seems a bit fishy. I nearly always see the First Noble Truth translated as "There is suffering," not "Life is suffering." Hard to argue that life is dukkha within any tradition, but hard not to argue that there is dukkha!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    Life is not suffering, life is not joy, life is not anything. Life doesn't fit into any ideologies, philosophies, or anything you wish to plug it into. If you think life is suffering you will find a hundred and ones different confirmations to this statement, because when you look out at life you will only see that which you call suffering.

    Our practice is to experience life as is. Outside of any pre-made ideologies

    Just some thoughts
    I agree with you Seiryu! Life happens, not suffering, not joy......but also suffering and joy too! Life is a blank canvas to which our mind and perceptions paint an image of what we choose to see. As you say, choose suffering, and you can find infinite ways to see life that way and only "prove" it to be so. Likewise if you are a glass half full, optimistic type, life will have a more positive outlook, seeing it's beauty. So which is right. Both and neither!
    I know this from first hand experience. I enjoy life and always look optimistically at it. One day all that changed when I had a bad accident with a severe resulting injury(broken neck). Instantaneously the world "changed" from being a beautiful happy place to a dark and scary one. When you are healthy things are great, when sick or injured not so! With mind watching mind(though I had no idea of this concept at the time) I saw my fear and depression and asked how did things change? It was then that I realized what was happening. NOTHING about life changed, only my perception of it did! I was now veiwing the world from the eyes of the ill and injured. Quite the change from the eyes of the strong and well! Same world just two, of many, different views of it.
    I learned much at the time from this realization which helped me through the next 6 months of recovery!

    Gassho,
    John

  8. #8

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Thanks for all the posts. I was asking more along the lines of a sutra textual reference for "Life is suffering" in the Theravada tradition or Mahayana.

  9. #9

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    From the Shambhala Sun Space article by Monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=22527

    1) “Life is suffering.”

    This is one of the Big Lies of Buddhism—a claim assumed to be true simply because it is repeated so often—both in popular books and academic books. The phrase “Life is suffering” is supposed to be a summary of the Buddha’s first noble truth, but the first noble truth simply lists the things in life that constitute suffering: “Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.” (Quotation from Samyutta Nikaya, The Grouped Discourses of the Buddha, 56.11)
    Life, you’ll notice, isn’t on the list.

    The other noble truths go on to show that there’s more to life than just suffering: There’s the origination of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of suffering as well.
    I know he is of the Theravada tradition and he is quoting solely from that canon. So. Where do we get that first noble truth is stated as such? "Life is Suffering". :?:

    I like how he pointed out some aspects of life that are stressful and hence create suffering. The 'Life is suffering' always seemed too generalized and all encompassing when we know that life can also be pretty good without suffering. Practice allows one to get enough time and space to get out of stress and take the correct action to change the conditions or causes of stress. Shit happens, deal with it and practice all the time.

  10. #10

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Hi,

    I believe that there is also the flavor, in some schools of Buddhism and Suttas, that the entire cycle of rebirth, of continuing birth-life-death-birth, is to be escaped as Dukkha ('Suffering', although I prefer 'Dissatisfaction'), that all composite things ... being impermanent and thus inherently unsatisfactory ... naturally entail Dukkha, and that the only way to be free of that is to be free of the whole cycle of life, reborn no more.

    On the other hand, some schools of Buddhism ... among them most Zen schools ... found that one could have one's cake and be it too ... that one could be free of 'life and death' and obstructions even amid and living 'life and death' and obstructions (seeing through and not trapped by delusion and obstructions even in a world of delusion and obstructions). This is especially so on the Bodhisattva Path, as we are in the world yet not ... saving all sentient beings, even as we pierce that there are no sentient beings in need of saving from the first! The best of both worlds!

    I sometimes recommend (especially to newcomers) this book section on the various ways that the goals of practice have been interpreted during the history of Buddhism, and among different flavors and schools ...

    SPECIAL READING - "EIGHT TYPES OF ENLIGHTENMENT"
    viewtopic.php?f=23&t=1757

    Also, we have an interpretation of the "Dukkha, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path" in our Buddha-Basics series ...

    viewtopic.php?f=21&t=2942&p=41824#p41824

    viewtopic.php?f=21&t=2941

    viewforum.php?f=21

    Gassho, Jundo

  11. #11
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ...Dukkha ('Suffering', although I prefer 'Dissatisfaction')...
    What about "conflict"? Conflict that can arise with oneself, others, certain situations, or the world.

  12. #12

    Re: That First Noble Truth....Revisited

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ...Dukkha ('Suffering', although I prefer 'Dissatisfaction')...
    What about "conflict"? Conflict that can arise with oneself, others, certain situations, or the world.
    Hi Amelia,

    Yes, "conflict" "friction" "dis-ease" 'dissatisfaction" of the 'self' with the self's selfish view of other sentient beings and a world it views as 'not-myself'** ... Dukkha.

    When the self gets over itself ... no self, no problem, no Dukkha!!

    Gassho, J

    ** (also including, though, the 'self's' dissatisfaction with a mental object it creates and judges which it calls 'me, myself', e.g., 'I hate myself.' In the Practice, we also drop through and through the 'self's' judgment and resistance to the 'self'. That does not mean, though, that we give up on self-improvement! One can fix things with the attitude that there is nothing to fix ...
    viewtopic.php?p=17054#p17054 )

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