Buddha's Teachings: The Four Noble Truths - There is an End to Suffering
by Wessel Paternotte
“If you let go a little, you’ll have a little happiness.
If you let go a lot, you’ll have a lot of happiness.
If you let go completely . . . you’ll be completely happy.”
- Achaan Chah
In the first month of the year, we looked at The First Noble Truth: There is suffering. I am sure it sounded great when Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha explained this to his students under the fig tree, but we all know that there is suffering. Life can suck really hard, and basically, we all suffer - to some degree - every day, right? So please, dear Buddha, tell us something we don’t know ;-)
The second month gave a bit more insight with The Second Noble Truth: There is a cause of suffering. The cause is called attachment: we are caught in a seemingly eternal struggle of attachment and aversion to the things we love and hate. The good news is that - now that we know the actual cause of suffering - we have the opportunity to move beyond it. And this is where it gets really interesting.
This month we will look at The Third Noble Truth: There is an end to suffering. It sounds super serious, but it’s a really positive, uplifting message. Here the Buddha reassures us that true, lasting happiness and contentment are possible. I think this is why most Buddhist monks seem so content: they know that suffering need not be, and happiness can be regained. You ask how? Well, all we have to do is face our cravings and aversions. This is not as easy as it may sound, it takes focus and practice. But when we learn to observe our emotions with equanimity, even unwanted emotions like fear, guilt, shame and anger, then we are no longer enslaved by our emotions. Then, and then only, we begin to live fully and enjoy the Delight of Being.
So, what do we need to do? If we want to live a happy life, we need to see with the eyes of awareness what in Buddhism is called Raga (greed, sensual attachment) and Dvesha (aversion). So we do not really 'do' anything: seeing clearly with the eyes of awareness is actually not 'Doing' but 'Being'. Being Aware produces a fire that burns Raga and Dvesha. We can still have preferences and have a desire for a good outcome. For example, when it comes to Raga, I believe it’s ok to enjoy – for instance - receiving a pay raise at the end of the year. What we need to be aware of, is the attachment to it. The same goes for Dvesha: when a situation occurs that we don’t like, we can either do something about it, or not. What causes suffering is our aversion to it. My personal experience is actually that the thought “it should not be like this” causes more pain than the actual situation. Each situation is a perfect invitation to BE aware.
One of the favourite quotes of my dear friend Juno Burger is: Face it and embrace it. I think this is more or less the key to The Third Noble Truth. When you observe your experience, you will see that there is always a feeling automatically associated with that experience – a tone of pleasantness, unpleasantness or neutrality. That feeling tone usually triggers craving or aversion. But if you can simply be mindful of the feeling, without reacting to it, just letting it be – then you are on the way to breaking the chain of suffering. The legendary band The Beatles actually composed a truly amazing song about this, and in times of trouble I often listen to it as a gentle reminder: Let it Be.
As we are so programmed to automatically react with craving or aversion, it will take some time to make a change. In fact, we can’t do much about the feeling tone, and we don’t need to. We’re not trying to change the feeling tone itself. But we are trying to not react to it via clinging or aversion. When we face whatever occurs with full awareness, equanimity reveals itself. This is what we call Grace. When we start practising this and become ever more mindful of what goes on inside of us, we start seeing how we move away from equanimity, time and time again. However, after a while we become less prone to those big swings and stay equanimous more often. When we are no longer obsessed with satisfying our own needs, we find that we have so much time to help others fulfil their needs. We are free from psychological suffering. This state is called Nirvana.
While achieving the state of Nirvana may seem far away, taking baby steps with this practice really makes a big difference in how you feel. When you start looking at your automatic responses, and observe them with an inner smile, the stress quickly melts away. It was Eckhart Tolle who said: “Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is?
What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.” I love that, and I can tell you this really works. A fun way to see how saying “yes” to the moment can transform your life, is watching the movie “Yes man” with Jim Carrey. Lots of fun and lots of wisdom there. Watch it, and, more importantly, practise it.
Founder Delight Yoga
Wessel, born and raised in Amsterdam, found peace in the hustle and bustle of the big city. From childhood on, he was interested in spirituality and martial arts. After years of practice and study, be became Reiki Master in 2006. That same year he opened Delight Studio, a space for healing, meditation and yoga.