Ego-mind and the Four Noble Truths

There is a way out of Samsara…

In Buddhism, it can be said that the ego-mind is an illusion and we should practice hard to realize that this is true. The Buddha laid down the 4 Noble Truths, which is the foundation of Buddhism and they are:

1)      Suffering is real and it is ultimately inescapable. (How very depressing!!)

2)      Suffering exists because the human mind creates attachments.

3)      Suffering can be overcome.

4)      There is a Way, the Eightfold Path, which leads us to overcome suffering forever.

So, ‘suffering’ is at the heart of Buddhism. The Buddha came to the realization that all beings will experience suffering at some point, without exception.

He then figured out that this suffering is, to put it bluntly, ‘all in our mind’… This is because when we create attachments, of any kind, we create a false reality, a model of reality. A simple example would be: A person sees a horse for the first time ever in their lives. They never realized how HUGE they are in person and becomes a bit nervous/scared. In the future, they may say, “Oh, I am afraid of horses!”… this is because of attaching to past experiences. Perhaps the next time they see a horse they will not be afraid, but if they hold onto their thought that they are ‘afraid of horses’, then it kills any openness in seeing horses again. Of course, the next time they see a horse they might get even more afraid! Lol. But the point is, it is when we attach to our thoughts that we become separate from the present, we are not living in reality, but a created model of reality. This, of course, can have benefits…. Say it was a shark and not a horse… it may well be very wise to be afraid of a shark!* Lol

So, can we take heed of what we learned and experienced in the past without being attached to those experiences? The Buddha said yes, which is the 3rd Noble Truth.

The way it is done is the 4th Noble Truth.

Now, the Buddha, through his own strong effort and practice, realized the 1st and 2nd Noble Truth. He then had a deep faith that the 3rd Noble Truth was true, without yet realizing it. He had to experience/realize the 4th Noble Truth to confirm the 3rd Noble Truth. I think this is a very important point. It shows that deep faith is critical in our practice. Without having this deep faith fully cultivated in our heart and mind, we will always fail to realize the 4th Noble Truth.

So, we must ask ourselves, what is the state of our faith in the Buddha’s teaching? If you waver and think “Oh, maybe, just maybe, the Buddha got it wrong” then failure is assured. However, having blind faith in the Buddha’s teaching also ensures our failure.

So what is left? Well, the Buddha had deep faith in the 3rd Noble Truth before he could confirm it by realizing the 4th Noble Truth. He did it without faith in his own teachings but rather with the faith that suffering can be overcome. So, our faith must reside in this, not the Buddha, not his words, but that faith is personal, it is our own and ours alone, and we must ask ourselves:

Do we believe it is possible to realize our true Enlightened nature?

*Sharks are actually fairly safe to humans, overall, but I used it as a ‘scary’ example.

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2 thoughts on “Ego-mind and the Four Noble Truths

  1. What about pain from unsatisfied survival instincts, like eat, sleep, drink fluids? It seems counter intuitive to think that changing my attitudes/removing attachments to those things would eliminate the suffering caused when i don’t engage in them.

    I can’t source the saying, but I’ve heard/read that the only things life promises are suffering and death- happiness must be sought after. A look at basic psychology seems to tell us that suffering is the default mode of our minds, to spurn us to act for survival. And pleasure/happiness is our unconscious mind rewarding us and reinforcing our behaviors that support and further survival. It seems like without suffering, on any level, even empathic suffering, there would be no movement.

    This comment is in NO WAY meant to come off as antagonistic. I am not very familiar with Buddhist principles, but what I have read so far, from various sources and schools within Buddhism, is fascinating. Some of it has even been helpful to my own practices and thought.

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  2. I love your critical thinking.
    I think part of the problem is simply semantics. In many ways the terms ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ are synonyms, which makes things confusing.
    The Buddha once survived an assassination attempt, but his foot was badly injured. He certainly experienced pain when that happened. So, did he ‘suffer’? Well, he suffered the pain, so to speak, but he did not suffer. He did not suffer because he was free of his attachment to the false ego that is created within our minds. He also understood he was ‘paying back’ a karmic debt, and paying off debts is always a good feeling, no? haha.
    I am reminded about a student once asking about the attachment a mother has for her newborn baby, for example. Surely, this attachment is not something to be severed! And no, it should not. A mother’s natural function is to be very attached to her baby. Now, one could say that she should not be attached to her attachment! Haha! Which, although I feel true, sounds stupid and circular, and, in the end, is not really very helpful!
    And always remember, whatever you read about Buddhism or hear, it might not be correct! Like the Buddha said, be a lamp unto yourself.
    Thank you for the comments. 🙂

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