The Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path of Buddhism: An exposition

The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are fundamental to Buddhist philosophy.  The Four Noble Truths concern themselves with the issue of suffering.  It was recognized by Gautam Buddha that suffering is integral to the experience of quotidian life.  Human feelings and emotions such as anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, longing, etc are various manifestations of suffering.  The acknowledgement of this fundamental fact of existence is the first of the four noble truths. The second noble truth identifies the sources and processes through with suffering arise.  Mostly, it is human desires and attachments which are at founts for suffering.  The third noble truth recognizes that suffering is not inevitable and that it could be successfully overcome.  The fourth noble truth goes is an elaboration on the methods, techniques, attitudes and behaviors through which suffering could be made to cease. Indeed, the Eightfold Path can be seen as an extension of the fourth noble truth, in that, it sets out various codes of conduct for the ultimate goal of ceasing to suffer any longer.  Stated simplistically, the eight precepts of the path are Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Buddha preached that this mystical conditioning can be attained by any human willing to abide by the path.  This state of total immunity from suffering is called the ‘nibbana’.

Far from being esoteric mystical theories, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are of high practical relevance.  Since suffering is a constant theme in all human endeavors, the philosophical tools for dealing with it are valuable. For example, an individual can get ill, he/she may lose employment and fall into poverty, people we love can die and push us into utter grief.  In these situations, rather than passively accepting suffering as fate, we can mitigate its impact through an enlightened view of life.  Indeed, one of the eight precepts, Right View, is about attaining this enlightened perspective on events and conditions.  By cultivating Right View and all the subsequent seven principles, a Buddhist seeker can attain a maturity of looking at the world that would enable him/her to negotiate and overcome suffering.  Compassion toward all sentient beings and spiritual wisdom go hand in hand in ceasing to suffer.