The Application of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths in daily life.
The Buddha teaches us that if we perform one task at a time with complete awareness, it could lead us from confusion to enlightenment, writes RAJAN PARULEKAR
1. Truth of suffering
2. Truth of the origin of suffering
3. Truth of the goal
4. Truth of the path to the goal
The first sermon the Buddha delivered after his enlightenment was on the Four Noble Truths. Quite often it is felt that the Buddha was pessimistic, and that he was against the good things in life when he uttered the first noble truth — life is dukkha — suffering. It is not so. Suffering can be interpreted in terms of day-to-day anxieties and irritations. When we are all by ourselves, the thought that something is missing, and the feeling that we are not our ideal self, and all the current problems start troubling us. Actually, we don’t think. These thoughts surface by default, without our choice. These random thoughts include the pain of earning a living, keeping near and dear ones happy, job uncertainties and many more such concerns.
For those going through an existential crisis, questions like ‘What is the purpose of life?’‘Who am I?’also add to the irritation. This constant chattering of the mind about the past and the future is the first noble truth, the truth of suffering. We try to get rid of this suffering by working hard in our existing jobs or business, reading self-help books, attending spiritual retreats or personality development programmes. We try different options to calm the chattering mind, but beyond a superficial feeling of well-being, the pain resurfaces.
Do self-help books really help? In the US, the self-help industry is thriving. In spite of being pioneers in self-help and having the latest objects of desire, the country has alarming crime and divorce rates, with a pervasive feeling of loneliness. Incidentally, research shows that people who are dependent on self-help books invariably tend to buy another book within the next 18 months. Paradoxically, while book sales go up, consumers of these books keep looking out for new techniques all the time.
Our constant endeavour to drive away pain and suffering either by acquiring new objects or by trying to follow self-taught self-improvement techniques all contribute to cause suffering;the second noble truth — the truth of the origin of suffering. After running on this hedonistic or spiritual treadmill for long, somehow the mind gets exhausted. You say to yourself, enough is enough and stop trying. You accept the way you are;you accept your chattering mind. Lo and behold, magic happens. There is a gap between consecutive thoughts. Your thought process slows down. Now you start seeing gaps, the emptiness between two thoughts, and you come to be at peace with yourself.
Your mind shifts from the past and future to the present moment. This is the third noble truth — the truth of the goal. But these gaps are intermittent, ephemeral. If you start craving for the gaps, you go back to the first noble truth. The truth of suffering. The fourth noble truth is the truth of the path to the goal. Imagine you are making a cup of tea. Pour the water into the kettle, and feel the sensation. Watch the water boiling and feel the steam and the warmth. Pour the tea powder into the kettle, smell the aroma of tea leaves in the boiling water.
Allow the tea to percolate, watch your mind while pouring the tea slowly into the cup;sitting comfortably in your chair, start drinking it with mindfulness. Observe the sensations at your lips, the tongue and the way the tea travels down the food pipe. While doing this, you are in the present moment all the time and appreciating the tea with all the five senses:the aroma, the taste, the colour, the warmth of the cup as well as sensation, while tea is going down the gullet.
When you perform every action in a similar mindful way, you are actually disconnecting the chattering mind and that is the fourth noble truth:the truth of the path to the goal. Practise even ordinary activities with total awareness and complete attention. Let it be choiceless. Every activity whether small or big, if done mindfully, leads to salvation. And that is the truth of the path to the goal.
When we are multitasking with a chattering mind, hovering in the past or the future, we are perennially suffering. When we are doing one task at a time with complete awareness, we are the present moment. That is the journey from nowhere to now and here, a paradigm shift from confusion to enlightenment.