Implementing the Four Noble Truths in Everyday Life

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One of the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism set forth by Buddha himself are the Four Noble Truths. These contain the very essence of the Buddha's pragmatic teachings. The Buddha is known to attain enlightenment only after the realization of these four truths during his meditation under the bodhi tree. The Four Noble Truths are namely, (1) Dukkha, (2) Samudaya, (3) Nirodha and (4) Magga. These act as ethical precepts for a fulfilling life. This essay will discuss how these Four Noble Truths are being applied in today’s world in more ways than one but it is still insufficient. In the 21st century; where kids get frustrated with their parents over limited screen time, teenagers fall prey to drugs, adults face a variety of mental health issues and are not content with their life, and where global economies intoxicated by greed and intolerance are contributing to each other’s suffering even more may it be through environmental pollution or through war; Buddhism provides a framework for a way of living through mindfulness, discipline, self control, and contentment which can help us better equip us to deals with the modern demons. These four truths in more ways than one are quite analogous to how a psychological framework works.

The Four Noble Truths


The first Noble Truth is Dukkha. According to a famous medical analogy, it is the diagnosis of suffering. This is an important first step to self-improvement because denying the existence of a suffering only delays its resolution. This is similar to a psychological term called “Radical Acceptance” which means self-acknowledging and self-accepting a person's inner suffering as valid. One of the most important issues humans face in the modern world are mental health issues that arise from one root problem - Lack of acknowledgment that there is suffering in this world and that everyone is suffering in their own ways and it has to be understood because it is the only thing we have in common with everyone, the only bond we share with every single living being on the planet. Suffering doesn’t discriminate between people. The best way to incorporate this truth in the practical world is to openly talk about our suffering and encourage people to address it because doing so brings out our compassionate tendencies which we clearly need in today’s overly-sensitive and opinionated world. These days there are a lot of movies that provide us with a representation of people identifying as LGBTQ, people practicing different religions, people from different social classes to give us an insight into the lives of these people so we can relate with them on a fundamental level through their suffering in most cases. And this representation helps people relate with these characters on that level where they empower themselves to acknowledge their own truth and suffering. Today as a society we need to empower each other to address this truth often and be more empathetic. With this any human becomes practically incapable to carry out any harmful act against another human, especially if they could relate to another person’s suffering.

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The second Noble truth is Samudaya. It is the etiology of suffering that helps us identify its cause. It emphasizes on finding the root cause of the suffering rather than dealing with consequences and its effects. One of the main causes is desire which makes humans delusional and from it arises all the other detrimental emotions, such as hatred, anxiety, narcissism, addiction, guilt, jealousy, and rage. These are the sole causes of suffering for individuals and humanity as a whole. After learning to acknowledge our suffering, we must get to the source of that suffering and it takes a lot of courage to come to the realization because we need to fight our inhibitions to get there. This is again a very common practice in psychology. In today’s world, people like to act before they think because they fixate a lot on the immediate effects of suffering which are easily observable over the root issue. This is yet another issue that we see everyday in the news - countries retaliating using violence instead of finding the root issue of what led to that violence and why. Another example is when one feels empty and it leads them down the chain reaction of isolating themselves from others, not satisfying their appetite, and making detrimental choices. Instead of focusing on the suffering and the emptiness, it is imperative that one pinpoints the source of this instead of drowning in sorrow. Getting to this point takes a lot of will power and there’s where self-discipline matters which is a very important facet of buddhism. We can implement this truth in our life by practicing patience and self-discipline through meditation and knowing that in order to move forward we need to be comfortable looking back into our past and connect the dots to identify our missteps and accept them in a positive light instead of blaming it on others or circumstances.


The third Noble Truth is Nirodha - acknowledging that there is a way to end the suffering. It gives hope that there is an end to it. Pain might be inevitable but suffering is not. In the current world, an ongoing issue among youth and adults are mental health issues. As of 2021, over 700,000 people die from suicide every year. It is in the top four causes of death in teenagers and young adults. Young people today are overworked and burnt out so they turn towards drugs, alcohol, and self harm as escapist strategies to numb the world’s burden on their shoulders. This third truth is very difficult to accept because we need to let go of our reactions, our fear and desire.

We also need to know that we can stop the suffering and learn to control how we react to discomfort and suffering[3]. One way to implement this truth is to make sure we are hopeful and we give hope to other people because we might not know who might be suffering. To stay hopeful and letting go takes diligent practice. After which one can attain Nirvana. Mahayana Buddhists do this by following the path of the Bodhisattva [4]. But in the modern world, we need to teach our kids to be hopeful in the darkest times yet practical which will open up their minds and hearts to acceptance and they can lead a harmonious life. Another way is to encourage communication regarding letting go of things and why and how they can or can’t affect oneself.


The fourth Noble Truth is Magga - the treatment and management to end the suffering. This is called the middle way to find inner peace in our suffering and be free from all materialistic things and emotions. This path is where one takes action based on self exploration and discovery from the first 3 truths. It consists of the Noble Eightfold Paths: Right Understanding, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Effort, Right Livelihood, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. Realizing this truth to achieving complete mindfulness requires determination. To get there you need to have a (1) good understanding of the 3 truths, (2) have the right intention at all times by not harboring feelings of hatred and deception, (3) avoiding vulgar words and lying when verbalizing with insight, (4) refraining from harmful misdeeds like killing, theft, etc., (5) making an effort for oneself to arouse one's mind, (6) having an honest livelihood without harming others, (7) being self aware of your mind, body and soul, and (8) attentiveness. In majority of Asian cultures, these eight paths are the humanistic principles that parents teach their young children. Western culture is somewhat alien to this parental approach and needs to incorporate more of these values into their children’s upbringing. For everyone else, we need to use this as a framework to lead a simple life and improve our day to day mannerisms and way of living. Today people use habit tracker apps and journals widely for reflection and introspection of one's thoughts. This is a great way to keep track of how well one was able to follow this framework and improve upon it.


To conclude, the Four Noble Truths provides us a framework that helps us develop the courage and will-power to face our pain and suffering by providing us a new perspective to look at things in a humanistic manner. It helps us realize self-independence and encourages self-reflection and the power to let go of things. These four truths are in fact a set of psychological principles that are already being implemented in the modern world to help us deal with our suffering so we can realize freedom and peace in life.

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