THINGS to DEVELOP and THINGS to AVOID
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
The connected discourses on the Truths (saccasamyutta) in the Samyutta Nikaya relates various topics to the Four Noble Truths to understand things as they truly are:
1. Develop concentration
Right Concentration, as seen as the eighth step of the Noble Eight-fold path, is essential to the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. The characteristics of phenomena and existence show the relative nature in three ways: impermanence (anicca), clinging to them leads to suffering (dukkha), and to identify with them as individuality should be replaced with viewing them as not self (anatta). These three characteristics must be viewed with insight, regarding the five aggregates of becoming and six sense bases.
2. Exert in seclusion
Meditation requires seclusion, this can be physical seclusion in the form of doing a meditation retreat, or sensual seclusion during practice, or even seclusion by paying attention only to a particular thing you are doing at a given moment.
3. Not have unwholesome thoughts of sensual pleasures, ill will, and harming.
“Here, monks, when a monk is giving attention to some sign, and owing to that sign there arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome.” — MN I.119
The remedies given for the types of unwholesome thoughts are given in the Majjhima Nikaya commentary:
When thoughts of sensual desire arise directed towards living beings, the “other sign” is the meditation on repulsiveness [of objects]. When the thoughts are directed to inanimate [non-living] things, the “other sign” is attention to impermanence. When thoughts of hate arise directed towards living beings, the “other sign” is the meditation on lovingkindness.
The remedy for thoughts connected with delusion is practicing under a qualified teacher, studying the Dhamma, inquiring into its meaning, listening to the Dhamma, and inquiring into causes [of suffering].
4. Not have unwholesome [not beneficial and useless] reflections.
These are reflections that serve no purpose and don’t lead to any insight or wisdom that help in one’s practice:
5. Not engaging in Disputatious [not beneficial] Talk
These are quarrels and debates that lead to no useful insight, nor are they in any way pragmatic in discussion with other practitioners of the teachings:
6. Not engaging in Pointless Talk.
This list could go on forever about topics that are not essential to one’s practice. To practice Buddhism is to focus on the important stuff, and not on the pointless topics and ramblings:
These talks are not beneficial, irrelevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and does not lead to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.
7. Ignorance [not knowing the Four Noble Truths]
“Venerable sir, it is said, ‘ignorance, ignorance.’What is ignorance, venerable sir, and in what way is one immersed in ignorance?”
“Monk, not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way leading to the cessation of suffering:
This is called ignorance, monk, and it is in this way that one is immersed in ignorance.” — SN V.429
In the next and final part in the Four Noble Truths series, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, which are tightly associated with the Four Noble Truths.
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