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Buddhism has spread through the peoples of the earth, shifting and changing with each culture’s views. Today, there are three main divisions of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Buddhists who follow Theravada, or The Way of the Monks, are following the first and earliest Buddhist school, which was founded by the Buddha himself. While all divisions of Buddhism embrace the Four Noble Truths, it is in Theravada where they take most precedence.

The Four Noble Truths are the fundamental concept of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and consist of insights into the nature of life itself. Adherents to these truths avoid both extremes of indulgence and asceticism; for this, Buddhism is known as "the middle way." The Four Noble Truths are elementary yet profound, and form the basis for all Buddhist schools of thought. They are:

1. Life is painful. Any person can see that much of human life is made of pain and suffering. Birth itself, the way by which all humans enter the earth, is painful both for the person being birthed as well as the mother. Once we have entered into the world, we all know the bitterness of sorrow, loss, old age and grief.

2. Selfish desire is the origin of pain and suffering. Human cravings are bound up in pleasure and desire by way of the five senses. Our taste, sight, hearing, smell and touch are the root causes of selfish desire, and can produce an attachment to material things and worldly pleasures.

3. Craving, the origin of suffering, can be eliminated. If a person can see worldly delights and pleasures for what they are—fleeting and miserable—they can overcome selfish craving. This belief supports a lack of attachment, the loss of ego, the cessation of anger and delusions. Those persons who let go of the lingering attachment to worldly things, even love and self, are the ones who attain true enlightenment.

4. The Eightfold Middle Path leads to the extinction of suffering. Here, in the last Noble Truth, we are given some real tools that will allow us to let go of our worldly attachment, and thereby end our suffering. As stated above, this Middle Path lies between the excesses of self-indulgence and utter self-denial. The first five steps of the middle path can be followed by all laypersons of Buddhism. To attain the final three steps of this path is to approach a serious desire for enlightenment and usually requires the ability for deep trances and ultimate metaphysical experiences. The last three steps have been called appropriate only for higher orders of monks, who are called brothers. The Eightfold Middle Path is as follows:

· Right views - an understanding of the Four Noble Truths
· Right thought - a mind free from ill will and cruelty
· Right speech - abstaining from lying, harsh language and vain talk
· Right action - abstaining from killing, stealing and illicit sexual relationships
· Right livelihood - following an occupation that causes no harm to any living thing
· Right effort - to avoid, to overcome, to develop and to maintain - avoiding morally incorrect activities while simultaneously developing correct ones
· Right mindfulness - to be fully conscious of one’s movements and acts so that one is aware of everything that is going on in one’s mind at all times
· Right concentration - concentration on a single object, associated with wholeness of consciousness

The Eightfold Middle Path has always been a path of self-salvation. Each person is responsible for working out their own enlightenment. No one can help them along this path.