The four truths are presented within the Buddha’s first discourse, Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma (Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra). An English translation is as follows:
1. “This is the noble truth of dukkha: birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, illness is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are dukkha; union with what is displeasing is dukkha; separation from what is pleasing is dukkha; not to get what one wants is dukkha; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are dukkha.”
2. “This is the noble truth of the origin of dukkha: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.”
3. “This is the noble truth of the cessation of dukkha: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it.”
4. “This is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of dukkha: it is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.”
It has been more than twenty years now since I first followed my mother on her visits to the Siong Lim Temple/Shuang Lin Monastery for her regular devotions and ablutions, playing with the tortoises in the temple courtyard and ponds, drinking the coarse Oolong tea, and hearing and imbibing as the monks and lay-folk do their singsong chanting of scriptures.
And later in school, selecting and studying Buddhist Studies for my Religious Knowledge class and eventually receiving prizes for coming in first in school and the country for the subject. Later still, beginning formal practice in Dhyāna meditation under 禅 Chán masters of the Linji and Caodong lineages, and perhaps, even experiencing for myself the first and second Jhana levels. Latterly, visiting Soto Zen schools in Japan to practice shikantaza as a tourist, and taking retreats in Taiwanese Chán monasteries to practice silent illumination as a practitioner.
I have studied much, practiced a fair bit, and experienced some.
And yet, remain ever so enmeshed with dukkha.
There once lived a man of great knowledge. His reputation as a scholar spread throughout the land and still he longed for recognition. And so it came to pass that this scholar sought out a Zen Master in a nearby monastery asking to be shown the true nature of the universe. But part of him wanted and expected the Zen Master to acknowledge his wisdom. The scholar was granted an interview and seated at a low wooden table. The Zen Master entered the room in silence, placed a tea cup before the scholar and proceeded to fill it with tea. The cup filled up and began spilling over the table, and still the Zen Master continued pouring. The scholar cried out in alarm “My cup is overflowing!” The Zen Master answered “Precisely!” and so ended the interview.
To be emptied, bit by bit…