The First Noble Truth is that we are bound to meet with trouble, pain and disappointment in life. The Buddha specifically spoke of the sufferings resulting from major changes such as birth, old age, sickness and death, as well as the suffering that comes from loss, frustrated desires, unwanted situations and the basic changing nature of life. The truth of suffering teaches us to recognize these facts courageously.
The Second Noble Truth is that suffering arises when we refuse to recognize the reality of life and attempt to make reality conform to our desires. This truth is often expressed as “the cause of suffering.” This craving is the result of the unrealistic expectation that life should be a source of perpetual happiness.
External circumstances can indeed bring about uncomfortable or tragic experiences. It is our internal craving, which turns pain, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, into suffering. The Buddha tells us that pain and discomfort exist in everyone’s life, but suffering is optional.
The Third Noble Truth teaches that relief from suffering is liberation from the vicious cycle of craving; this liberation is Nirvana. Nirvana is not some otherworldly realm of bliss, and it is not a nihilistic destruction of thought or being. It actually means to extinguish. When we extinguish the flames of selfish craving, we can experience true peace of mind. Though we may face painful events in our lives, we will not suffer. Through our practice, we can reach the point where we can face any situation, both pleasant and painful, with hearts that are loving, compassionate, joyful, and at peace.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the way to eliminate suffering; the path we must follow in order to stop clinging and free ourselves from suffering. It is the Middle Way between self-indulgence and self-denial, which is also called the Eightfold Path.