Oakville Zen Meditation

#478: the First Noble Truth by Miranda Dec. 9 23

The First Noble Truth

Life is challenging…While navigating its ups and downs, we try hard to hold on to whatever pleases us and push away that which causes discomfort. As a result, life becomes a constant struggle. Even when things are going reasonably well, we are inherently aware of the impermanence of everything and our lack of control therein, and this uncertainty is a source of stress and dissatisfaction.

The Buddha realized this and through his awakening arrived at a solution. Through the Four Noble Truths, he provided us with a roadmap. Starting with the First Noble Truth, he talked about the truth of Dukkha, usually translated as suffering, unsatisfactoriness, and uneasiness. The word Dukkha is made of Du, meaning bad, and Khha meaning space or hole. The usual metaphor is that of a badly fitting axle-hole of a cart or chariot, which produces difficulty in movement, making for a bumpy ride.   

Suffering may come from various sources. It can be brought on by external causes and by the ongoing changes in life. We know that nothing can be relied on to provide lasting happiness and fulfillment, but we grab tightly to the hope that something will. Consequently, we suffer when things change in a way that is contrary to our wishes. The Buddha stated that Dukka “is the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, death, separation from what is pleasing, association with the unpleasant, not getting what one is seeking.” 

As we resist and negatively react to the pains of life, we create more suffering. We feel some physical pain and start to worry about how it may be something serious. We misinterpret a comment from a colleague and lose sleep anxiously thinking that we have fallen out of favor…We plan an event and get upset when it doesn’t go as planned… The Buddha illustrated this in his discourse about the two arrows of suffering: “When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, and laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So, he feels two pains, physical and mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows…” 

The Buddha pointed out the truth of Dukkha and invited us to check it out for ourselves. He didn’t say for us to believe it, but rather to look at the nature of the mind and investigate this truth for ourselves. By delving deeper into this truth, we can take this conceptual knowledge and apply it to our everyday lives. Through the practice of Zen meditation, we can closely observe the nature of Dukkha and create space between the observer and the illusory nature of our thinking mind. Once we stop feeding our monkey minds, and practice less resistance and more acceptance, life becomes less of a struggle.