The first noble truth–There is suffering.

“Let’s start with the Buddha’s first discourse, delivered to his five former ascetic companions in the Deer Park at Sarnath, near Benares.  It was here, several weeks after the awakening and his ensuing ambivalence about saying anything at all, that compassion moved him to embrace the anguish of others.  Plunging into the treacherous sea of words, he “set in motion the wheel of the dharma.” This short discourse can be summed up as follows: The Buddha declares how he has found the central path through avoiding indulgence and mortification.  He then describes four ennobling truths: those of anguish, its origins, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation.”

                                                Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without beliefs, pge 3

The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of the Buddha-Dharma. He told his friends that all beings suffer, that the causes of suffering are universal, that suffering can cease and that there is a way of life that can lead us to the cessation of suffering.

Batchelor says the First Noble Truth is the truth of anguish; M. Scott Peck opened his book The Road Less Traveled by saying “Life is difficult. This is the first great truth of the Buddha.” However you say it, it is the truth of suffering. Life itself is not suffering, rather all of us suffer. There is no way to escape the difficulties of life. Difficulties are inherent to this existence. In fact, it is so normal to have difficulties that we have a bumper sticker about it.  “Shit Happens.” And that’s right, it does.

If your life is anything like mine, there’s always something going on that could potentially throw you off kilter. This is how life is. It isn’t personal. No matter how well we care for our homes or cars they will get old and start to need major repair. No matter how well we do our work, how perfectly we show up; how compliant we are, we will eventually lose the job, if for no other reason than getting old. No matter how healthy we are, no matter how well we care for ourselves, we will die, and our loved ones will die. Nothing is perfect and eternal. Everything changes, everything arises and passes away. This is the nature of life.


Ask yourself as you begin your meditation how it is that suffering is manifesting in your life today. Then see what arises while you sit. Do the images of the difficulties arise, or do the conversations replay in your mind, or does anxiety or anger arise? These all show us where our difficulties are and how we are dealing with them. Just notice. No need to comment or criticize. Simply allow the awareness of your difficulties be present in your mind. Allow compassion to arise in your heart.

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