Buddhas Second Noble Truth – The Cause of Suffering
In this article, I’ll take a look at Buddhas Second Noble Truth – the causes or origins of suffering.
The Four Noble Truths can be seen as a doctors prescription with the First Noble Truth identifying the problem or malady of suffering, the Second Noble Truth identifies the cause of the malady of suffering, the Third Noble Truth is a prognosis, in that “suffering can end, Nirvana is the cure”, and the Fourth Noble Truth is the medicine or therapy that needs to take place to realize the reality of Nirvana for ourselves and truly live in the present moment.
The Second Noble Truth is the truth of the origin or causes of suffering. Though the mind itself is the ultimate cause, there are three main categories of suffering (also known as the Three Poisons): Attachment (or addiction, thirst), Anger, and Ignorance.
Attachment (Desire, Craving, Addiction) & Anger
Attachment can bring us suffering when we believe that the self is separate from everything else. Such a belief naturally causes us pain because we perceive ourselves to be isolated from everyone and everything else.This loneliness is fear of the end of existence and so we tend to gravitate towards addictive behaviors believing that grasping something outside of ourselves with our minds can liberate us from suffering.
All living beings have the desire for the pleasures of the senses and for life itself. But even when we get what we want, our happiness is short-lived since we cling to the object of desire worried that we will lose the thing that once gave us happiness, and so when that thing eventually crumbles into dust our suffering deepens.
Attachment (desire, craving) can be likened to a great Tree of Cravings, with three branches on this tree named Greed, Ill Will, and Anger with the fruit of this tree being dukkha (suffering).
Desiring more things to make us happy no matter how many possessions we have accumulated leads to Greed so the vicious cycle continues, the Wheel of Samsara keeps turning.
And when someone tries to take our precious things away from us, then we instinctively react with anger in defense of what we believe will rob us of our happiness, and then feel justified to harm others.
Any harm whether it be angry words or acts of violence that we inflict on others will also be inflicted on us, since we are all interconnected. Desire can also lead to more addictive behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and overeating, which then leads to further suffering.
The Buddha explained attachment (craving, desire) as follows using the method of catching monkeys in India as a metaphor:
“To catch a monkey, one takes a coconut and makes a hole in it, just large enough that a monkey can squeeze its hand in. Next, the coconut is tied down and a sweet is placed inside. What happens next is pure attachment. The monkey smells the sweet, puts his hand into the coconut, grabs the sweet and…. The hole is too small to let a fist out of the coconut. But the last thing a monkey would consider is to let go of the sweet, so it is literally tied down by its own attachment. Often they only let go when they fall asleep or become unconscious because of exhaustion.”
We are like those monkeys who can’t resist the sweets (pleasures in life) even though trying to grasp them causes us pain and suffering.
So what is the source of our Tree of Cravings? The answer is ignorance. Ignorance in this context doesn’t merely mean a lack of knowledge but rather it can be defined as the inability to see the truth of reality, to see things as they really are (as Bliss).
We can cultivate our minds through study, critical thinking, and meditation (though meditation is largely useless without the carefully thinking about what we are studying.
I think we call all relate to the Buddha’s discovery, but more often than not we tend to downplay our attachment to things, and today’s global society is fueled by suffering, addiction, and hatred.
When I was writing this article, I remembered that yesterday was the opening day of the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens and then I remembered a few Jedi quotes from one of my favorite characters Yoda that I liked from all six Star Wars movies.
It is said that Yoda was modeled on a Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche who also kind of looks similar to Yoda’s physical appearance. Here I will outline briefly the life and role of Serkong Rinpoche. He was born in Tibet and was widely known for his humble and wise manner, and was an “assistant tutor” one of nine to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He accompanied the Dalai Lama until his death in 1983 and made sure that his understanding of Buddhism was correct.
Like Yoda, he was a counselor and a wise Buddhist master and had mastery of all four Tibetan traditions. He was also well versed in the Buddhist arts and sciences. For example, he was an expert in the construction of symbolic world-systems, or mandala which are used in tantric rituals.
He was an accomplished poet, a master of literary composition, and was adept at Tibetan grammar. Like Yoda, he was able to divine the future, though Serkong Rinpoche practiced Tibetan divination (Mo in Tibetan) involving throwing of three dice while in a meditative state. He was also an expert in Tibetan astrology as well and a skilled diplomat which is also reminiscent of the Jedi themselves serving as counselors and diplomats.
George Lucas went to Dharmasala to learn more about eastern religion and met this teacher before filming the original Star Wars trilogy.
Enjoy this list of Yoda quotes and take note of how similar they really are to Buddhism, with the Dharma being roughly equivalent to the Force, the all-encompassing energy that permeates our reality.
- “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
- “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
- “Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the Dark Side. Anger, fear, aggression, the Dark Side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.”
“You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.
- “Luke: I can’t believe it
Yoda: That is why you fail”
- “Feel the Force.”
- “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
- “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”
- “When you look at the dark side, careful you must be. For the Dark Side looks back.”
- “Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.”
- “Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future….the past. Old friends long gone.”
- “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.”
- “The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.”
- “Do or do not, there is not try.”
- “You will find only what you bring in.”
“Ohhh…Great warrior. Wars not make one great.”
- “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”
- “Luke : ‘What’s in there’
Yoda: ‘Only what you take with you”
- “Use your feelings Obi-Wan, and find him you will.”
- “Already know you that which you need.”
- “Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things”
- “To answer power with power, the Jedi way this is not. In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.”
- “Named your fear must be before banish it you can.”
- “To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night.”
- “Control, control, you must learn control!”