Buddha and his Teachings: Three Marks of Reality and Four Noble Truths


1.      The Idea of a Buddha

a.       Buddha is not a name but a type of person

                                                  i.      An enlightened individual, many of whom appear successively, at certain intervals

                                                ii.      “Historical” Buddha - (6th/5th Cent BCE) – Shakyamuni

2.      Life of the Buddha

a.       The Buddha Shakyamuni Gautama Siddhartha (563-483 B.C.E.):Shakyamuni = sage of the shakyas, Gautama = family lineage, Siddhartha = "success." NE India

b.      Important Historical Points in the life of the Buddha:

                                                  i.      Birth: 563 BCE, Lumbini Grove

                                                ii.      Enlightenment: 528 BCE Bodh Gaya

                                              iii.      First Sermon: Deer park near Sarnath (near Banaras)

                                              iv.      Death: 483 BCE Kusinagara (from rancid food)

c.       Sequence: birth, prophesy, youth and marriage, the awakening (chariot rides), disillusionment and withdrawal, sanyasa, enlightenment

3.      Three Marks of Reality (or) Looking at life as it really is.

a.       Dukkha: suffering, dissatisfaction, unease

                                                  i.      The Buddha analyzed the nature and causes of suffering, like a doctor diagnosing an disease, to understand and overcome them.  Buddhism is not inherently pessimistic.  Attempt to see things as they are, decide on the best way to respond to them. 


b.      Anicca: impermanence, change

                                                  i.      We are surprised by change, often disturbed.  We get used to things. All things, including ourselves, in flux.

                                                ii.      One tries but cannot cling to anything, as all things arise and pass.

                                              iii.      For example: The shock of change: seeing old friends appearance, your own face, physical change, divorce, death, illness.

b.      Anatta: no permanent self.

                                                  i.      No permanent reality behind phenomenal reality: all is process, change. No self that is constant.

                                                ii.      The Individual = Groups of events (skandas): Bodily events, perceptions, feelings, dispositions, states of consciousness.  The individual is a temporary combination of such events

4.      Four Noble Truths

a.       Life is dominated by suffering: Separation from the things you love; not getting what it is you want. Unavoidable experience of things you despise: sickness, old age, death.

b.      The cause of suffering is desire and craving

                                                  i.      The cycle of rebirth, suffering, death, rebirth...is perpetuated by desire.  Clinging to the impermanent.

c.       Release from suffering is possible.  Stop clinging. Craving for sensual experience, for better rebirth, even for extinction, can be renounced.  Blowing out the flame of a candle.

d.      The way out of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

                                                  i.      Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. 

                                                ii.      These lead to release from samsara.

                                              iii.      Asvagosha’s division of the eightfold path:

1.      Morality: speech, action, livelihood

2.      Meditation: effort, mindfulness, concentration

3.      Insight or Wisdom: views and thought