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To learn more about the teachings of Buddha visit: On this page: The Three "Jewels" of Buddhism The Four Noble Truths The Eight-Fold Path to Nirvana hr color="yellow" width="42%">

The Four Truths

The essence of the Buddha's teaching is encapsulated in The Four Noble Truths:

1. The Noble Truth of Suffering

The First Noble Truth is suffering or dukkha. This includes physical, emotional and mental forms of suffering but can also be interpreted more widely as a feeling of ‘dissatisfaction’. Any happiness that we have in life will not last forever -- old age, sickness and inevitably death cannot be avoided. In the scriptures, suffering is defined according to the following categories: Birth, Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief and Despair. It is also defined as not getting what one desires.

2. The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering

The Second Noble Truth points to the origin of suffering, namely craving or tanha (literally ‘thirst’). At its most simple this relates to our constant craving for what is pleasurable in what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think. Our lives are constantly driven by our desire for pleasant sensations. When such pleasant sensations are denied us, as they inevitably are from time to time, then we feel frustrated, dissatisfied -- we suffer. There can be more subtle forms of craving -- a desire for fame, wealth, recognition -- the list is endless.

3. The Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering

The Third Noble Truth refers to Nibbana in which craving has faded completely and thereby suffering too. It is an irrevocable ‘state’ of peace, in which greed, hatred and delusion have completely disappeared. By attaining to it, no more kamma is produced and the round of rebirths comes to an end.

4. The Noble Truth that leads to the Extinction of Suffering

The Fourth Noble Truth provides a practical pathway to the realization of Nibbana in the form of the Noble Eightfold Path. This consists of eight factors: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness right concentration.
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The Eight-Fold Path

What is the Noble Eightfold Path? This is the path to Nibbana as outlined by the Buddha. It offers a framework for the development of wisdom, morality and concentration, all of which are essential for spiritual progress:

1. Right Understanding

This entails an understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the other teachings of the Buddha.

2. Right Thought

To have right thought is to be free of sense desire, ill-will or cruelty and to possess thoughts of detachment, loving-kindness and compassion.

3. Right Speech

Right Speech comprises abstaining from lying, gossiping, and using harsh language.

4. Right Action

Right Action is abstaining from killing, stealing and from unlawful sexual intercourse.

5. Right Livelihood

Occupations that necessitate the breaking the five precepts are prohibited. For example, occupations that involve killing (whether animals or humans), sexual misconduct, deceit, taking intoxicating drinks or drugs. For example, trading in arms or prostitution.

6. Right Effort

There are four aspects to this: the effort to avoid the arising of evil, the effort to overcome evil, the effort to develop wholesome states and the effort to maintain wholesome states.

7. Right Mindfulness

This encompasses The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. This involves being mindful of 1. the body and bodily processes, 2. feelings, 3. states of mind, 4. thoughts, ideas, Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths

8. Right Concentration

The final factor focuses on developing meditative concentration leading to the eradication of the five hindrances and the experience of the four jhanas. Right Understanding and Right Thought aim to cultivate wisdom, Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood relate to morality, and Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration are conducive to Concentration.
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The Three Jewels of Buddhism

In Buddhism, the three jewels are the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Each of these is highly revered, hence the word 'jewel'. They are also known as The Three Refuges as they offer protection from the unstable world of samsara.

The Buddha

A jewel is a precious stone, highly valued, treasured. Buddhism has its own jewels - three in fact. These are the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. All three are highly revered but in different ways. In Theravada Buddhism, the Buddha is honored as a special human being who, confronted with the palpable suffering in the world and convinced that there had to be something more, sought and won enlightenment. Buddha means 'awakened one', suggesting that his enlightenment was a 'waking up' to the world as it really is, free from delusion and ignorance. Consequently, in Buddhism, the Buddha is the prime source of inspiration and authority for adherents.

The Dhamma

After his enlightenment the Buddha was faced with a decision - either to pass on his profound knowledge or to keep it to himself, fearing that it would be too difficult for most beings to comprehend. Out of compassion, he decided to pass on his teachings to others. Collectively, these teachings are known as the dhamma (in Pali) or dharma (in Sanskrit). The dhamma, therefore, comprises all the essential doctrines of Buddhism -- the Four Noble Truths, kamma, rebirth, samsara, dependent origination and so on. These teachings were first committed to writing in the Pali Canon in about the 1st century BCE.

The Sangha

The third jewel, the Sangha, the monastic community founded by the Buddha, is also highly revered. Monks and nuns have special significance because they are seen as making the Buddha's teachings the exclusive focus of their lives. They take a vow of celibacy and devote their lives to meditation and study, though they will often perform other duties too. To the lay community they exemplify the Buddhist life par excellence providing example, guidance and inspiration.

Taking Refuge

The Three Jewels are also referred to as 'The Three Refuges'. This means that the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha offer protection from the fickle and unstable world we live in. A common formula recited by someone wishing to become a Buddhist and by Buddhists more generally is: I go for refuge to the Buddha I go for refuge to the Dhamma I go for refuge to the Sangha. The Three Jewels and The Three Refuges remind us that the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha are very precious. This is because they offer us the opportunity to work towards enlightenment. At the same time, they offer us protection from being swept along by samsara, its delusive attractions and its suffering.
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