The Fourth Noble Truth – The Path

Reference: Chapter 5, The Fourth Noble Truth: The Path

The Fourth Noble Truth is the way leading to the Cessation of Dukkha. It looks for happiness neither through the pleasures of the senses, nor through self-mortification in different forms of asceticism, but through a middle path known as The Eight-Fold Path to Nirvana. This Middle Path ‘gives vision and knowledge, and it leads to Calm, Insight, Enlightenment, Nirvāna’.

The eight categories or divisions of the Path are to be developed more or less simultaneously, as far as possible according to the capacity of each individual. These categories may be grouped into the three essentials of (a) Wisdom, (b) Ethical Conduct, and (c) Mental Discipline.

The wisdom of this path rests not on knowledge, accumulated memory, or intellectual grasping of a subject; but on seeing things in their true nature, without name and label. This penetration is possible only when the mind is free from all impurities and is fully developed through meditation. The impurities exist in the form of selfish desire, ill-will, hatred and violence in all spheres of life whether individual, social, or political.

The Buddha gave his teaching ‘for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world’. Buddhist ethical and moral conduct aims at promoting a happy and harmonious life both for the individual and for society. This forms the indispensable foundation for all higher spiritual attainments. Thus, the ethical conduct on this path is built on the vast conception of universal love and compassion for all living beings. Here compassion represents love, charity, kindness, tolerance and such noble qualities. Such compassion then guides one’s speech, actions and livelihood.

Mental discipline has to do with developing wholesome states of mind already present in a person and bringing them to perfection. This starts with right mindfulness (attentiveness). One practices concentration on breathing, and experiences all forms of feelings and sensations, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. One diligently attends to the movements of the mind, and examines all ideas, thoughts, conceptions and things, for their nature, how they appear and disappear, how they are developed, how they are suppressed, and destroyed, and so on. The right concentration, ultimately, leads to pure equanimity and awareness.

From the above account one may see that this path is a way of life to be followed, practiced and developed by each individual. It is self-discipline in body, word and mind, self-development and self-purification. It has nothing to do with belief, prayer, worship or ceremony. In that sense, it has nothing which may popularly be called ‘religious’. It is a Path leading to the realization of Ultimate Reality, to complete freedom, happiness and peace through moral, spiritual and intellectual perfection.


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  • Chris Thompson  On July 2, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    It is the first noble truth of all religions to lay claim to possessing esoteric paths of spiritual growth, or what have you. Each spiritual discipline claims esoteric knowledge. Yet, regardless of any path or discipline, as the universe cools, all dukkha will cease regardless of anyone’s path, won’t it?

    • vinaire  On July 2, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      Yes that is a cynical view for sure. I don’t think that there is anything esoteric about Buddhism. It is simply a course in Eastern psychology.

      I am not sure what you mean by ‘as the universe cools’, but as long as there is impermanence, there is going to be dukkha, by definition.


      • Chris Thompson  On July 3, 2012 at 7:29 AM

        . . . and the Second Noble Truth of religion is that its followers claim that they are not “religious.” But only following a “true path” as laid by another.

        • vinaire  On July 3, 2012 at 7:48 AM

          You follow it only if it is consistent what your reason. If it is not consistent with your reason then you are not asked to follow it.

          Buddhism has never forced itself on others as Abrahamic religions have done over the ages.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 3, 2012 at 8:29 AM

          . . . maybe the Third Noble Truth of religions is that their adherents usually claim to not force themselves on others. All religions without exception sell themselves to others. “Cutting heads off” is the more direct way, but the subtler advertising arts are selling as well, such as wearing specially colored and fine looking robes or shaving hair from heads, etc.,.

        • vinaire  On July 3, 2012 at 11:32 AM

          Selling may have gradients such as
          (1) Bring it to other people’s attention (looking)
          (2) Convince the other person through logic (thinking)
          (3) Use fear tactics on others (forcing)

          I like the level of LOOKING as it allows maximum determinism to the other person. Buddhism operates at the level of LOOKING. Christianity operates at the level of THINKING. Islam operates at the level of FORCING.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 9:11 AM

          . . . maybe, but certainly not according to those adherents. Thus, this is your look at this and not their look at this — an important distinction (to me, see?). So our evaluations of the mechanics of others’ realities seem to me to be rank judgements only.

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 9:26 AM

          In my opinion, there is no other reality than one’s own. What you have expressed above is your reality about other people’s reality. It is not necessarily other people’s reality.

          So be cynical and critical as you wish.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 1:04 PM

          Even so, you have previously posted that you believe in a real world out there.

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 1:17 PM

          Of course, there is a real world out there, but each person looks at it through their own filter.

          I am currently reading the book HUMAN DYNAMICS by Sandra Seagal and David Horne. It makes the observation that most people in the West are emotionally centered. The emotionally centered people process information in a lateral way-that is, more through unpredictable association (in which feelings play a part) than through a process of logical connection. This is an interesting observation, which seems to borne out quite well.


  • Chris Thompson  On July 2, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    My own claim to fame might be simply defined by my own sense of self-importance. This is a great irony, for if traveling a very short distance away from man, man’s sense of self importance becoms very hard to notice, don’t you think?

    • vinaire  On July 2, 2012 at 12:29 PM

      Why should there be any sense of self-importance, or any claim to fame?

      ‘Self’ is impermanent. Self is dukkha according to Buddhist logic.


      • Chris Thompson  On July 3, 2012 at 7:32 AM

        . . . and “All is Dukkha” according to Chris logic.

        oh, and the universe cooling is what it seems to be doing, doesn’t it? While there is universe, there is dukkha and when that universe is gone, there is no dukkha. Have I gotten this right?

        • vinaire  On July 3, 2012 at 7:53 AM

          Yes. The universe is impermanent and that is the characteristic of dukkha. A Buddhist strives to not be attached to dukkha and, therefore, be free from it.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 3, 2012 at 8:33 AM

          Let me ask you this, “IF Dukkha is impermanent, and if it is a mistake to be attached to it, then does it follow that the person is a permanent thing?”

          Also, you could write a bit more what you mean by “attached.”

        • vinaire  On July 3, 2012 at 8:48 AM

          Accoding to Buddhism, ‘self’ is impermanent too. That makes sense to me.

          Attachment may be defined as considering something permanent that is actually impermanent.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 8:57 AM

          I think that you’ve unearthed a dichotomy to discuss regarding permanence vs impermanence. Stay with me on this. Is there one without the other? And if not, then what would be permanent? Or another look would raise the question what does it truly mean to be impermanent?

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 9:19 AM

          The following is Buddhist observation that goes beyond logic:

          “The Absolute Truth is that there is nothing absolute in the world, that everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, and that there is no unchanging, everlasting, absolute substance like Self, Soul, or Ātman within or without.”

          I don’t know if there is such dichotomy as “permanence vs impermanence”. So, It is a just matter of looking starting from the conjecture above.

          Do you know of anything permanent?


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 9:27 AM

          No. I do not know of anything permanent. Thus, because our language inflicts the dichotomy or suggests the dichotomy, I ask, “At the very root of things, what do we mean by impermanent?”

          Possibly, at the root meaning, there is a problem with this word. Yes, I am going somewhere with this.

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 9:31 AM

          Word Origin & History

          early 15c., from M.Fr. permanent (14c.), from L. permanentem (nom. permanens) “remaining,” prp. of permanere “endure, continue, stay to the end,” from per- “through” + manere “stay” (see mansion).

          So, ‘permanent’ is relative to time. And time depends on the rhythm of change.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 9:38 AM

          Yes, it is relative to time. Again, at the root, it seems to me that time is occurring in little packages.

        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 9:39 AM

          . . . and even a word like “packages” may be misnomer and misleading in this context.

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 9:48 AM

          And the time package can be as small as you want, like the place value.

          I don’t think that it is fixed at the planck constant.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 9:57 AM

          Now that is bold seeing as no one has measured anything close to Planck scale. So that becomes a philosophical reference in nature only. Now Planck scale is not mathematical only, it is conjectured physics, described successfully in math, but rooted in the constant speed of light. Yes, the math can be irrational, but why do you think that Planck scale might not be the smallest scale in the universe?

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 10:43 AM

          I guess I am agnostic like Buddha. Planck constant is based on our current limits of observation. If you believe that there is no more to be observed that could affect the planck constant then you may hold on to your view and not look any further. However, I believe that there is a lot more to be observed and I am not prepared to accept planck constant as the ultimate truth.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 1:12 PM

          Again with the twisting of my question into a statement I did not make. I asked why you think that a unit of imagination like the Planck is not the smallest unit? To discuss we should be mindful of each other’s questions. There is a starting point for knowing how to know.

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 1:43 PM

          Frankly, I don’t know how else to answer your question. Maybe I need to understand why some people think that Planck is the smallest unit. I would like to understand your viewpoint here.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 1:51 PM

          I don’t care about the Planck units being the smallest of their kind… nothing invested in this at all. It is for me just a way of exercising my brain and the concepts that I build using discrete units are helpful to my understanding.

          Planck units are built on the “speed of light.” The speed of light is constant for all frames of reference, therefore the emanation point or propagation point of a photon is not in motion. This is my own research and reasoning and is the simplest thing that i have understood about physics and is the main idear driving my use of looking at time as discrete packages whatever their length.

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 2:43 PM

          OK, I understand your viewpoint better now. Per Wikipedia: “The Planck constant was first described as the proportionality constant between the energy (E) of a photon and the frequency (ν) of its associated electromagnetic wave.” Since the frequency and wavelength are directly related by constant speed of light, the Planck relation can also be expressed as as the proportionality constant between the energy (E) of a photon and the wavelength (λ) of its associated electromagnetic wave.

          “In 1923, Louis de Broglie generalized this relation by postulating that the Planck constant represents the proportionality between the momentum and the quantum wavelength of not just the photon, but any particle… Planck discovered that physical action could not take on any indiscriminate value. Instead, the action must be some multiple of a very small quantity… In many cases, such as for monochromatic light or for atoms, the quantum of action also implies that only certain energy levels are allowed, and values in between are forbidden.” This would also mean that only certain frequencies and wavelengths are allowed, and values in between are forbidden. It, thus, implies quantization of light and matter at the smallest of scales.

          “The Planck constant also occurs in statements of Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Given a large number of particles prepared in the same state, the uncertainty in their position, Δx, and the uncertainty in their momentum (in the same direction), Δp…” are half reduced Planck constant “where the uncertainty is given as the standard deviation of the measured value from its expected value. There are a number of other such pairs of physically measurable values which obey a similar rule. One example is time vs. energy.” In my opinion, this simply points to inherent uncertainty in the precise measurement of time. It doesn’t imply quantization of time.

          I found the following reference on Internet commenting on quantization of time:

          By the way, I don’t know what you mean by ‘planck unit’, but the planck constant is not built on speed of light. Where did you get that idea from?


        • Chris Thompson  On July 5, 2012 at 9:48 AM

          Of course it “implies” quantization. The measurements are the measurements. If you want to demonstrate this graphically, open your “paint” program that comes with every window program. Select “line drawing” and pick a “thick” line. Now click and drag your cursor across the screen drawing a thick black line. When you do this horizontally (90 deg) and vertically (180 deg), you get a smooth line. Deviate slightly up or down or to the left or right on the vertical and you can watch the line being broken into segments. The physical measurements that you think are uncertain follow a stair-stepping level of energy such as if you graphed it, it would look akin to this segmented line. First at a level, then at another level, changing abruptly (quantum jumping) from one energy levels to the next energy level. This fact of quantum jumping alone seems substantial to get me to look in this direction.

      • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        To answer your question, I do not know whether or not there “should” be any sense of self-importance, I just see that we each have this as part of the fabric of our personalities. All claims to fame are attached to this sense of self importance. Each of us has this deeply embedded just as surely as each of us will run our course and then disappear from the picture.

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 1:38 PM

          Sure, there seem to be an inherent sense of self that lies at the core of one’s personality. It acts like a stable datum underlying all other stable data that a person subscribes to. A stable datum restrains confusion that may otherwise overwhelm the person. If those confusions are gone then that stable datum is no longer needed.

          I think that the stable datum of ‘self’ restrains some fundamental confusions about one’s existence. To the degree those confusions are there, this datum of ‘self’ becomes important to the person. Of course, I have yet to overcome many confusions in this area. I think that, with the help of Buddhism, I am well on my way to sort out those confusions.


  • Chris Thompson  On July 2, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    If the Fourth Noble Truth is the way leading to the Cessation of Dukkha, and this is the goal, then upon cessation of Dukkha would cease to be goals. This seems ambitious to me and not in keeping with cessation of Dukkha. What do you think of these spiritual goals?

    • vinaire  On July 2, 2012 at 12:35 PM

      I would rather look than figure-figure on this point. I have been through Zeno’s paradoxes

      When one looks, one is going beyond logic.


      • Chris Thompson  On July 3, 2012 at 7:34 AM

        Well, we have established many times that one’s own universe cannot stand up to scrutiny. It dissolves. Is this your goal when you look?

        • vinaire  On July 3, 2012 at 7:55 AM

          My goal is to understand the true nature of things, so that there is no attachment due to ignorance.


      • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 1:14 PM

        Cessation of Dukkha is your stated spiritual goal. Would a bullet to the brain achieve this spiritual goal?

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 1:48 PM

          I don’t think so. Bullet to the brain may destroy the sense of self without resolving the confusion, which was being restrained by that sense of self.

          So the mental and physical energies that are in confusion, may reorganize themselves into a new ‘self’ in a new body in order to fully resolve that confusion.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 8:14 PM

          Then because there is no scientific evidence for a consolidated consciousness which outlasts the body, where would you say that this “confusion” abides?

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 9:44 PM

          The confusion remains frozen in the mental forces and energies that are left behind after the death of the body. It doesn’t get activated until it attaches to a new body. A new self then comes into being.

          This is the Buddhist theory. There is no self that exists without the body. There is no in-between life.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 10:19 PM

          So the mental forces are permanent?

        • Chris Thompson  On July 4, 2012 at 10:24 PM

          I am trying to understand your idea of a confusion without a self. Please continue on this line of thought.

        • vinaire  On July 4, 2012 at 10:45 PM

          Mental forces are not permanent, but they may persist until they are dissolved through the attainment of Nirvana.

          Self is a combination of physical and mental forces and energies. When body dies, the physical forces and energies are apparently gone. The mental forces and energies are apparently left in a limbo waiting to acquire complementary physical forces and energies to form another self.

          In Nirvana, the mental forces and energies are completely extinguished along with physical forces and energies when death takes place, and there is no rebirth.


        • Chris Thompson  On July 5, 2012 at 9:48 AM

          I get it. Persistent mental forces but no being. No in between lives, but limbo. Because there is no desire from a being, the mental forces in limbo are not physical but randomly match with physical forces and energies to form another being.

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