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The Four Noble Truths

By Asia Society created the file. Artwork created by an anonymous ancient source. -, Public Domain,

What are the Four Noble Truths?

There are countless books, podcasts, and dharma talks devoted to this subject so I am not going to try to equal any of those. My goal is simply to provide a quick review so you have a basic understanding of this profound teaching as context for the Serena system broader teachings.

The four truths can be summarized as the 1) truth of suffering, 2) the cause of suffering, 3) the end of suffering, 4) the way to end suffering.

The First Noble Truth says that suffering is a defining characteristic of this existence of ours. It bears emphasizing that this word "suffering" is a translation of the Pali word "dukkha." In fact, this word might be better translated as unsatisfactoriness because the sense of this first truth is that it includes both (so-called) good and bad things. Everything in the phenomenal world is by definition unsatisfying because all phenomena are transitory. Even good things are temporary and therefore there is dukkha at the best of times as much as in the many painful or unhappy things we can imagine occurring in the physical world.

The Second Noble Truth is that the cause of suffering is attachment or craving. George sometimes asks us to think about how most people spend their lives. We choose (most often unconsciously) one of the three options on how to spend our time: 1) resisting; 2) holding; 3) wanting:

  • Resisting: we push away something we don’t want

  • Holding: we are attached to something we have and believe we want or need

  • Wanting: we desire for something we don’t have; motivating action to replace something that is perceived to be lacking

The Third Noble truth is that suffering can end. There is a method that allows a human being to escape the resisting, the holding and the wanting.

The Fourth Noble Truth is this method, and it includes following the Noble Eightfold Path, restraining one's self, cultivating discipline, and practicing mindfulness and meditation.

Serena is all about how to alleviate suffering so interested readers can use the Serena training exercises or just curl up with the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta to find out the Buddhist version. Or for a more contemporary rendition of the Buddhist version, Buddhist teachers originally from the West such as Joseph Goldstein, Ram Dass and Jack Kornfield are wonderful at explaining this teaching to a Western audience in their books, interviews, websites and podcasts. Personally, I find all the ancient masters' versions fascinating but difficult to relate to given the distance in time, culture and language. Hence my fascination with George Falcon's teaching and the production of this website!

So in the Serena system when we ask “are you conscious of the emotions or thoughts you have chosen in any given moment?” hopefully you can see that this concept of choice is not a new one. It has emerged as among the Buddhas most powerful and insightful teachings. And after thousands of years of reflection by countless humans it is still deemed one of the best explanations for why life can be so hard and how to make it better. So perhaps we should take it seriously and try it out?

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