In studying the Four Noble
Truths recently, I ran across some new terminology. We could say that the Four Noble Truths are four tasks- The
Four Noble Tasks. These tasks need to be accomplished in order to find the
peace and confidence the Buddha invites us to experience.
In this teaching, there are
three phases to each Truth as written in the Pali (language of the earliest
The first phase is to
recognize and have the knowledge of each truth. This is similar to hearing and learning about the dharma
through our intelligence.
Listening to talks or reading or meditating.
The second phase is to know
the “tasks” that are to be achieved regarding each truth. These tasks of the second phase
are as follows:
understand the truth
To abandon what
needs to be let go of
To realize or
actualize the truth
To develop and
practice each truth continually
In the third phase, a
practitioner has fully developed and completed each of the previous tasks for
all of the Four Truths. This is to
have a fully realized enlightenment.
These tasks seem to be
presented with such clarity. The
tasks in the second phase seem similar to the “Four R’s” that I have taught
quite often in other contexts. I
found the Four R’s while studying in the Tibetan Buddhist teachings. How do we
truly know something and how do we
actualize it in our life. I am
going to attempt to bring these two outlines together. The similarities seem to me to be a
clue telling us how we really practice with the depth of our misunderstandings about
life. These clues teach us how we
practice and experience freedom.
Recognition – being aware of your
pattern or what you want to bring forth.
Reliance – As we
try to change our patterns, we have to rely on the part of ourselves that feels
connected to the whole. We can
have faith in interdependence and going beyond our “self”. This is how we find
the energy or the power to change how we conduct ourselves in the ordinary,
interrupting our habit patterns through practicing of spiritual principles or
mindfulness tasks. We can develop
a deep strength which keeps mindfulness of the teaching and appropriate conduct forever
in our mind and heart.
continuing forever to have these vows in place. We know that to deeply change, we have to resolve to
interrupt our old thinking over and over whenever the old patterns arise. We cannot give up!
I have taught the Four “R’s”
quite a lot but usually in the context of letting go of our habituated habit
patterns. These patterns are based
on a person’s desire system that revolves around a “self.” When we revolve around a
supposedly solid self, naturally we feel we have to defend ourselves through
habit patterns based on our needs and the poisons that grow around them -
greed, anger and ignorance.
When I look at the four
tasks to actualizing the Four Noble Truths in our life, they are surprisingly
similar to the Four R’s. In accomplishing each truth by practicing these tasks,
we grow towards the actualization of these truths in our life. The Four R’s as I have previously
taught them, seem to be placed mainly in #2 of the second phase – to abandon what needs to be let go of. However, I think they are suggested by
the other phases as well.
The first phase – to recognize and have the knowledge of each
truth and #1 in the second phase, to
fully understand the truth can be related to “A” Recognition. This recognition or awareness is
intellectually understanding the teaching. This awareness can also include “B”
– Reliance. We know that we need
to always rely on the Four Refuges of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
understanding isn’t enough. We
need to experience these truths and bring forth a change in how we understand
the world and its reflection in how we behave. The second phase #3 to realize or actualize the truth, can be related to
“C”-Remedy. What is the remedy to
Samsara? In order to interrupt
samsara, we have to actualize in each moment these truths. The present moment is the truth
happening place. It is the only place where we find the intersection of time and space. It is the only place where we can act - where ordinary and extraordinary come
The second phase #4 - to develop and practice each truth
continually, seems to correspond to “D”-Resolve -over and over, we practice
and stay with our vow. Over and over we stay with the present conditions and bring in our truths. We must continually pick ourselves up from our mistakes
and start again.
The Third phase concludes: a
practitioner who has fully developed and completed each of the previous tasks
will have a fully realized enlightenment.
Labels: enlightenment, Four Noble Truths, how to practice, the Four R's, The Four Tasks