The Buddha’s First Teaching (1)

As a result of the Buddha's three turnings of the Dharma Wheel even the least gifted of the five monks became enlightened6, and became aryas, awakened ones, the Buddha's first disciples, and the first sangha--the community of Buddhist monks. For forty-nine years afterward, the Buddha continued to expound on the Four Noble Truths and all the other teachings of the Buddhadharma until he entered great nirvana. Prior to that, he always admonished his disciples and followers to abide by the precepts (vinaya)7, to accept the Dharma as their teacher, and take liberation (nirvana) as their ultimate goal.

What is abiding by the precepts? It is to live ethically, harmoniously, and with stability. What is accepting the Dharma as your teacher? It means taking the Four Noble Truths as the fundamental teaching, and understanding that existence is characterized by impermanence. It is to understand that all things inherently lack independent existence, and are empty of self. It is to believe in the cessation of suffering and in the certainty of ultimate liberation in nirvana. To understand this is to practice the three seals of the Dharma (three marks of existence): suffering, impermanence, and no-self. And how does one realize the three seals? One begins with the practice of the Four Noble Truths.

What is it to have liberation as one's goal? To have liberation as one's goal, one must fully understand the workings of conditioned arising--that all things arise as a result of many different causes and conditions. To understand the nature of our existence, we begin by understanding the twelve links of conditioned arising8 that determine the shape and path of our life as it unfolds. If one can contemplate these twelve links, one will fully understand the causes of suffering, as well as the way out of suffering towards liberation9.

Thus, the Four Noble Truths encompass the complete teachings of the Buddha and include the three seals of the Dharma, and the twelve links of conditioned arising. Therefore, to realize the goal of the Four Noble Truths, one must also understand and contemplate suffering, impermanence, no-self, and conditioned arising.

Although Buddhism can be divided into various schools such as the Theravada, the Mahayana, the Vajrayana, the sudden and the gradual10, and so on, all of them have as their basis the Four Noble Truths, without which, they could not be considered Buddhist. With this brief introduction, let us now proceed to arrive at a deeper understanding of the Four Noble Truths.

《Setting in Motion the Dharma Wheel》p. 0004-0005

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