Let’s talk about the Dhamma. Dhamma in Pāli, or dharma for the Sanskrit purists, has several important meanings. But what I want to talk about today is Dhamma in its most profound, essential sense.
Dhamma means ‘the way it is’. More specifically, ‘what it is about the way it is that makes it the way it is.’ In other words, we are talking about qualities of Being.
The English word ‘being’ is the gerund or noun form of the verb ‘to be’: to exist, to occur, to remain, to manifest a certain state or quality. Being is the most important word in any language. We’re not talking about having or doing, thinking or knowing—and certainly not about believing—we’re talking about Being: the way it really is.
And how is it? For almost everyone, life is suffering. In other words, the principal quality manifested by or in their existence is suffering.
Now I expect some of you to deny this: you will insist that ‘I am not suffering, in fact I am enjoying’. And that may be true at this moment or at certain other moments in your existence. When you are in the prime of life you can get together a nice act that, temporarily at least, looks like not-suffering.
But taken as a whole, life is suffering. Why is it that the very first thing a newborn baby does is cry? Birth is suffering. Why is it that people do everything possible to avoid death? Death is suffering. And during our life there are so many other kinds of suffering. Everyone has good days and bad days. That’s suffering. The Buddha said:
“That’s the way it is, Ānanda. When young, one is subject to aging; when healthy, subject to illness; when alive, subject to death.” — Jara Sutta (SN 48.41)
Life begins and ends in suffering, and in between there is also suffering. Work is suffering; relationships are suffering; politics and broken promises and all the stupid, ugly things that people say and do are suffering. So you can’t deny that life is suffering.
The Buddha called this fact—that life is suffering, and that’s just the way it is—the First Noble Truth. It is a very deep, deep truth. In fact, if you understand this truth as deeply as possible and actually realize it for yourself, you immediately become enlightened.
Because if there is suffering in life, it must have a cause. The cause of suffering is the Second Noble Truth, and the Buddha’s teaching gives this cause as Dependent Origination: the fact that, since everything in existence is dependent on some prior cause, it is also subject to passing away or changing into something else.
If there is a cause of suffering, suffering can cease by removing that cause. The cessation of suffering is the Third Noble Truth of the Buddha’s teaching. Since according to the First Noble Truth, suffering and being or becoming are practically synonymous, the cessation of suffering is also the cessation of all types of being and becoming in conditioned existence. In other words, the cessation of suffering occurs by attaining unconditioned existence or Nibbāna.
Finally, the possibility of attaining Nibbāna means that there must be a Path or method to attaining it. This Eightfold Noble Path is the Fourth Noble Truth of the Buddha’s teaching.
In actual practice, the Four Noble Truths are interpenetrating and interdependent. Therefore to fully realize any one of the Four Noble Truths is to realize all four. This is Dhamma in the full meaning of the term: to realize suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and walk the Path to the cessation of suffering. And attaining the fruition of this Path is the purpose of The Dharmasar Solution.