Having thus taught the First Wheel Of Dharma on the Four Noble Truths three times, (The Buddha) established his retinue such as the five excellent disciples and countless other sentient beings in liberation.
In the context of teaching on the essence of the Four Noble Truths and in order to make the four subjects and (their respective) objects of engagement easier to understand, a brief commentary is given:
The Buddha’s statement “This is the Noble Truth of Suffering” (lit.: “The Truth of Suffering of The Noble Ones”) is true (in the sense that) the aggregates that perpetuate defilements are in the nature of suffering. This is a truth because all sublime beings see or know reality as it is.
Moreover, from Sutra:
The childish, who are like the palm of the hand
Do not notice the hair of conditioned suffering
The Exalted, who are like an eye,
give rise strongly to the mind of renunciation
The meaning of what has thus been stated in Sutra is as follows: From among the three kinds of suffering, the first two are coarse and ordinary beings are therefore able to see (them), whereas the pervasive suffering of conditioning is subtle and, except for exalted beings, invisible for ordinary people.
In the context of saying “This is the Noble Truth of the Origin” (lit.: “The Truth of the Origin of The Noble Ones”) (Buddha refers to the fact that) the aggregates that perpetuate defilements do not originate causelessly nor from discordant causes but arise from karma and afflictions. This is a truth because all sublime beings see or know reality as it is.
On the occasion of stating “This is the Noble Truth of Cessation” (lit.: “The Truth of Cessation of The Noble Ones”) (Buddha refers to) whether or not, upon examination, the causes of suffering, that is to say karma and afflictions, (can be) exhausted and removed from ones mental continuum. As sublime beings have exhausted (them), this is a truth as they see or know reality as it is.
(Moreover it relates to) whether or not, upon examination, one has achieved exhaustion of the causes, i.e. origin (of suffering) that need to be removed, in one’s mindstream. As all sublime beings have achieved (this ) by relying on both method and wisdom, it is a truth because sublime beings see or know reality as it is.
In the context of the so called Four Noble Truths one should understand the subjects and (their respective) objects of engagement that have thus been pointed out.
Now, a brief clarification on the way and need of the instructions in accordance with the stages of the path:
If one knows the calamities of suffering from the very beginning, then one will naturally give rise to a mind that wishes to give up the (respective) causes, i.e. origin, for their arising. For example, if someone who is affected by a physical illness from the very beginning knows the specific illness’ nature, he will generate from within a motivation and a wish to treat the illness in order to uproot its causes.
Beings who strive for liberation and who know the qualities and distinctive characteristics of the Truth of Cessation, i.e. the result of liberation from the very beginning, will generate from within the motivation and the wish to engage in the stages of the path in order to achieve stable happiness. It is, for instance, as if the beauty of a scenery and (its) attributes are being pointed out whereupon one naturally generates the wish to go to that (particular) place.
From Maitreya’s Sublime Continuum (Uttaratantra):
Illness should be known and Illness’ causes should be abandoned. Just like relying on medicine for the sake of achieving a state of happiness, one should know suffering and its causes and rely on its cessation and likewise the path, that is to say the object of knowledge as well as the object of abandonment. One should practice in accordance with what has been said.
(B)2.b.2.c. The extensive explanation on the Four Noble Truths has four parts:
A) Explanation on the Truth of Suffering
B) Explanation on the Truth of the Origin (of Suffering)
C) Explanation on the Truth of Cessation
D) Explanation on the Truth of the Path
(B)2.b.2.c.A) The explanation on the Truth of Suffering has three points:
1. General explanation on suffering in order to gain an understanding of the drawbacks of cyclic existence
2. Explanation on each one of the (kinds of sufferings) in particular
3. The way to refute the four wrong perspectives of the Non-Buddhists
(B)2.b.2.c.A)1. The general explanation on suffering has five parts:
a. Suffering of suffering
b. Suffering of change
c. Pervasive suffering of conditioning
d. Uncleanness of the aggregates
e. Selflessness of the aggregates
a. Suffering of suffering has four sections:
1. Suffering of birth
2. Suffering of old age
3. Suffering of sickness
4. Suffering of death
(B)2.b.2.c.A)1.a.1. Suffering of birth
The way the aggregates are in the nature of (undergoing) the suffering of birth is thus stated in the Sutra for Nanda on Entering the Womb (Garbhava Kranti Sutra):
After all the limbs and minor parts of the body have developed, one drops down and raises in a decayed place of urine with an overwhelmingly bad smell; seeing (its) darkness, it is very frightening and one has to abide in the womb, a decayed place full of urine, bad smell, blood, lymph which is always leaking. Due to the ripening of previous karmic actions the wind energy makes one’s legs facing upwards and one’s head facing downwards; both arms are bent and one is squeezed by the pelvic bones and always and thoroughly in pain. This great feeling of suffering is very harsh, unbearable, unpleasant and makes the body’s limbs turn blue like a fresh wound. All body sense powers get a burning sensation. Due to being covered up by the very impure womb the lips and throat dry up and (there is a burning sensation in) the heart. Being closed in this fearful and unbearable place, hardships as these come about as the wind element arises due to the ripening of previous actions and their respective causes and condition. As soon as (one) emerges from it, the outer air feels like a wound touched by a sharp item and when being touched by hand or getting in contact with clothes, it is like being cut with a sword. This great feeling of suffering becomes a very harsh, unbearable and unpleasant experience. In accordance with what has been said, gain certainty that the aggregrates are in the nature of (undergoing) the suffering of birth.
(B)2.b.2.c.A)1.a.2. Suffering of old age
The reason why the aggregates are subject to the suffering of old age is as follows:
After the the entire attractiveness of a young person’s body gradually has declined, he walks bent like a bow, his face coverd by wrinkles. The hair becomes white like a conch, (when) walking and sitting he shakes and moves. Although thinking he needs to say or do something, while the body’s strength has declined, he suffers (due to) being left alone in his resting place. Due to the waning of the five sense powers such as the eye sense faculty, forms are unclear. Sounds he wishes to listen to are difficult to hear. Although smelling fragrances, they are difficult to notice. Despite of eating delicious food, it does not have a taste. Although wearing soft clothes, he is not aware of it. Such feelings and perceptions of suffering arise.
Moreover, not wishing to meet with unpleasant enemies, he (encounters) the suffering of meeting them again and again whereas while wishing to meet with beloved friends, he (undergoes) the suffering of repeatedly being seperated from them. Despite of having engaged in business, he does not gain profit. Seeking pleasures, he does not find them whereas he suddenly encounters things he does not wish for; in the middle of all that suffering, having aged, he enounters death.
In the Extensive Sport Sutra (Lalitavistara) it is said:
Old age makes a beautiful body ugly
Old age takes away splendor, takes away strength
Old age takes away happiness, old age despises
Old age makes you die and diminishes radiance
(B)2.b.2.c.A)1.a.3. Suffering of sickness
The aggregates are in the nature of (undergoing) the suffering of sickness (in the sense that) due to unsuitable food one may become sick and through experiencing various pains, suffering arises. Through conditions of an unsuitable lifestyle illness, dispair, quarrel and arguments come about due to which one experiences the suffering of encountering many different kinds of sicknesses. Various kinds of illnesses of the disturbed four elements make the suffering of torment come about.
As it is said in the Extensive Sport Sutra (Lalitavistara):
In winter winds and snow deprive
grass and forest’s tree branches of their radiance.
Likewise illness deprives beings of their luminosity.
(B)2.b.2.c.A)1.a.4. Suffering of death
At one time when the aggregates meet with a (certain) condition and when the body and life-force get seperated, the body drops down onto the resting place. After the power of the five senses has gradually declined and until the stopping of the breath one experiences continuous and unbearable suffering. This is an uncontrived reality.
Likewise, if one carefully and persistently thinks about the samsaric phenomenon (such as) the uncertainty of friends and enemies, the impact of the mind of attachment for the conditioned aggregates and the mind that cherishes them will gradually be discarded; in order to increase that ability it is furthermore stated in the Sutra Requested by Subahu (Subahupariprcchatantra): After a little while enemies turn into friends and likewise friends turn into enemies. Similarily someone becomes a neutral person and a neutral person becomes an enemy (or) a friend. Having understood (that matter) the intelligent ones never give rise to attachment. Through opposing the mental conceptuality that is inclined towards friends, establish yourself in virtues as much you can.
Practice these profound instructions that have thus been stated.