Saturday, July 17, 2010

The 4 Noble Truths

In case you're curious about the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism (What are they? How do they apply to yoga? Are they relevant to my life?) this post is for you.

John Campbell gave a great talk on these last weekend, using a metaphor to the medical world which I appreciated! A summary:

Truth #1: Suffering is the nature of reality.
Diagnosis of a disease: You have an all-encompassing disease of never-ending suffering. You must realize this before you can do anything about it. 

Kinds of suffering:
  • Self-evident suffering: physical pain, emotional angst (i.e. my back hurts, my wrists hurt, my feelings hurt, etc)
  • The suffering associated with the impermanence of all things: the experience of happiness or pleasure is fleeting and cannot be recreated (i.e. the endorphin-high after my morning running feels amazing now but will not last forever)
  • Suffering is a pervasive condition: Things will always change, there will always be some sort of suffering
Truth #2: There is a cause for our suffering.
There is a cause for our disease: The cause is our cravings, attachments, and “thirst” for things. We have an addictive relationship to desire. Our senses are always bringing in information from the outside world and we think we can’t be fulfilled until we get what we want.

We live by constantly fulfilling temporary thirsts: find food, find a good job, find a lover. We think we are happy. But things will change: your job won't stay the same, you will be separated from your lover, you will age, your body will change, etc. 

Truth #3: We can remove this suffering.
There is a cure for our disease: It is possible to end this suffering and stop our incessant cravings.

Truth #4: Suffering can be removed by following the 8-fold path.
The treatment is this 8-fold path: right thoughts, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

These overlap with the 8 limbs of yoga (“Ashtanga” = 8 limbs). Both start with ethical disciplines such as being truthful. This helps develop the right state of mind so that we can control our sensations, the mind can begin to focus inward, and we can then become more aware of our cravings and attachments.


  1. Dear Christina
    This is very useful. Living as I did in San Francisco, I found the interaction between the two subjects discussed a lot. One of my Ashtanga teachers there had also lived in a Buddhist monastery for a while in her life. I found yoga and Zen to be complementary.

  2. Hi Arturo, thanks for your comment. As I learn more about both yoga and buddhism I'm also finding them to be wonderfully complementary. I'm glad to hear SF has some good discussions going on... can't wait to move out there!