The Four Noble Truths are basic to Buddhist practice. They originate with the Buddha’s first sermon near Varanasi/India in 528 BC. The tell us that (1) there’s suffering; (2) there’s a cause or origin of suffering; (3) there’s an end to suffering; and (4) there’s a path out of suffering.
Nothing fancy, just that life if filled with suffering (among other things). But I don’t suffer, you say. My life’s going pretty well. I have what I need, I like what I like, and tomorrow is another day. Or, you might admit that, yes, there’s suffering (or discomfort, or issues, or problems, or challenges) in my life and I don’t like them. I wish they’d go away. Maybe when I find the right partner, the new job; when my health improves, my finances get sorted, and my boss eases up on me, then I’ll be all right. Or when this economic crisis ends, global warming gets under control, and there’s no more war, then I’ll be happy. Meanwhile, how can I get out of what you call ‘suffering’? How can I stop the pain, the discomfort, the injustice?
But that’s not the First Noble Truth: it simply states that there is suffering. Here’s an example of how it works for me. For the last week I’ve been experiencing pain in my lower back. It hurts when I get up from a lying or sitting position. I hurts when I bent, also when I lift things. I don’t like any of this! What’s more, it scares me to have this pain for which there’s little relief or remedy. So the lamenting voice starts whining within: O no! I’m getting old and decrepit. I don’t like this inconvenience. I fear that I can’t go to work anymore, etc. What starts as a sensation (occasional pain) expands into a catastrophe (there goes my quality of life).
The First Noble Truth reminds me to accept the fact that it hurts when I get up. That’s all. Everything else is of my own making — and Voila! there’s the edge of my practice. Back pain becomes my teacher.