The Buddha cracked the mystery of human suffering when he realised what he called “the three marks of existence” – three characteristics that apply to all human beings:
One, impermanence: nothing on earth endures in its present state forever: everything is temporary and changes.
Therefore, second, as long as we are attached to things and conditions that must inevitably change and cannot last, we will suffer.
And third, the cause of our suffering is craving that which is impermanent, including our desire to maintain our separated existence.
These three marks of existence, plus a map for finding our way out of this existence through the Eightfold Path, constitutes the Four Noble Truths. These are the essence of the Buddha’s teaching that he preached in his first sermon after he attained enlightenment, and they constitute the framework of his teaching over the remaining decades of his long life: that everything in manifestation is impermanent and therefore subject, some say, to decay – the ageless wisdom says to transformation; that to cling to, crave or desire the impermanent is to suffer; and the only release from suffering is to stop craving, clinging and desiring – anything and everything. The Buddha gave clear and precise instructions for how to accomplish this, and that’s why the religion that developed of his life teaching is called by its followers, not Buddhism, but “the dharma” – the law.
The Four Noble Truths
The pain of embodied existence, caused by constantly recurring births and deaths.
The cause of these sufferings lies in ignorance, in the thirst for self-gratification through earthly possessions, which drag after them the perpetual repetition of imperfect existence.
The cessation of suffering lies in the attainment of a state of enlightened all-inclusiveness, thus creating the possibility of conscious interception of the circle of earthly existence.
The path of cessation of these pains consists in gradual strengthening of the elements necessary for the annihilation of the causes of earthly existence and for approaching the great truth.
The Eightfold Path
Gotama divided the path to this truth into eight paths.
Right understanding (that which concerns the law of causes)
Right vigilance and self-discipline