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Introduction

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The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
"The Turning of the Wheel of Dharma" Sutra
The Buddha's First Sermon

Lesson 3:  The Second Noble Truth: The Cause of Suffering

Before you read:



The Text



The Text

Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth
translated by
Ņanamoli Thera

.

Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion
translated by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth
translated by
Piyadassi Thera

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"The origin of  suffering, as a noble truth, is this: It is the craving that produces renewal of being  accompanied by enjoyment and lust, and enjoying this and that; in other words, craving  for sensual desires, craving for being, craving for non-being.

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And  this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming -- accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there --  i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for  non-becoming.

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"The Noble Truth of the Origin (cause) of Suffering is this:  It is this craving (thirst) which produces re-becoming (rebirth) accompanied by  passionate greed, and finding fresh delight now here, and now there, namely craving for  sense pleasure, craving for existence and craving for non-existence (self-annihilation).

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The Questions



 The Questions

To answer the Questions, please use the Comments page.  Please send your comments on this lesson by Wednesday, July 19, 2006.  (Comments are welcome any time; this "deadline" is just for those keeping pace with the study.)

Question #1: The "Second Noble Truth" can be summarized: "We suffer because we desire." Do you agree with this statement? (see responses)

Question #2: The Pali term for "suffering" is tanha. What do you know of this term that can add to our understanding of it? (see responses)

Question #3: The Buddha gives a list of the results of desire: "re-becoming (rebirth)... passionate greed... finding fresh delight now here, and now there." Which of these is more common? Which are less? (see responses)

Question #4: The Buddha gives a list of the types of desire: "craving for  sense pleasure, craving for existence and craving for non-existence (self-annihilation)." Which of these is more common? Which are less? (see responses)

Application #1: Of the three results of desire named in Question #3, which troubles you the most?  The least? (see responses)

Application #2: Of the three types of desire named in Question #4, which troubles you the most?  The least? (see responses)

Application #3: How can we minimize desire in our lives? (see responses)

Comments and questions regarding other aspects of this passage are also welcome.

Make your Comments here!



 



The Comments



The Comments



 


Question #1


Question #1: The "Second Noble Truth" can be summarized: "We suffer because we desire." Do you agree with this statement?

Response by James:

At first glance, no. I would say that I suffer because I make stupid decisions. But then, on reflection, I realize that many of those decisions are based on what I want--in other words, my desire.

One missing factor in this equation is the role of Fear. I mean, many of my stupidest decisions are motivated by fear. But seen from another angle, I think desire is important in those decisions, too.

For example, if I fear losing my job, it also reflects a desire to keep that job. If I fear death, it entails a desire to live. So fear is in fact a "flip side" to desire.

(Written July 22, 2006; Posted July 31, 2006)



Question #2


Question #2: The Pali term for "suffering" is tanha. What do you know of this term that can add to our understanding of it?

Response by James:

According to the Venerable Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary, the word tanha  is "the chief root of suffering, and of the ever-continuing cycle of rebirths." It is also the eighth step in the twelve-step round of dependent origination.

To put it in general terms, tanha--like the "love of money"--is the root of all "evil." It is the impulse which gives rise to the clinging which in turn gives rise to continual rebirth, and thus continual suffering.

(Written July 22, 2006; Posted July 31, 2006)


 


Question #3


Question #3: The Buddha gives a list of the results of desire: "re-becoming (rebirth)... passionate greed... finding fresh delight now here, and now there." Which of these is more common? Which are less?

Response by James:

At the root of the other two is "re-becoming": were we not re-born, we would not continue to be greedy and seek "fresh delight," which I see as running after novelties.

This search for novelty seems to be the driving force of our age. I remember when I was a kid, and there were seven TV channels in the L.A. market (eight, if you could tune in that weird channel called "UHF"--we didn't know there was anything there but the one educational channel <shiver>). There were a couple of newspapers, and A.M. radio, and that was about it. Now, when I visit home and try to find out what's on TV, the show is half-over before I can read through the guide.

We are media-glutted and wisdom-starved. There is more novelty and less substance than ever before, and it shows in the vacant stares of kids who have to have a pocket electronic game just to get through a 10-minute car ride. I used to teach seventh grade; there were often lulls in class when a smarter kid had finished his work, and asked, "What can I do?" I would recommend, "Run movies in your mind." I wonder if this would work any more.

(Written July 22, 2006; Posted July 31, 2006)


 


Question #4


Question #4: The Buddha gives a list of the types of desire: "craving for  sense pleasure, craving for existence and craving for non-existence (self-annihilation)." Which of these is more common? Which are less?

Response by James:

I suspect craving for sense-pleasure is the most common (see my answer to Question #3). Craving for non-existence is probably the least. In making this observation, the Buddha was probably looking at some of the sects of his time, such as the Jains, who seem to desire "self-annihilation" (though I admit this may be a caricature of their belief). Anyway, it is undeniable that there is a small minority who do not crave life, but death; they don't tend to stay around too long, so their numbers remain small!

(Written July 22, 2006; Posted July 31, 2006)


 


Application #1


Application #1: Of the three results of desire named in Question #3, which troubles you the most?  The least?

Response by James:

I may have already "tipped my hand" above: "finding fresh delight now here, and now there" troubles me the most. Although I am not much of a media junkie, I probably spend more time at the computer than I should, "surfing for novelty."

(Written July 22, 2006; Posted July 31, 2006)


 


Application #2


Application #2: Of the three types of desire named in Question #4, which troubles you the most?  The least?

Response by James:

I crave existence; I do not crave non-existence. Sense pleasure is, for me, a by-product of existence, but it is existence itself that I crave. I have more than once stated that I don't want nirvana yet: there's so much more living to do!

(Written July 22, 2006; Posted July 31, 2006)


 


Application #3


Application #3: How can we minimize desire in our lives?

Response by James:

I think the key here is to learn to be satisfied with what we have; and then to be willing to let that go, since everything changes, and to learn to accept change, as well.

(Written July 22, 2006; Posted July 31, 2006)


 

..Contents other than translations (C) 2006 James Baquet

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