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Excerpts from Shunryu Suzuki lectures - 2014-5
[laughs] = Suzuki laughs [laughter] = students laugh

On the Four Noble Truths - in an unusual order

One of a number of instances where Suzuki talked about the Four Noble Truths. I think he's making a mistake at the end of this excerpt when he says that the path is number three. Maybe there's some list that says so, but I've only heard and read it as number four. I noticed Suzuki making that sort of slip from time to time. Seemed to me he didn't care if a detail was off. He was into the spirit. One way I saw it he was like a card dealer with the cards in a new deck being the Buddhist teachings in proper order. He'd take the deck out of it's box and shuffle it and as he dealt each card call out, "Buddha, buddha, buddha, buddha."


That is the first teaching he told the five disciples. It could be a strong teaching. And you cannot deny it, it is very true. And no one can help you, as long as we care for something concrete, something substantial, something more materialistic, when in reality everything is changing, including ourselves. So in this sense we cannot rely on even ourselves. But still he says the only thing you can rely on is you. You exist right now-- this is a more advanced way of explaining it. But Buddha says you should rely on yourself because that is the only thing you can rely on. Anyway, the first teaching is that this world is full of suffering.


The next teaching is the cause of suffering. What is the cause of suffering? The cause of suffering is self-centered ideas, the self which thinks everything is constant, including ourselves, and everything is enjoyable, and everything has self nature, and everything is substantial. Because of this kind of understanding, which has those four elements, we suffer. The way to get out of suffering is the way to attain realization, which is the third truth.


The relationship between the teaching of the cause of suffering and the teaching that we have suffering is that one is cause and the other is effect. That we have suffering here is the effect, and the cause, or reason, we suffer is that we have in our minds the four elements of eternity, enjoyment, self, and substantiality. So here Buddha has given the teaching of cause and effect.


And what is nirvana? Nirvana is well attained when we know this cause and effect. When we know what the reason for suffering is, then we will be free from suffering. That is the Buddha's teaching of the four noble truths.


Student __: Roshi, which one of these is the eightfold path?


SR: The eightfold noble path is the way to attain nirvana. The first truth is suffering, then the cause of suffering, the way to attain renunciation, and nirvana. So the eight holy paths is the third truth.

from Lotus Sutra, Lecture No. 7, Oct 1968 [68-10-00-F] - Doesn't say who edited, likely Brian Fikes. No audio.

Four Vows on Buddha Net