The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths serve as the foundation of all the Buddha's teachings that deal with suffering.

  1. The First Truth:  
    All life is suffering - meaning not simply physical pain, but also disharmonies and problems in all life's spheres, from personal, physical and mental to economic and social.
  2. The Second Truth:  
    The cause of suffering is desire, because humans always want what they do not have.
  3. The Third Truth:  
    Suffering will end when we are free from desire.
  4. The Fourth Truth:  
    Release from desire and suffering will occur as a result of following the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is a collection of the Buddha's teachings that create a guide for virtuous living.  The Eightfold Path is not eight consecutive steps on a journey to perfection, but eight elements that the Buddhist should aim to practice all at once.  Each element of the path deals with a specific human activity.

The Elements:

The first, right understanding, means that a Buddhist must grasp the Four Noble Truths and understand the nature of existence.
The second, right intention (or right thought), indicates that the person must want to change, and in doing so must rid their mind of negative thoughts and feelings, and especially of desire.
The third, right speech, involves telling the truth and not boasting or using coarse language.
The fourth, right conduct, means that a person's actions must try to be without ego or thought of self, and they must be good and moral in order to defeat evil.
The fifth, right occupation, means choosing a job that is useful and does not involve such things as bloodshed, arms dealing or people trafficking.
The sixth, right effort, involves cultivating self-knowledge and self-discipline.
The seventh, right mindfulness, advocates for avoiding extremes and banishing wives such as malevolence, doubt and worry.
Finally, the eighth, right concentration, is concerned with cultivating a meditation practice.

Source: Religions (Philip Wilkinson)