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Second Noble Truth

Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the origination of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress is to be abandoned’ … ‘This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned.’ — Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Saṃyutta-Nikāya 56.11)

The core of the Second Noble Truth is practically identical to Dependent Origination. The natural law of Dependent Origination (paticcasamuppada) discovered and taught by the Buddha is extremely profound; consequently, most people can’t understand it. In fact Dependent Origination is so difficult to comprehend that even great scholars commit serious errors and distort the Buddha’s teaching. In this section, we carefully analyze Dependent Origination (also called Dependent Arising, Dependent Co-arising) since it is the key to understanding the arising of suffering (dukkha), the Second Noble Truth.

While the Four Noble Truths are the ontological structure of the Buddha’s teaching, Dependent Origination is the functional essence of Buddhist practice. Dependent Origination is the perfect and ultimate Truth; hence, it is called mahā-ariyasacca (the Great Truth). It must be inquired into, discussed and observed in oneself until it is fully understood. Releasing the causes of dukkha requires proper understanding of Dependent Origination. Anyone who can comprehend Dependent Origination is in a position to cultivate the Eightfold Noble Path and end his suffering.

Dependent Origination reveals that the ego is not independent, but dependent on other conditions. This frees us from the erroneous belief of ‘an everlasting self.’ As discussed in previous sections the ‘I’, ‘self’ or ego is not factually present, but is fabricated by clinging to the five aggregates. The idea of a continuous ego or ‘self’ is the root of our ignorance. We deceive ourselves by continuous fabrications of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, sustaining the illusion of ‘an everlasting self’. The Buddha taught Dependent Origination to help us see through this illusion.

The Second Noble Truth is vital to serious students of Buddhism. It leads to seeing the original cause of suffering, and this helps us to overcome suffering. If we are indeed caught in a trap of illusion as the Buddha asserts, then to escape we have to know the structure of the trap, how it is built and how it operates. Dependent Origination reveals the precise structure and nature of the trap, leading to the understanding of how we can escape from the suffering of conditioned existence and attain enlightenment.

We use a direct interpretation of Dependent Origination. We circumvent the various commentaries and refer directly to the original Pāli Suttas. We focus on practical application of the Buddha’s teaching for those who intend to free themselves from suffering in this very life. Dependent Origination is a deep, comprehensive analysis of the origin of suffering. Understanding Dependent Origination helps us see clearly how to practice the Buddha’s teaching.

Contents ← Prev | Next → Introduction to Dependent Origination

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