Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Four Noble Truths: An analogy

I have heard the Four Noble Truths being compared to the virtues of a good physician. As a spiritual traveler, we can consider ourselves the patient. We know we would be disappointed if we were ill, and the doctor denied anything was wrong and prescribed nothing. Likewise, we would be upset if we went to the doctor and they told us that the situation was hopeless. The Four Noble Truths does several things, it recognizes 1) something is wrong, 2) makes a diagnosis, 3) makes a prognosis and 4) prescribes medicine to us, the 'patient'.

However, please keep in mind two distinct differences. Whereas the workings of viruses and bacteria are often beyond our direct control, we have the distinct ability as humans to direct our own spiritual development. You can make your ailments known to others, but the only one who can administer spiritual medicine is you. As the Buddha said, "Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others."

The second (and very important) difference is that although the word 'patient' is used, it does not imply that our minds are inherently 'sick' or 'muddied'. According to Buddhist thought, the mind is inherently pure; defilement is created by desire and by our previous karmic experiences. 

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May all beings be happy!

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