According to Buddhist teachings, the first noble truth is the
acknowledgement of suffering, dukkha. Dukkha is subdivided into three
categories: physical and mental pain and discomfort, apprehension of future pain
and existential dissatisfaction. The second noble truth is that suffering is
caused by craving, tanha. Tanha stems from vedana, feeling. The objects of
craving are termed kama tanha, craving for sensation, bhavan tanha, craving for
a particular state of being or for ongoing existence, and vibhava tanha, craving
for oblivion. The third noble truth is the cessation of suffering, attained
through Buddhist practice, which described as “going for refuge”. The fourth
noble truth concerns liberation, the ending of suffering (nirodha) achieved
through espousal of the noble eightfold path (Samyutta Nikaya). This is a
moderate way, (magga), a “householder’s path”, avoiding the extremes of both
hedonism and asceticism. Those precepts concerning mind and the inner world
relate to ethical speech, action, livelihood, .thought, understanding,
concentration, effort and mindfulness. An enjoinder to live continently and do
no harm epitomises the pragmatic nature of the code.
Mindfulness meditation arises from the Buddhist tradition. The technique aims to
bring about a state of non-reactive attention, in which mental contents can be
witnessed impartially without reaction. No theoretical meaning is imposed on
intrapsychic phenomena, although the experience is set in the context of
Buddhist teachings about anicca, the impermanence of all phenomena,
non-identification with the egoic self and dukkha, the various forms of
Craving, tanha, one of the key mental processes which Buddhism sees as
afflictive, is based on a distinction between subject and object, an unrealistic
exaggeration of an object’s desirable characteristics and diminution of its less
desirable features. It involves displacement of the source of wellbeing from the
subject’s own mind to external objects, and it engenders anxiety, frustration
and discontentment. Identification with tanha is viewed as harmful.
The second affliction, hatred, is a destructive impulse towards any obstruction
to the gratification of tanha. It involves projection of the resented qualities
onto the object, and denial of the source of the anger.
The third affliction is the belief in and attempt to sustain the illusion of a
permanent, fixed personal identity. This erroneous belief, and the actions that
arise from it, are seen as the roots of all suffering.
Psychology recognises that states can change, but sees dispositional traits as
immutable. Psychological methods to cultivate healthy mental attributes are
employed only in psychopathology. Buddhism, however, offers techniques for the
modification of affective characteristics and the development of sukha, which
refers to not only positive affect but a deep sense of contentment and qualities
of compassion, resilience and empathic awareness. These involve discipline,
effort, the refining of skill over many years and ongoing practice.