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In the Four Noble Truths, Buddha captures the essence of suffering and the means of its cessation. The first truth says that ‘Life means suffering.’ The world is subject to imperfections and impermanence. Consequently, human existence is equally subject to imperfections; suffering, pain, sadness etc, and impermanence; short lived happiness. The second truth, ‘The Origin of Suffering is Attachment,’ explains that people suffer because of the obsession with, craving for and clinging to transient things that don’t last. When one fails to get them or loses what he had, he feels the loss and suffers as a consequence. Thirdly, the truth ‘The Cessation of Suffering is Attainable’ teaches that human beings can undergo a process that dissipates their cravings and obsession for material things. And finally, the truth about ‘The Path to the Cessation of Suffering’ outlines the gradual stages through which total freedom from worldly attachment will be achieved.
An understanding of the truths- knowing why suffering is possible and necessary, and the path out of it- is the raft that Buddha talked about. In other words, knowledge is the vessel to take one to the next level (Tsering et al, 2005 p 16). The farther shore is the new state of being, i.e. freedom from worldly pleasures and their trappings. The four noble truths, thus, is the knowledge (raft) that transforms/transports one from the world of materialism (craving, obsession and desires) to the world immaterialism (freedom from obsession and craving).
Buddhism gives insight into the imperfect nature of the world, and the human disposition to crave for wealth, power, pleasure and happiness. It is a fact that at any given time, men are struggling to achieve either of the above. If human beings were to embrace the teachings of the four noble truths, then men will attach little value to material possessions as a way of grating one’s status (self identity), and pursue character development instead. Perhaps the world will be a safer, friendlier and a little more comfortable place to live. The problem, however, is that without ambition, desire and competition to motivate people, everybody will stay at home; every activity will come to a stand still- and life will become very boring. Buddha, it is widely believed, was very bored with life.