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  • So here's a question.

  • Which recording artist sang the most Buddhist

  • song in the history of popular music?

  • Now obviously, there's no officially correct answer to that question.

  • But if you want to know someone that I think should at least be

  • in the running for that title, that is, believe it or not, this guy.

  • That's right.

  • Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, who famously

  • sang the lyric, I can't get no satisfaction.

  • Now if you've read much Buddhist scripture, you probably don't recall

  • running into that phrase and that's because I don't think it's there.

  • But it does capture a lot of the spirit of what is called The First Noble Truth.

  • And that's what we're going to talk about in this

  • segment of lecture one, along with the Second Noble Truth.

  • Together, they constitute the Buddha's diagnosis of the human predicament.

  • Then later we'll be talking about the Third and Fourth Noble

  • Truths, which embody the Buddha's prescription, his cure for what ails us.

  • These, these Four Noble Truths are foundational to Buddhist thought.

  • The Buddha delivered them in a famous sermon

  • at Deer Park shortly after attaining enlightenment, which

  • in turn happened after he had meditated under a Bodhi tree for a very long time.

  • Now, I should stop here and admit that we

  • don't really know whether what I just said is true.

  • We don't know if the Buddha delivered that sermon, or what he said at it.

  • If he did, we don't know whether he sat under a Bodhi tree.

  • So far as we know, the story of the Buddha, and what he

  • said, was not written down for a very long time after he lived.

  • So, whenever you hear me say the Buddha

  • said this, the Buddha thought that, strictly speaking

  • what I mean is according to Buddhist scripture,

  • the Buddha said this, the Buddha thought that.

  • What we do know is that the Buddha's teachings were

  • being promulgated, well more than two millennia ago, centuries before

  • the time of Jesus, who of course is another foundational

  • religious figure whose sayings we can't really pin down with confidence.

  • Of course, as a matter of faith people may believe that any

  • given foundational religious figure said various things, and that's fine with me.

  • But as a matter of historical scholarship, we just can't be sure.

  • So the First Noble Truth, the one that I'm suggesting has a kind

  • of Mick Jagger aspect, is usually translated

  • into English as The Truth of Suffering.

  • But a lot of scholars think that suffering is really

  • not an adequate translation of the word the Buddha used.

  • It's not that the word is wrong, it's just that it doesn't capture

  • the full breadth of what may have originally been meant by the word.

  • So, maybe we should take a look at the word itself.

  • And for this purpose, and at the risk of seeming like a relic from a simple era,

  • I'm going to make use of a black

  • board and an analog information technology known as chalk.

  • This is the word that is typically translated as suffering, and

  • as you can see I've written it twice with two different spellings.

  • The reason for that is that one is the Sanskrit version

  • and one is in Pali, an ancient language closely related to Sanskrit.

  • The reason this is worth talking about a little is

  • because this is true of key Buddhist terms in general.

  • As you read about Buddhism, you may encounter

  • them in one language or in the other.

  • And in some cases it really matters because

  • that might keep you from even recognizing the term.

  • So, for example, if you ran into this term,

  • Nibbana, you might say what is that?

  • Whereas if you ran into it in this form,

  • Nirvana, you would probably have a slightly clearer idea.

  • Sorry about my handwriting.

  • Nirvana means of course, liberation, liberation from suffering and that is

  • what you get, in theory, if you follow the Four Noble Truths all the way to the end.

  • And there's one other very important term that can appear in

  • either language and is also related to the Four Noble Truths.

  • And that is, in probably the form you'll see it most commonly, dharma.

  • Or if you see it in the Pali, it is dhamma.

  • And it's a very interesting and rich word with a lot of meanings.

  • We don't have time to go into all of them.

  • I want to mention a couple, though.

  • Probably the most common meaning of dharma is to refer to the Buddha's

  • teachings and by extension, the path that the Buddha said we should tread.

  • Okay.

  • But there is a more fundamental meaning of dharma.

  • It refers to kind of the truth about the way the universe is

  • structured or about the, the natural and moral law that structures the universe,

  • that is the truth that is reflected in the Buddha's writings and in his teachings and

  • the, the truth whose implications are spelled out in his teachings

  • but it's the truth itself, not, not just the Buddhist teaching about the truth.

  • So, in other words, you could say that dharma means both, the truth about

  • the way things are and then in, in the other sense of the term,

  • the truth about the way we should live in recognition of the way things

  • are, that is the, the path that is spelled out in the Buddha's teachings.

  • So this is kind of reminiscent of that William James quote

  • we heard earlier, where James said that the essence of religion

  • is the belief that there is an unseen order and the

  • our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves to that order.

  • So dharma in the, in the second sense, in

  • the fundamental sense of the term, is the unseen order.

  • And then it is spelled out to us in the

  • first sense of the term dharma, in the Buddha's teachings.

  • And also there, we find out how to harmoniously adjust ourselves to

  • the unseen order, and, and thereby realize our supreme good, which is Nirvana.

  • if, again, we, we make it all the way through the, the Four Noble Truths and

  • follow them, and their implications, precisely which Brings us back to duhkka.

  • Ok now as I said, a lot of scholars

  • think that the translation of duhkka as suffering is

  • not, not wholly adequate, and if you ask well,

  • what other senses of the term might we add?

  • Well the answer is, and here's a clue,

  • that's right, the most commonly nominated supplementary translation

  • of duhkka, supplementary to suffering, is unsatisfactoriness in life.

  • And one virtue of adding this sense to the meaning of duhkka is

  • that it makes the First Noble Truth sound a little bit more plausible.

  • Because you know, the First Noble of Truth emphasizes the pervasiveness of suffering.

  • One way it's often paraphrased in English is life is suffering.

  • And, you know, the Buddha never quite says that in so many words, as far as I know,

  • life is duhkka, but it, that line does capture the, the sense of things.

  • That, that this duhkka thing is a pervasive part of life.

  • And you know, that you may just, that may not make any sense to you.

  • Right?

  • I mean, there have obviously been times in your

  • life when you felt, you know, you were not suffering.

  • But if you add this sense of unsatisfactoriness to

  • the word, it makes a little more sense I think.

  • So, just to give you an example, let's

  • take one of my favorite things; powdered sugar donuts.

  • Okay, I don't eat them all that often, I'm proud to

  • say, but that does sometimes takes some self restraint, you know.

  • I'm talking about, you may have see them, in these little 6 packs of

  • donuts at a convenience store, each one small enough to pop into your mouth.

  • And if you asked me, while I'm eating one of these, am I suffering?

  • The answer is, I would say no, are you kidding, obviously not.

  • I'm not suffering.

  • On the other hand, it probably is true that,

  • you know, just about as soon as I start swallowing

  • the one donut, I'm already thinking about that next donut,

  • already kind of yearning for another donut at some level.

  • And the fact that I want another donut means

  • that in a literal sense, I didn't get satisfaction.

  • If you get satisfaction, you don't want any more.

  • Right?

  • So this, you know, this, this, this lends some credibility to the First Noble Truth,

  • the idea that there's always a kind of

  • undercurrent of yearning no matter what we get.

  • You know, whether it's donuts or money or sex.

  • You know, feels good, but eventually the time comes

  • when the thrill wears off, you want some more.

  • It just, the pleasure doesn't last.

  • And this, this business of things not lasting is a major theme of the Buddha's.

  • Impermanence is a very common word in Buddhist texts.

  • The idea is that you know, nothing is permanent in the world,

  • certainly not pleasure, and yet we seem to try to cling to things.

  • And here we're actually moving into the Second Noble Truth, which

  • announces the cause of duhkka, the cause of suffering and unsatisfactoriness.

  • And that cause is, it's a word that means something like thirst.

  • It's often translated as craving.

  • And there's a sense of clinging, of trying to hang on.

  • And the Buddha said that, in clinging to things that

  • won't last, you know, we're evincing a kind of delusion.

  • We're just not getting the picture about the impermanence of things.

  • We're not reckoning with the truth about reality.

  • Now I want to emphasize that the stakes of this

  • go way beyond powered sugar donuts in a couple of senses.

  • First of all, we're not just talking about kind of raw, sensory pleasures, okay?

  • It's gratifying things in general.

  • Getting an A on that next exam.

  • Winning the esteem of your friends.

  • Winning the acclaim of society at large.

  • You know, whatever makes you feel good, eventually that

  • feeling will fade, and you're going to want more.

  • Psychologists refer to this as the Hedonic Treadmill.

  • Hedonic, meaning pleasure seeking, and

  • treadmill, meaning you're not getting anywhere.

  • You keep trying, and keep striving after happiness, you don't get any closer to it.

  • And this refers to the finding that when