Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first sermon on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to his five disciples after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya.
The 4 Noble Truths are not actually part of the 7 Sets. Therefore this is technically not part of the 7 sets series… but I’m cheatingly squeezing them in. They’re important.
The four noble truths are:
- The basic problem is suffering. Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
- The origin of suffering is this craving (or attachment) which leads to reincarnation, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for life, craving for death.
- The cure for suffering is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it. (That is, Enlightenment.)
- The cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
For “suffering” also read “unsatisfactoriness.” The Buddha wasn’t claiming that life is pure misery from birth to death. It has its good points — it has moments of union with what is pleasing. The overall point is, the basic situation is inherently unsatisfactory, and it is because satisfaction, or even non-misery, is conditional.
Hindu doctors would diagnose illnesses with four questions:
- What is the disease?
- What is the cause of the disease?
- What is the prognosis? — is it treatable, and what would a cure look like?
- What is the treatment?
The Buddha contemplated the problem of the human condition as a Hindu doctor considered a patient’s disease. (Not everyone knows that.) The basic unsatisfactoriness inherent in life was the problem. The cause was attachment, clinging or desire, which keeps a person reincarnating as a human. The solution was to surrender the attachment that causes that stuff. This means radical letting go of Self, or enlightenment. The treatment — how to get there — is the Noble Eightfold path, which is explicated in the 7 sets.
The 5 aggregates the Buddha mentions are the sets of mental phenomena that produce consciousness, starting with matter (the brain; the embodied person) and resulting in pure mind. That’s also not part of the 7 sets, so we’ll consider that too.