The Third Noble Truth

The Third Noble Truth

Curt Fish spoke about the Third Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering on April 14, 2024.

Before we discuss the 3rd Noble Truth, let’s quickly review the first 2.  The 1st Noble Truth is the existence of suffering, dukkha, the basic unsatisfactory nature of all experience.  The 2nd Noble Truth is the cause of suffering.  The cause of suffering is clinging to experience.

The 3rd Noble Truth is the truth of the cessation of suffering.  In the first two talks, we learned about the nature of suffering and the cause of suffering.  Now we’ll explore the cessation of suffering.  From the Buddha:

Here, a bhikkhu understands as it actually is: “This is the cessation of suffering”.

And what is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering? It is the complete fading-away and extinction of craving, its forsaking and abandonment, liberation from it, detachment from it. …And there this craving comes to an end, there its cessation comes about.

Nibbana, the lion’s roar.

Or phrased more simply:

This is the truth concerning the destruction of suffering. It is the destruction of this very thirst, the harboring no longer of this thirst.

It is easy to interpret the 3rd Noble Truth absolute, permanent terms:  total abandonment, destruction, …  It’s tempting to pursue it as an accomplishment, something to be achieved, checked off a list as permanently attained.  This is entirely natural, and not without benefit.  Still, pursuing it in this way, craving and clinging are again arising.  

It’s important to note that the thing being discussed is beyond words, but words are the tools being used to communicate it.  Words have many associations, and these associations can trigger more clinging.

The cessation of suffering, like everything else, is impermanent.  The cessation happens in each successive moment of experience and awareness of that experience.  For any person at any time, there can be a moment of cessation, a moment of abandoning clinging.  It is accessible to all.  This awareness is simply the sweeping away of the clinging that clouds are our vision.

Momentary insight to the third noble truth can happen.  My first experience of this was on a retreat.  At the end of lunch, I sat at the table and watched for the self to tell make the body get up.  Suddenly I noticed that my body was indeed getting up, but no self, no part of me had told it to do that.  The realization this this had simply happened due to causes and conditions (seeing someone else taking their dishes to the kitchen) led to a momentary abandonment of clinging.  Nothing to cling to, all was the result of causes and conditions.  Of course, this was very soon followed by self clinging to this achievement.  

No doubt there are those that experience what we would call a permanent, total abandonment of clinging.  This is not a single moment of insight, then a lifetime of nibbana.  This moment-to-moment awareness comes from both insight and the and the ongoing effort to maintain that awareness.

Another translation of the 3rd Noble Truth

What is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering? It is the total abandonment, renunciation, purification and exhaustion of the craving [which produces] the re-existence, and which is accompanied by passionate desire, and which is total delight in this and that. It is the complete freedom from, cessation of, pacification of and termination of desire.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *