The First Noble Truth 09/10/2013
RQ Handout Professor Makransky
The First Noble Truth teaching includes three basic topics:
I) Five Aggregates of mind and body
II) Three Characteristics of existence
III) Three Levels of Suffering
Shakyamuni Buddha’s 1st Sermon (Radiant Mind 66.2): "The Noble Truth of Suffering is: ...., in brief the five
aggregates of attachment (clinging) are suffering." First Noble Truth = problem of suffering (dukkha) in
mind and body. Hence, focus of spiritual training is the mind/body complex.
I) Five aggregates of mind and body all components of mind/body are included in five
categories: forms (body, objects of physical senses), consciousness (sensory awareness), perceptions (that
distinguish and name things), feeling tones (pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feeling tones), and thought
formations (chains of thought and emotion). Radiant Mind page 73 teaches those aggregates. Attentive
observation of them (“mindfulness” meditation) informs the teaching of 1st Noble Truth: dukkha.
Exercise (1) Sit comfortably. Feel each part of body, scanning from head to feet. Let thoughts release
as they emerge, instead of following them as usual. When you notice you are lost in thought, just return
your attention to the feeling of the body.
Exercise (2): First, notice form by sensing the obstructive pressure of the body for a little while. Then,
notice consciousness of sound: simple, bare awareness of sounds, prior to labeling them anything. Now,
try to notice first moments of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral feeling after each sound (feeling tones). Now,
try to isolate first moment when a sound is labeled, recognized, as "bird," "voice," "car," etc. (=
perceptions). Now, pay attention to thought processes, reactions that follow right after the feeling tone and
label (= thought formations), such as wanting the sound to continue (liking) or to go away (disliking), or
thinking about it in various ways.
That practice = "mindfulness of the five aggregates”=attentive observation of what is occurring in
the moment. Purpose: to awaken a newly conscious awareness of the subtle processes of mind/body
that have not been conscious to us.
II) By such practice over time, it is taught, one can become newly and vividly aware of three
characteristics of mind and body taught in First Noble Truth: the impermanence (Pali: anicca ) of
all elements of experience (mind/body/world), no substantial, unchanging selfanatta ) can be found of the
sort that we usually identify with, and uneasiness, sufferidukkha ) accompanies all patterns of
experience that flow from clinging to that mistaken sense of self: 1st characteristic: impermanence (anicca) the radical impermanence of all
experiences of mind/body/world: how quic