The Buddha’s analysis of suffering came in the form of what have come to be called The Four Noble Truths.
Venerable Metteyya Sakyaputta, monk: "There is no commandments or anything. The first Noble Truth is that there is suffering in this world. Generally this suffering has been mistranslated."
Jane Hirshfield, poet: "'Suffering' is not entirely accurate to the word that the Buddha probably used. It means something closer to 'dissatisfaction', that you know we’re never quite happy and if we are that’s gone in an instant anyhow."
Metteyya: "And he says that this suffering, this unsatisfactoriness doesn’t arise by itself, it has causes. Our own mind causes it."
While the second Noble Truth asserts that suffering has a cause, the third Noble Truth makes an astonishing claim.
The problem, Buddha taught, is desire—how to live with the confused and entangling desires of our own minds.
Mark Epstein, psychiatrist: "People often misunderstand Buddhism as saying, 'in order to wipe out suffering you have to wipe out desire.' If that is what the Buddha was saying then where does the desire for enlightenment fit in? The Buddha’s saying 'be smart about your desires'."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Desire must be there. Without desire how can we live our life? Without desire how can we achieve Buddhahood? Strong desire to become Buddha, but desire to...harmful, no, that’s bad."
With the fourth and final Noble Truth, the Buddha laid out a series of instructions for his disciples to follow: a way of leading the mind to enlightenment called the Noble Eightfold Path—the cultivation of moral discipline, mindfulness, and wisdom.
Hirshfield: "They are as I like to think of them a set of possible recipes that you can try on your own life and you can see which one makes the best soup."
The Buddha didn't speak for long, but when he was finished, the five skeptical ascetics had been won over. They became his first disciples.