4. The Dharma Realm of Hearers. Hearers investigate the Four Truths and awaken to the Way. The Four Truths are suffering, accumulation, cessation, and the Way.
The Four Truths:
a. The truth of suffering. There are three kinds of suffering, eight kinds of suffering, and limitless kinds of suffering. The three sufferings are:
1. Suffering within suffering
2.the suffering of decay
3. the suffering of process
1. Suffering within suffering occurs when one is poverty-stricken and experiences additional difficulties. One may be so poor that one has no food to eat and no clothes to wear. One has a small house to live in, but then the house burns down. One builds another house, and that one is washed away in a flood. That is suffering within suffering.
2. The suffering of decay occurs when what was good goes bad. When one is wealthy and honored, one does not have the problem of being poor; but wealth and honor do not last forever. One's wealth may be lost in a fire or stolen by thieves. That's the suffering of decay.
3. The suffering of process occurs as we go from being small to being adults, to being old, and finally dying. That process flows on unceasingly with every passing thought. A child grows into an adult; the adult becomes an old person; the old person finally dies. That kind of change is a form of suffering.
There are also eight sufferings, the first four of which are:
1. the suffering of birth
2. the suffering of old age
3. the suffering of sickness
4. the suffering of death
It is very painful to be born. It is also painful to be old. Sickness brings even more suffering, and death more suffering still.
Long ago there were three old men who gathered together to drink wine. One was sixty, one was seventy, and one was eighty. During their party, the youngest one thought, "These two friends of mine are really old and will die before long." Then he said, "This year we gather for a banquet, but who knows who will not be here next year!" He was wondering who would be dead before the next year.
The seventy-year-old said, "You are giving us a lot of time. Tonight when I take off my shoes and socks, I don't know if I'll be around to put them on in the morning!"
The eighty-year-old said, "You two have lots of time! When I breathe out this breath, I don't know if I'll be around to breathe in the next one!"
Birth and death are impartial events. There is no politeness involved. It's just as the old-timer said, "When I breathe out this breath, I don't know if I'll be around to breathe in the next one." That's the suffering of death. The last four of the eight sufferings are:
5. the suffering of being apart from those you love
6. the suffering of being together with those you hate
7. the suffering of not getting what you want
8. the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas
That's the eight sufferings. There's a saying:
The old monk has a way to pacify his mind.
When the eight sufferings strike, he doesn't feel obstructed.
If he gets caught up in the eight sufferings, he is not afraid; it does not bother him. Therefore, if you have samadhi, suffering turns into bliss. If you don't have any samadhi, bliss can turn into suffering.
b. The truth of accumulation. Accumulation refers to afflictions. There are many kinds of afflictions: great afflictions, intermediate afflictions, and small afflictions.
c. The truth of cessation. This refers to Nirvana—the passage into stillness.
d. The truth of the Way. This refers to cultivating the Way. Hearers regard the Four Truths in order to know suffering, to cut off accumulation, to aspire toward cessation, and to cultivate the Way. Right after Shakyamuni Buddha realized the Way, he spoke the Dharma of the Four Truths, turning the Dharma Wheel of the Four Truths three times to take across the five Bhikshus. When the five Bhikshus heard the Dharma of the Four Truths, they awakened to the Way.
To be continued