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The Four Noble Truths and Si Shu Descriptive Essay

Every religion has doctrines that act as its foundation. These doctrines govern the daily activities of believers. Religious foundation plays a significant role in bringing together all believers. It establishes rules that all believers observe, thus creating the feeling of oneness amongst followers of a given religion.

The foundation gives meaning to believers and works as an inspiration by giving them the strength to press on. The majority of religions have foundations that touch on human life. Such foundations seek to explain why some phenomena like suffering, death, and other sad things happen in human life.

In explaining the phenomena, the foundations articulate their teachings in a way that they give believers renewed hope for living. The teachings show that despite the sufferings, there is hope for a better life if one sticks to the established doctrines.

Buddhism and Confucius are two religions that are built on strong foundations. Buddhism hinges on the four noble truths. On the other hand, Confucius is founded on Si Shu or the four books.

This paper will focus on comparing the two foundations to determine the differences and similarities between the aforementioned two religions.

The first noble truth that makes up the Buddhism foundation is the truth of dukkha. This truth is in most cases perceived to represent “suffering”. However, it has a broader meaning, which implies the fundamental unsatisfactoriness that is prevalent in all spheres of life.

Buddhism believes that this unsatisfactoriness comes due to the ever-changing human life. The establishment of this truth does not intend to instill cynicism in human life, but to prepare people in order to overcome challenges in life. Buddha taught that life comprises of happiness and sorrow.

Hence, he made people to understand that happiness will always be temporal. Buddha aimed at ensuring that people understand this truth, as it is the only way that they can stand a chance of addressing the challenge of unsatisfactoriness in life.

Normally, people think that happiness emanates from external situations and circumstances and not from their attitude towards life. The truth of dukkha warns people against complacency by reminding them that life comprises of dissatisfaction. Understanding these truths would facilitate in achieving real happiness.

While Buddhism believes that people can achieve real happiness by accepting the fact that dissatisfaction is part of life, Confucius has a different perspective regarding happiness in life. In one of the four books, viz. Lun Yu, Confucius posits that humankind can only achieve happiness through moral cultivation.

Confucius believed that people could start nurturing an all-inclusive sense of good worth through ren. In a bid to nurture ren, individuals should establish a good relationship with their older siblings and parents.

Confucius claimed that one of the factors that contribute to unhappiness in life is conflicts emanating from personal desires. In life, one’s desires may contradict with those of others, thus leading to conflicts and unhappiness.

Nevertheless, one does not have to suppress his or her desires. Instead, Confucius taught that happiness could be achieved by training people on how to resolve their desires through the different forms of decorum and rituals.

Throughout his teachings, Confucius believed that happiness in life is achievable if all people were willing to uphold complete integrity in all their undertakings.

The second truth that makes up the Buddhism foundation seeks to identify the cause of dissatisfaction in life. Buddha taught that the main cause of dissatisfaction in life is crave, which results from ignorance. Buddha went further and divided crave into three components.

One of the components is kama-tanha or the desire for sense-pleasures. In life, some things make people to feel comfortable and pleasant. At times, these things come out of mental creations thus compelling people to pursue them without considering the effects they might have on other people.

The second form of craving emanates from the desire to be or to dominate (bhava-tanha). Human beings are never satisfied and thus they always desire to get more or be like those they perceive to be superior.

This desire makes one to overlook the repercussions of the avenues used in achieving these desires, which eventually pushes one into suffering or inflicting suffering on others. The final form of craving is vibhava-tanha or craving not to be.

Occasionally, people try to look for channels to escape the realities of life. The main reason why people come up with shortcuts is to help them to evade challenges and painful experiences in life. However, they forget that some of these shortcuts lead to short-lived outcomes eventually plunging them into suffering.

According to Buddha, ignorance makes it hard for one to reconcile with the realities of life.

To some extent, Confucius also agrees that the suffering encountered by humankind is self-inflicted. Just like Buddha claims that dissatisfaction and suffering come from man’s crave, Confucius believes that man has the power to control his happiness and suffering in the world.

In his book dubbed The Doctrine of the Mean, Confucius teaches that heaven has bestowed nature upon man. Moreover, he teaches that man is required to abide by certain regulations and execute certain duties to be in harmony with nature.

According to Confucius, man can only remain superior or happy if he does not wait for the natural occurrence of events. Moreover, man can only be happy if he does not wait until he takes notice of life issues when they become a point of concern.

Confucius claims that nothing is so clear than what is infinitesimal and nothing is so perceptible than what is clandestine. Hence, Confucius teaches that to be happy in life and evade suffering, one ought to be alert at all times.

Failure to be alert makes it hard for one to react to things before they occur. When man lacks caution, it becomes hard for one to maintain the state of harmony with nature. Confucius posits that a greater man represents the path of the mean, while the mean man goes against the path of the mean.

In this supposition, Confucius tries to show how personal greedy or crave may make it hard for one to reconcile with nature, thus leading to unhappiness and suffering. Consequently, happiness and suffering depend on one’s previous preparations.

The third truth that forms the foundation of the Buddha teachings is the truth of the cessation. It relates to the termination of suffering and all that leads to suffering in human life. According to Buddha, in a bid to overcome dukkha, one should do away with all elements that lead to dissatisfaction.

In addition, one needs to dig deeper and establish the main causes of this dissatisfaction. Through addressing the causes of dissatisfaction and suffering, one can be sure that the issues will not recur at some point along his or her life.

One of the objectives of Buddhist spiritual practices is cessation. Buddha believed that by understanding the real causes of suffering like ignorance and crave, man can be in a position to bring to an end his sufferings. The main cause of suffering is an attachment to actions and things that lead to suffering.

Buddha taught that the first step in eradicating suffering starts when one makes the decision to liberate himself/herself from the attachment of every thing that subjects him to suffering. Liberation helps one attain Nirvana, a state where one is at peace with his or her mind, which is free from troubles and worries.

In spite of Buddha coming up with the idea of nirvana, he does not clearly explain the pertinent issues surrounding it; moreover, he discourages people from questioning it. For him, the main task is to look for ways to liberate oneself from suffering and attain a state of mental and physical peace.

The third book that forms the foundation of the Confucian beliefs is The Great Learning. The book teaches that accomplishment of happiness is a systematic process. While Buddha talks of cessation as the ultimate way of overcoming suffering in life, Confucius advocates for personal evaluation to set the target goal.

Buddha claims that it by identifying the root cause of suffering, one can stand a reasonable chance of overcoming suffering. On the other hand, Confucius posits that it is only by establishing the target objective that one can come up with the object of pursuit.

Confucius asserts that everything has its roots and branches. Hence, just as Buddha believes that people can overcome suffering by doing away with all that causes it, Confucius believes that suffering has roots and it is by identifying the roots that man can eradicate it.

Confucius warns that it is hard to neglect the roots and expect something good to come out of the roots. By this assertion, he implies that to ensure happiness and eradicate suffering, it is imperative to make sure that one deals with all that causes suffering and nurture what causes happiness.

Conventionally, it is hard for people to nurture what is bad and neglect what is good. The same case applies to human life.

Buddha had the sole goal of making life bearable to humankind by helping people to come up with measures to curb suffering. The main objective of establishing the four noble truths that form the foundation of Buddhism was to help people understand the strategies of addressing their problems.

In this regard, the fourth truth that forms the pillar of life of a Buddhist seeks to identify the way in which humankind can move away from suffering. Normally, the forth truth is the Noble Eightfold Path and is strongly attached to the daily life of a Buddhist.

Buddha outlined eight strategies through which humankind could evade suffering. They include right thought, right understanding, right speech, right livelihood, right action, right effort, right concentration, and right mindfulness. In a bid to overcome a given challenge, one has to have a clear understanding of the challenge.

Hence, Buddha dedicated the first three truths to understanding the temperament of suffering and all that causes it. The fourth truth was meant to identify the various ways that could help in surmounting suffering. All the eight factors are intertwined and none can work on its own.

The eight folds ought not to be perceived as if they are phases. Instead, people should see them as eight perspectives that entail human behavior and that depend on each other. When executed together, they establish a path that would help people to overcome suffering and realize real happiness.

The fourth book that makes up the Confucius foundation comprises numerous ideas shared by Mencius. While Buddha issued eight folds that a person ought to follow to achieve happiness and avoid suffering, Mencius claimed that humankind ought to help one another in pursuit for happiness.

There is a moral principle inherent in humankinds, which makes it hard for man to withstand the sufferings of the other. People tend to sympathize with a person under suffering even if they do not know him or her.

Mencius gave examples of past rulers who worked hard to cultivate a moral principle that united everybody under their kingdoms and ensured that no one was suffering.

In a bid to curb human suffering, Confucius taught that people ought to nurture this moral principle, which inculcates the spirit of “brother’s keeper” in everyone’s heart.

Since everyone possesses this moral principle, Mencius says that it only requires everyone to understand its importance in human life thus making an effort to invoke it. By invoking this moral principle, people would care for one another thus avoiding chances of human suffering.

Nevertheless, failure to invoke the moral principle would lead to people thinking about themselves and disregarding others. Eventually, everyone would be fighting for his or her interests leading to conflicts amongst people.

Religions have foundations that act as pillars and thus guide human actions. In most cases, these foundations act as the major source of inspiration to believers and give them a reason to live. The four truths act as the foundation for Buddhism while Confucius is founded on Si Shu (also called the four books).

To some extent, the two foundations share common views regarding human suffering. For instance, both Buddha and Confucius teach that in a bid to do away with human suffering and achieve happiness, it is imperative to identify the root cause of suffering.

The two believe that the only way to address a problem is by addressing what causes it. Solving a problem and ignoring what causes it means that, the problem is likely to recur in future. In other instances, Buddha and Confucius differ on matters to do with happiness.

Buddha believes that people can achieve real happiness by appreciating that life comprises of dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, Confucius believes that real happiness is only achievable through cultivating moral principle, which he refers to as ren.

While Buddha recognizes crave and ignorance as the main factors that contribute to human suffering, Confucius accepts that human suffering is in most cases self-inflicted.

According to Confucius, heaven has bestowed nature upon man and it is his duty to abide by some regulations to ensure that he achieves harmony, which is vital for happiness.

Buddha teaches that cessation is the only way that one can overcome suffering. On the other hand, Confucius teaches that one can only overcome suffering by establishing his or her goals and working towards the same.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Four Noble Truths and Si Shu." June 18, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-four-noble-truths-and-si-shu/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Four Noble Truths and Si Shu'. 18 June.

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