Four noble truths, four practice principles

These are the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths:  

  • Life means suffering.
  • The origin of suffering is attachment.
  • The cessation of suffering is attainable.
  • There is a path to the cessation of suffering.

Restated as practice principles by American Zen eminence Charlotte Joko Beck:

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering;
holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream;
each moment, life as it is, the only teacher;
being just this moment, compassion’s way.

Each Sunday at the end of zazen and service, we repeat these four practice principles three times. It took me awhile to memorize these lines, and now I think of them often, especially the last two lines, which ground me, open me, and deepen me.

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