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Why we do what we do: The third noble truth, the truth of cessation of suffering (སྡུག་བསྔལ་འགོག་པའི་བདེན་པ་), offers the solution to problems in the Buddha’s four-fold strategy of problem solving. Having recognised the problem of suffering and traced its causes, the Buddha highlights the solution, i.e. the state of freedom from suffering, which he has realised. The Buddha realised this state free from suffering, which is characterised by bliss, non-conceptuality, clarity and deep sense of peace, under the Bodhi tree after adopting the Middle Way and through seeing the nature of things with penetrating insight.

In the Buddhist literature, this state is presented by different names from different angles. It is the state of nirodha (འགོག་པ་) or cessation of suffering, mukti (གྲོལ་བ་) or liberation from the existential bondage, mokśa (ཐར་པ་) or freedom from suffering, bodhi (བྱང་ཆུབ་) or enlightenment, śanti (ཞི་བ་) or peace, and nirvāa (མྱང་འདས) or the transcendent state of being blown out. The state of liberation or nirvāa is described as being tranquil, blissful, enlightened and transcendent. When one is fully released from the clutches of craving, ill-will and ignorance, one stops the cycle of rebirth, thereby bringing an end to suffering.

The state of nirvāa or liberation is presented in three forms in the Mahāyāna Buddhist classics. When a person overcomes the three poisons of craving, hatred and ignorance through the insight, which sees the nature of things, he or she reaches the state of an arhat (དགྲ་བཅོམ་པ་) and attains what is known as nirvāna with remainder (ལྷག་བཅས་མྱང་འདས་). Such a person has eradicated the causes of suffering and will not engender further rebirth and suffering but will still undergo the results of the actions committed in the past. When this person dies and goes through the dissolution of aggregates, he or she reaches the nirvāa without remainder (ལྷག་མེད་མྱང་འདས་) as there is nothing left from the past actions and no further existence is produced. When a person reaches the state of perfect enlightenment or Buddhahood, which transcends both existence and ordinary nirvāa, the person is said to have reached the non-abiding nirvāa (མི་གནས་པའི་མྱང་འདས་).

The state of cessation of suffering or enlightenment is associated with many qualities of tranquility, composure, mental stability, clarity, joy, clairvoyance, mental pliability, purity, knowledge, insight and lack of mental confusion, agitation, turmoil and stress. The perfect enlightenment of the Buddha is further attributed with great compassion, omniscience, great powers of miracle, strength, confidence, etc. In brief, the state of liberation or enlightenment is when a person eliminates the afflictive emotions and negative actions and actualises the full positive potential of the human mind.

Among the many values associated with the fourth noble truth, the idea of freedom is the most outstanding value, which the Buddhists like many other spiritual traditions of India, seek as their ultimate goal. As followers of the Buddha, it is important to aspire for and cultivate freedom, which include economic freedom from basic needs like hunger and thirst, cultural freedom from unhealthy inhibitions and taboos, social freedom from injustices such as racism and casteism, political freedom from subjugation and oppression, psychological freedom from negative emotions and thoughts, and existential freedom from the cycle of craving for existential becoming. The fourth noble truth, thus, epitomises the Buddha’s solution to problems in life in the form of freedom and liberation from negative and undesirable things and thoughts. It is a virtue and spiritual state, which one must seek as the ultimate goal.

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