Many Mahayana sutras regard these Four Noble Truths as merely provincial truths taught to monks whose spiritual development was not mature enough to comprehend the truths later associated with Mahayana Buddhism. This, however, seem to be a very unproductive sectarian approach to the matter. Instead, a more positive approach is to see how these truths can be harmonized with Mahayana teachings, which for our purpose means Zen.
Zen teaches that as human beings we suffer and suffer profoundly. In Zen what makes us human is our dual consciousness, which is to say we have a mind split between subject and object consciousness. We can know ourselves as objects, but never as subjects. Thus we are inherently existential self-alienated and suffering beings. In this regard, Zen is in agreement with the First Noble Truth. Zen, however, does not see the origin of our suffering as due to our desires so much as it does to our failure to be aware of our already present, though unmanifested, Buddhahood which in Zen this means no separate or independent soul or self (anatman).
Zen Buddhist websites, news, and discussion
Monday, September 19, 2005
As a follow up to the post below, I'm adding this one, which tries to harmonize some Zen ideas regarding the 4 Noble Truths with more traditional ideas. More food for thought (or meditation):