If you haven't yet, you may wish to read about the First and Second Noble Truth before continuing.

The first two Noble Truths are common sense. Everyone knows there is suffering. Not everyone knows it is caused by craving, but it is possible to figure out.

Nevertheless, it is not clear just what is so noble about these truths (one might think of a lot of other adjectives). At least not until they are viewed along with the Third Noble Truth, The Noble Truth Of The Extinction Of Suffering:

What, now, is the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering? It is the complete fading away and extinction of this craving, its forsaking and abandonment, liberation and detachment from it.

But where may this craving vanish, where may it be extinguished? Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this craving may vanish, there it may be extinguished.

(Digha Nikaya, 22. Translated by Nyanatiloka with permission to reprint as long as it is free.)

If we thought of the First Noble Truth as symptoms, the Second as diagnosis, the Third Noble Truth is prognosis: Suffering can be extinguished in its entirety.

To me, the Third Noble Truth is the most exciting of all Four Noble Truths, indeed, the most exciting discovery in history of mankind. Why?

Well, just think about what it says: Suffering is curable. All we have to do is eliminate the cause.

You may be thinking, duh, that's obvious. But is it? Removing the cause of a disease does not necessarily produce the cure. If you get lung cancer and quit smoking, you do not get cured. At least not without additional therapy.

But not so with dukkha, the suffering present in the lives of all sentient beings. This suffering is curable, and the cure is fairly simple: Just quit craving. Simple at least notionally. The Third Noble Truth does not say how to quit craving (the Fourth does). But it says it is possible, and within reach of everyone.

There is more to it: It does not say there is a point of no return. That is precisely why I view this Truth as so exciting. Let us consider some implications:

One final note: I said anyone can figure out the first two Noble Truths. Not so with the Third. I mean, we could speculate that quitting craving stops suffering. But that would be only theory. Only a Buddha can state it as a truth. A Buddha has quit craving and stopped suffering. To him the Third Noble Truth is beyond speculation. He knows what he is talking about because he has done it.

The distinction whizkid draws between Christianity and Buddhism regarding this Truth is intriguing. Specifically, the knowledge that "you will get it right eventually" requires that you accept the notion of reincarnation. If you don't, then Buddhism is spiritually useless, in the same way that if you don't believe in heaven and hell, then Christianity is spiritually useless.

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