Four Assurances, Fourth of the Four


The Buddha’s fourth assurance is if a person who commits bad karmas does not suffer the related retributions, then the noble disciple is purified anyway because he no longer has any bad thoughts, speech, or actions.

Peace of mind comes to the person who lives morally. Having a pure mind, this person does not harbor bad thoughts, speak bad words, or commit bad deeds. This person’s pure mind has no wandering thoughts or discriminations. It has no attachments or aversions and no craving or hatred. This pure mind is the calm, clear mind that is no longer pulled this way and that by what it encounters. It is the serene and natural state of all beings.



Four Assurances, Third of the Four

The third assurance is if a person who commits bad karmas suffers the related retributions, the noble disciple will not suffer because he has no bad thoughts, speech, or actions. While those who commit wrongdoings will suffer the related effects, one who lives morally will not suffer because this person prevents bad thoughts, speech, and actions from occurring.

In such a life, there will be no resultant suffering from having hurt another with harmful speech or actions. Such a person will have no reason to feel remorse. He will be free from worrying about how to undo what had been said or done out of carelessness and ignorance.

What are bad thoughts, speech, and actions? Bad thoughts arise from greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, doubt, and wrong views. They harm others and us. When we fail to get what we want, we become angry. Craving and anger arise from our ignorance and from our lack of understanding. Arrogance and doubt also stem from ignorance. Wrong views compound our ignorance: not only do we not understand but we also hold mistaken ideas as correct!

Bad speech, that which is not correct, honest, and beneficial, harms others and us in several ways. False speech, by containing misinformation, is deceptive and leads people astray. Harsh speech destroys our peace of mind and that of everyone around us. Divisive speech separates people and fosters the seeds of conflict. Enticing speech cajoles people to do what they otherwise might not do.

What are bad actions? The Buddha gave us three precepts of no killing, no stealing, and no sexual misconduct. Killing is destroying another being’s life, be it human or animal. Stealing is taking that which is not freely given to us. Sexual, or sensual, indulgence is the temporary seeking of pleasant sensations at the cost of our pure, calm mind.

One who lives life as taught by the Buddha does not have bad thoughts, use bad speech, or commit bad actions. Thus, this person’s life is free of suffering. Such a person will know only contentment and peace of mind as his or her mind remains in a clear, tranquil state, free of agitation and fear.



Four Assurances, Second of the Four


In the second assurance, the Buddha postulated a scenario contrary to his experience—one where there is no rebirth and no karmic retribution. He did this so that those who were doubtful could still benefit from his teachings.

He showed that even within such a scenario, one who remains free of greed, anger, and their resultant suffering will be truly happy!

Today, this assurance is especially helpful as people ask if they have to accept the existence of rebirth before they can benefit from the practice. As the Buddha showed, they do not have to accept rebirth in order to reap the benefits. Those who are free of greed, anger, and their ensuing suffering have a mind of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity in this lifetime.

They no longer experience greed, no longer crave the emotional high from acquiring that which is new—they simply appreciate what they already have. Craving and its shadow, disappointment, are eliminated as people become contented with their situation. This is true happiness.

We can only imagine how wonderful it would be to never again crave sensations and experiences—to appreciate what we already have.

And imagine never again feeling angry or unsettled but always feeling calm and peaceful instead. Such a person would surely always be happy and be at ease, and thus always be welcomed wherever he or she goes. Without craving and without anger there will be no suffering—just happiness, a lifetime of happiness. And all this can happen here and now, because even if one does not believe in rebirth, one will still benefit if one lives a life free of craving, animosity, and unhappiness.



Four Assurances, First of the Four

The first assurance is based on the existence of rebirth and causality. If one commits wrongdoing, then one will have a bad rebirth. If one does good deeds, one will have a good rebirth. It is because of this premise that many people strive to live a moral, selfless, and caring life. We all wish to end our suffering and to find happiness. But an awakened being who has eliminated the three poisons and who is thoughtful and caring goes one step further—this being wishes to help others eliminate suffering and attain happiness as well.

It is difficult to be a truly compassionate person. It takes many, many lifetimes to become such a person. Believing in the reality of karma and rebirth, we understand that immorality and selfishness will lead us to miserable rebirths, unable to help ourselves or others. We have already wasted more lifetimes than we can count. Failing to practice the Buddha’s teachings, we will waste many more. The only way to truly help people is to create and accumulate good fortune. Good fortune includes a safe place to live, enough material resources, skills, wisdom, time, and good health. These are the conditions found in a good rebirth.

But only by using our good conditions to benefit others can we continue to generate more good conditions for future use. If we selfishly use the goodness we have created to make our own lives more pleasurable and neglect the needs of others, we will exhaust that goodness and at some point face painful situations.



Four Assurances

The Buddha said a “noble disciple” who is free of greed, anger, and ignorance and who keeps pervading everything and every being in the cosmos with boundless loving-kindness, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity will receive four assurances.

The first assurance is if there is rebirth and retributions from good or ill karmas, then through his good karmas, he will have a good rebirth.

The second assurance is if rebirth does not exist, he will be happy in this lifetime, as he will feel neither greed or anger nor their attendant suffering.

The third assurance is if a person who commits bad karmas suffers the related retributions, the noble disciple will not suffer because he will never give rise to bad thoughts, utter bad words, or commit any bad actions.

The fourth assurance is if a person who commits bad karmas does not suffer the related retributions, then the noble disciple is purified anyway.