The First Noble Truth states that life is filled with suffering, while the Second Noble Truth identifies the causes of suffering – altogether, a gloomy outlook !
After the Buddha realized these Truths, he spent six years more contemplating the nature of suffering. His understanding of this is the Third Noble Truth. In it, the Buddha offered a message of hope – that there is an end to suffering – by eliminating hatred and ignorance from our lives.
Anyone who wishes to attain this goal may do so.
The Buddha taught that beyond suffering lies great bliss. As we take steps towards removing the causes of suffering, we experience progressive levels of happiness. The path is a long one and may extend over several lifetimes. But staying on it leads to a tremendous sense of liberation. There are other benefits from adhering to this philosophy – one can live in happiness, untroubled by any kind of negativity. At the end of this path, when desire and ignorance would have completely fallen away, one may experience the same transcendental joy that the Buddha did.
This is the second consequence of the end of suffering, which is known in Buddhism as Nirvana or Enlightenment. Nirvana cannot be precisely defined. At best, we may think of it as a state of pure freedom, a complete and permanent cessation of suffering. Nirvana is not a reward to be attained after death. As the Buddha demonstrated, it can be achieved during life.
With Enlightenment comes great wisdom and compassion. Only the Buddha is known to have achieved these qualities. Such wisdom allowed him to understand the nature of reality, while his boundless compassion touched the lives of thousands.