Access to Insight wrote:At each stage of this "gradual training" (anupubbi-sikkha), the practitioner discovers a new and important dimension of the law of cause-and-effect — kamma, the cornerstone of Right View. It is thus a very useful organizing framework with which to view the entirety of the Buddha's teachings.
The gradual training begins with the practice of generosity, which helps begin the long process of weakening the unawakened practitioner's habitual tendencies to cling — to views, to sensuality, and to unskillful modes of thought and behavior. This is followed by the development of virtue, the basic level of sense-restraint that helps the practitioner develop a healthy and trustworthy sense of self. The peace of mind born from this level of self-respect provides the foundation for all further progress along the path. The practitioner now understands that some kinds of happiness are deeper and more dependable than anything that sense-gratification can ever provide; the happiness born of generosity and virtue can even lead to rebirth in heaven — either literal or metaphorical. But eventually the practitioner begins to recognize the intrinsic drawbacks of even this kind of happiness: as good as rebirth in wholesome states may be, the happiness it brings is not a true and lasting one, for it relies on conditions over which he or she ultimately has no control. This marks a crucial turning point in the training, when the practitioner begins to grasp that true happiness will never be found in the realm of the physical and sensual world. The only possible route to an unconditioned happiness lies in renunciation, in turning away from the sensual realm, by trading the familiar, lower forms of happiness for something far more rewarding and noble. Now, at last, the practitioner is ripe to receive the teachings on the Four Noble Truths, which spell out the course of mental training required to realize the highest happiness: nibbana.
Many Westerners first encounter the Buddha's teachings on meditation retreats, which typically begin with instructions in how to develop the skillful qualities of right mindfulness and right concentration. It is worth noting that, as important as these qualities are, the Buddha placed them towards the very end of his gradual course of training. The meaning is clear: to reap the most benefit from meditation practice, to bring to full maturity all the qualities needed for Awakening, the fundamental groundwork must not be overlooked. There is no short-cutting this process.
From: A Self-guided tour of the Buddha's teachings @accesstoinsight.org
What would be the problem of teaching the Four Noble Truths to a beginner? I thought the 4NT were a prescription for illness. Might they get depressed thinking about dukkha, or get tied up in remorse regarding past wrong livelihood etc.?
Thanks / dhammapal.