If you are not even mindful of your suffering
(by realising the First Noble Truth),
how can you be mindful of the need to end it
(by realising the Third Noble Truth)?
There’s a story from medieval Japan in which a young man goes out to study with a sword master. The teacher has him bring meals and carry other things, but doesn’t teach him anything about the sword. Eventually the student complains. The sword teacher says nothing. One day the student lies down to take a nap, and while he’s sleeping, the teacher takes a broom and whacks him. Now this is feudal Japan, so this young man has to do whatever he signed up for, whether he likes it or not. The next day he’s cooking soup, the teacher comes up from behind and hits him with a spoon. From then on, whether the student is asleep or awake, the teacher attacks him with an object every chance he gets. This drives the student nuts. He says to the teacher, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for.’
So the teacher keeps hitting the student, and this goes on for a long time, probably because the student is a good student and just can’t quit. One day the student is making soup in a pot over a fire and the teacher comes up behind him with a big stick. Just as the teacher starts to strike, the student whips the lid off the pot and blocks it. This happens two or three times. The teacher tried to get the student in his sleep, but the student rolls over before he gets hit. Soon the teacher isn’t able to hit him at all. And at that point the teacher says, ‘Now it’s time to begin your formal sword training.’