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four noble truths


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The four foundational propositions of Buddhist doctrine ennunciated by the Buddha in his first sermon (Dharma-cakra-pravartana sūtra). The first Noble Truth (Skt., ārya-satya; Pāli, ariyasacca) is duḥkha (Pāli, dukkha), usually translated as ‘suffering’ but often closer in meaning to ‘flawed’ or ‘unsatisfactory’. This states that all existence is painful and frustrating. The second Noble Truth is samudāya or ‘arising’, and explains that suffering arises due to craving (tṛṣṇā; Pāli, taṇhā) for pleasurable sensations and experiences. The third Noble Truth is that of ‘cessation’ (nirodha), which states that suffering can have an end (this is nirvāṇa), and the fourth Noble Truth is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of eight factors collectively leading to nirvāṇa.

The stereotyped text which often recurs in the Pāli Canon is as follows:

I. But what, O Monks, is the Noble Truth of Suffering? Birth is suffering, sickness is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering; pain, grief, sorrow, lamentation, and despair are suffering. Association with what is unpleasant is suffering, disassociation from what is pleasant is suffering. In short, the five factors of individuality (skandha) are suffering.

II. This, O Monks, is the Truth of the Arising of Suffering. It is this thirst or craving (tṛṣṇā) which gives rise to rebirth.which is bound up with passionate delight and which seeks fresh pleasure now here and now there in the form of thirst for sensual pleasure, thirst for existence, and thirst for non-existence.

III. This, O Monks, is the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering. It is the utter cessation of that craving (tṛṣṇā), the withdrawal from it, the renouncing of it, the rejection of it, liberation from it, non-attachment to it.

IV. This, O Monks, is the Truth of the Path that leads to the cessation of suffering. It is this Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of (1) Right View, (2) Right Resolve, (3) Right Speech, (4) Right Action, (5) Right Livelihood, (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Mindfulness, (8) Right Meditation. In the Visuddhimagga (XVI) Buddhaghoṣa uses an analogy with medical treatment to explain the four truths: ‘The truth of Suffering is to be compared with a disease, the truth of the Origin of suffering with the cause of the disease, the truth of Cessation with the cure of the disease, the truth of the Path with the medicine.’

(1) Right View, (2) Right Resolve, (3) Right Speech, (4) Right Action, (5) Right Livelihood, (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Mindfulness, (8) Right Meditation.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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