1. On the 'two truths', conventional
and ultimate, see paramattha.
2. 'The Four Noble Truths' (ariya-sacca) are the briefest
synthesis of the entire teachings of Buddhism, since all those manifold
doctrines of the threefold canon are, without any exception, included therein.
the truth of suffering,
of the origin of suffering,
of the extinction of suffering,
and of the Eightfold Path leading to the extinction of
The 1st truth, briefly stated, teaches that all forms of
existence whatsoever are unsatisfactory and subject to suffering (dukkha).
The 2nd truth teaches that all suffering, and all
rebirth, is produced by craving (tanhā).
The 3rd truth teaches that extinction of craving
necessarily results in extinction (nirodha) of rebirth and suffering,
The 4th truth of the Eightfold Path (magga) indicates
the means by which this extinction is attained.
The stereotype text frequently recurring in the Sutta Pitaka,
runs as follows:
"But what, o monks, is the noble truth of suffering?
Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation,
pain, grief and despair are suffering; in short, the 5 groups of existence
connected with clinging are suffering (cf. dukkha, dukkhata).
''But what, o monks, is the noble truth of the origin of
suffering? It is that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth and, bound up
with lust and greed, now here, now there, finds ever fresh delight. It is the
sensual craving (kāma-tanhā), the craving for existence (bhava-tanhā),
the craving for non-existence or self-annihilation (vibhava-tanhā).
"But what, o monks, is the noble truth of the
extinction of suffering? It is the complete fading away and extinction of this
craving, its forsaking and giving up, liberation and detachment from it.
"But what, o monks, is the noble truth of the path
leading to the extinction of suffering? It is the Noble Eightfold Path (ariya-atthangika-magga)
that leads to the extinction of suffering, namely:
1. Right view (sammā-ditthi)
2. Right thought (sammā-sankappa)
III. Wisdom (paññā)
3. Right speech (sammā-vācā)
4. Right action (sammā-kammanta)
5. Right livelihood (sammd-djiva)
I. Morality (sīla)
6. Right effort (sammā-vāyāma)
7. Right mindfulness (sammā-sati)
8. Right concentration (sammā-samādhi)
II. Concentration (samādhi)
1. "What now, o monks, is right view (or right
understanding)? It is the understanding of suffering, of the origin of
suffering, of the extinction of suffering, and of the path leading to the
extinction of suffering.
2. "What now, o monks, is right thought? It is a mind
free from sensual lust, ill-will and cruelty.
3. "What now, o monks, is right speech? Abstaining from
lying, tale-bearing, harsh words, and foolish babble (cf. tiracchānakathā).
4. "What now, o monks, is right action? Abstaining from
injuring living beings, from stealing and from unlawful sexual intercourse (s.
5. "What now, o monks, is right livelihood? If the noble
disciple rejects a wrong living, and gains his living by means of right
livelihood (s. magga, 5).
6. "What now, o monks, is right effort? If the disciple
rouses his will to avoid the arising of evil, demeritorious things that have not
yet arisen; ... if he rouses his will to overcome the evil, demeritorious things
that have already arisen; ... if he rouses his will to produce meritorious
things that have not yet arisen; ... if he rouses his will to maintain the
meritorious things that have already arisen and not to let them disappear, but
to bring them to growth, to maturity and to the full perfection of development;
he thus makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives (s.
7. "What now, o monks is right mindfulness? If the
disciple dwells in contemplation of materiality ... of feeling ... of mind ...
of the mind-objects, ardent, clearly conscious, and mindful after putting away
worldly greed and grief (s. satipatthāna).
8. "What now, o monks, is right concentration? If the
disciple is detached from sensual objects, detached from disadvantageous things, and
enters into the first absorption ... the second absorption ... the third
absorption ... the fourth absorption" (s. jhāna).
In the Buddha's first sermon, the
Sutta, it is said that
the first truth (suffering) is to be fully understood;
the second truth (craving) to be abandoned;
the third truth (Nibbāna) to be realized;
the fourth truth (the path) to be cultivated.
"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 extinction of suffering with the cure of the disease, the truth of the
path with the medicine" (Vis.M. XVI).
In the ultimate sense, all these 4 truths are to be
considered as empty of a self, since there is no feeling agent, no doer, no
liberated one. no one who follows along the path. Therefore it is said:
- 'Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found.
- The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there.
- Nibbāna is, but not the man that enters it.
- The path is, but no traveller on it is seen.
- 'The first truth and the second truth are empty
- Of permanency, joy, of self and beauty;
- The Deathless Realm is empty of an ego,
- And free from permanency, joy and self, the path.'
It must be pointed out that the first truth does not merely
refer to actual suffering, i.e. to suffering as feeling, but that it shows that,
in consequence of the universal law of impermanency, all the phenomena of
existence whatsoever, even the sublimest states of existence, are subject to
change and dissolution, and hence are miserable and unsatisfactory; and that
thus, without exception, they all contain in themselves the germ of suffering.
Cf. Guide, p. 101f.
Regarding the true nature of the path, s.
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (in WHEEL 17 and
(S. LVI); Sacca Vibhanga;
W. of B.; Vis.M. XVI:
The Four Noble Truths by Francis Story (WHEEL 34/35);
Significance of the 4 Noble Truths by V. F. Gunaratna (WHEEL 123)