The Four Noble Truths



These are the basis of the Buddhist teaching. The four noble truths are:

The truth of suffering
The truth of the origin of suffering
The truth of the cessation of suffering
The truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.

The first truth says that all existence is characterized by suffering and does not bring satisfaction. Everything is suffering; birth, sickness, death; coming together with what one does not like; separating from what one does like; not obtaining what one desires; and the five aggregates of attachment that constitute the personality.

The second truth gives as the cause of suffering craving or desire, the thirst for sensual pleasure, for becoming and passing away. This craving binds beings to the cycle of existence.

The third truth says that through remainderless elimination of craving, suffering can be brought to an end.

The fourth truth gives the eightfold path as the means for the ending of suffering.

Nonrecognition of the four noble truths is ignorance.

The discovery of the four noble truths by the Buddha constituted, according to the various traditions, his actual enlightenment. Buddha expounded these truths in the Benares discourse as his first teaching immediately after his enlightenment.

The Sutras explain the four noble truths in the following words:

"But what, O monks, it the noble truth of suffering? Birth is suffering; decay is sufffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; in short the five groups [aggregates] of existence connected with clinging are suffering.

"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, the craving for existence, the craving for non-existence or self-annihilation.

"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 that leads to the extinction of suffering, namely; perfect view, perfect thought, perfect speech, perfect action, perfect livelihood, perfect effort, perfect concentration:.

(trans. From Nyanatiloka 1971, pp 151-152).

From The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen




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