Four Noble Truths

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Translations of

cattāri ariyasaccāni

English: Four Noble Truths
Pali: cattāri ariyasaccāni
Sanskrit: catvāri āryasatyāni
Burmese: သစ္စာလေးပါး
(thisa lei ba)
Chinese: 四圣諦(T) / 四圣谛(S)
Japanese: 四諦
(rōmaji: shitai)
Thai: อริยสัจสี่
(ariyasaj sii)
Vietnamese: Tứ Diệu Đế
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The Four Noble Truths (or The Four Truths of the Noble Ones[1]) (Sanskrit: catvāri āryasatyāni;Wylie: 'phags pa'i bden pa bzhi; Pali: cattāri ariyasaccāni) are one of the most fundamental Buddhist teachings. In broad terms, these truths relate to suffering's (or dukkha's) nature, origin, cessation and the path leading to the cessation. They are among the truths Gautama Buddha is said to have realized during his experience of enlightenment.[2]

The Four Noble Truths appear many times throughout the most ancient Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon. The early teaching and the traditional understanding in the Theravada is that the four noble truths are an advanced teaching for those who are ready for them. Mahayana Buddhism regards them as a preliminary teaching for people not ready for its own teachings.[3] They are little known in the Far East.

Some may see "truths" as a mistranslation (one author cites "realities" as a possibly better choice: these are things, not statements, in the original grammar.[4]) However, the original Tibetan Lotsawas (Sanskrit: locchāwa; Tibetan: lo ts'a ba), who studied Sanskrit grammar thoroughly, did translate the term from Sanskrit into Tibetan as "bden pa" which has the full meaning of "truth".


[edit] Background

Why the Buddha is said to have taught in this way is illuminated by the social context of the time in which he lived. The Buddha was a Śramaṇa – a wandering ascetic whose "aim was to discover the truth and attain happiness."[5] He is said to have achieved this aim while under a bodhi tree near the River Neranjana; the Four Noble Truths are a formulation of his understanding of the nature of "suffering",[6] the fundamental cause of all suffering, the escape from suffering, and what effort a person can go to so that they themselves can "attain happiness."[5]

These truths are not expressed as a hypothesis or tentative idea; rather, the Buddha says:

These Four Noble Truths, monks, are actual, unerring, not otherwise. Therefore, they are called noble truths.[7]

The Buddha says that he taught them...

...because it is beneficial, it belongs to the fundamentals of the holy life, it leads to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation of suffering, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nirvana. That is why I have declared it.[8]

This teaching was the basis of the Buddha's first discourse after his enlightenment.[9] In early Buddhism this is the most advanced teaching in the Buddha's Gradual Training.

[edit] Pali and Chinese canon text

  1. The Nature of Suffering (Dukkha):
    "This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering."[9][10]
  2. Suffering's Origin (Samudaya):
    "This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination."[9][10]
  3. Suffering's Cessation (Nirodha):
    "This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it."[9][10]
  4. The Way (Mārga) Leading to the Cessation of Suffering:
    "This is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration."[11][12]

[edit] Mahayana understanding of the Four Noble Truths

Certain major Mahayana sutras, including the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and the Angulimaliya Sutra, present variant versions of the Four Noble Truths.

It should be noted that these views are specific to certain Mahayana schools, most notably the Tathagatagarbha and Jonangpa traditions. The ideas that the Buddha and his Dharma are eternal and that one's inner Buddha nature is not empty would be denied in other Buddhist traditions such as Madhyamaka and Zen.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Duff (2008), p. 17
  2. ^ Nanamoli (1995), p. 106
  3. ^ Harvey (1990), p. 92.
  4. ^ Gethin (1998), p. 60.
  5. ^ a b Warder (1970), p. 34.
  6. ^ The term used by the Buddha is dukkha. While suffering – i.e., being in a state of physical or mental pain – is one aspect of dukkha, it is believed by many that suffering is too narrow a translation and that it is best to leave dukkha untranslated.
  7. ^ Nanamoli (1995), p. 1856.
  8. ^ Nanamoli (1995), pp. 533-36.
  9. ^ a b c d Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11), trans. Bodhi (2000), pp. 1843-47.
  10. ^ a b c "轉法輪經". Cbeta. Retrieved on 2008-10-28. 
  11. ^ SN 56.11, trans. Bodhi (2000), p. 1844. In this translation, Bodhi elides the six middle factors of the Noble Eightfold Path (between right view and right concentration). Thus Bodhi's translation for the six middle factors was taken from his translation of SN 45.1 (Bodhi, 2000, p. 1523-24). See also Feer (1976), p. 421f.
  12. ^ In AN 3.61, the Buddha provides an alternate elaboration on the second and third noble truths identifying the arising and cessation of suffering in accordance with Dependent Origination's Twelve Causes, from ignorance to old age and death (Thanissaro, 1997).

[edit] References

  • Duff, Tony (2008). Contemplation by way of the Twelve Interdependent Arisings. Kathmandu, Nepal: Padma Karpo Translation Committee. Retrieved on 2008-8-19 from
  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1. 
  • Gethin, Rupert (1988). Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford University Press.
  • Harvey, Peter (1990). Introduction to Buddhism. Cambridge University Press.
  • Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) (1995, ed. Bhikkhu Bodhi). The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X. 
  • Yamamoto, Kosho (1999-2000, ed. & rev. by Dr. Tony Page). The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra in 12 Volumes. Nirvana Publications.

[edit] External links

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