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 suffering.
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, i.e. nibbāna.
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. kāmesu micchācāra).
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. padhāna).
7. "What now, o monks is right mindfulness? If the disciple dwells in contemplation of corporeality ... 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 unwholesome 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 Dhammacakkappavattana 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. magga.Literature:
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (in WHEEL 17 and BODHI LEAVES);
(S. LVI); Sacca Vibhanga;
W. of B.; Vis.M. XVI:
The Four Noble Truths by Francis Story (WHEEL 34/35);
The Significance of the 4 Noble Truths by V. F. Gunaratna (WHEEL 123)
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